Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers outlet in downtown Columbus, Ohio, in November 1969. The business, named for Mr. Thomas' daughter, expanded quickly, and by 1976 there were 500 outlets, including locations in Canada. The restaurant chain built itself on a reputation for being both "homespun" and "hip."
From Wendy's earliest days, its management considered advertising fundamental to growth. Early regional efforts included the 1972 "Eat 'em up" effort from Munger, Reithmiller & Associates and the 1973 "C'mon to Wendy's" from Stockton, West, Burkhart. The chain's differences from its rivals were always a major focus of the advertising.
First national effort
Wendy's first national campaign, a $3 million effort from the Dick Rich agency in 1977, took aim at McDonald's and Burger King. The effort, themed "Hot 'n' Juicy," told consumers, "If you ever had a dry, chewy hamburger, you're going to love Wendy's hot and juicy hamburgers."
Over the next decade, Wendy's grew dramatically in sales and in the number of outlets, both domestic and foreign. As the chain grew, its advertising strategy continued to revolve around promoting old-fashioned values and being "different" as synonymous with being "good." A key aspect of promoting Wendy's differences involved targeted advertising around its ever-changing range of menu items, a strategy specifically aimed at setting the franchise apart from "burgers only" establishments.
By 1981, after regional rollouts, the salad bar became a staple on its national menu, making it the first quick-service restaurant with this type of offering. In 1983, Wendy's became the first hamburger chain to offer baked potatoes, a niche market trend that began in the late 1970s. Other major product introductions included "The Big Classic" bacon cheeseburger in 1986; the Super Value Meal, nine items listed for 99? each, 1989; the grilled chicken sandwich, designed to satisfy the demand for more healthful fast-food options, 1990; and five salads that could be ordered to go, 1992.
In addition to its menu choices, the creative aspect of Wendy's advertising was always seen as another arena for innovation. While Wendy's has historically spent only a fraction of McDonald's or Burger King's budgets for advertising, its commercials have consistently scored high in memorability and artistry.
Early work from Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample included "Wendy's kind of people," a 1982 campaign that suggested that "discriminating" consumers were "Wendy's kind of people," and "Burger wars," a 1983 blast at the competition that pictured competitors using patties taken from large cartons labeled "Frozen."
"Where's the beef?"
One of its most memorable campaigns came in 1984 with "Where's the beef?" Four ads, created by DFS and directed by Joe Sedelmaier, featured a trio of senior citizens, played by Clara Peller and sidekicks Mildred Lane and Elizbeth Shaw, eyeing the inadequacies of "typical" fast-food burgers?all bun, no beef. This campaign captured the public with its tongue-in-cheek cleverness, and its tagline became part of the popular lexicon.
Wendy's followed that effort with its "Parts is parts" campaign, which lampooned the competition's use of generic "chicken meat" vs. the top-grade chicken breast Wendy's used in sandwiches. Its next big effort, from new shop Backer Spielvogel Bates, was "Hamburger A, Hamburger B," which ran from 1987 to 1989.
Beginning in the early 1990s, however, Wendy's found its best spokesman to be its founder, Dave Thomas, who gave consumers a face and a personality to associate with Wendy's image. By his death in 2002, Mr. Thomas had starred in more than 700 Wendy's spots.
Unhappy with how agency consolidation would affect its account, Wendy?s quietly reviewed ad agencies and moved its account later in 2002 to Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson, New York. McCann crafted a new campaign that made hometown Dublin, Ohio, the voice of Wendy's as the No. 3 burger chain upgraded its menu with entr?e salads. Ironically, Wendy's had one of its best years in its history that year. Within two years, Wendy's ushered in a new but unofficial spokesman, Mr. Wendy, a brand zealot who promotes the chain whenever he can.
At the end of the 20th century Wendy's ad budget continued to be small relative to those of its competitors. It surpassed $200 million for the first time in 1999 to reach $217.8 million. This figure was dwarfed in comparison to those of McDonald's ($627.2 million) and Burger King ($403.6 million). As of 2001, the company had 5,600 Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers outlets worldwide and 2,000 Tim Horton's in the U.S. and Canada.