Super Bowl

Wendy's Burns McDonald's Frozen Beef in Super Bowl Spot

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Wendy's has a, um, beef to pick with McDonald's, so it's calling out its biggest competitor on the ad world's biggest stage.

The chain said it will return to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a shade-filled message squarely pitting its square burgers against McDonald's.

McDonald's is set to nationally introduce fresh beef patties for some of its burgers this year, but Wendy's says it always has used fresh beef for all of its burgers. Wendy's, already well known for bringing the heat on social media, is bringing the message to TV.

Wendy's 30-second spot from VML, which is set for the first quarter, starts by highlighting wording on McDonald's website on how its burgers are "flash frozen." Then Wendy's turns up the snark that has become a hallmark.

The decision to fire a direct hit at McDonald's comes a year after Wendy's first Super Bowl spot more broadly called out "Othr Guyz" that serve frozen beef ("Cold Storage"). That spot helped increase overall awareness that Wendy's uses only fresh beef for its hamburgers. Now, Wendy's knows McDonald's "hot off the grill" effort is heating up and could become a threat. Not only is McDonald's the largest restaurant chain by a wide margin, more than 90 percent of customers go to both Wendy's and McDonald's, according to Wendy's research.

"It was important to really clearly draw the distinction between Wendy's and McDonald's because we know many customers go to both and we wanted to make sure that people knew the difference between those two choices," says Chief Concept and Marketing Officer Kurt Kane.

The decision to run a Super Bowl spot with the message was a very recent one.

"We wanted to make sure that we had a strong enough message to go on, but made the final decision actually this week," says Kane.

The concept, which does not include any spoken words, "was just very direct and honest and we think people respond really well to that."

"Our social voice speaks very loudly without actually having to speak at all," says Kane. "We actually think the ad works harder for us by not directly speaking but letting the words speak for themselves."

Kane wouldn't say what Wendy's spent on the media buy.

"We were actually eager to go back onto the game, we just wanted to make sure that we felt good about the overall financial investment to do so," he says. "We feel good about the price we paid for the spot, and we know we're going to get a big return out of it."

And, of course, Wendy's being Wendy's, there are plenty of plans to keep the message going on social media this weekend. (It works with VML on creative and social media.)

Wendy's announcement of the ad came a day after McDonald's gave a brief update about fresh beef during its quarterly investor call. The Golden Arches now has fresh beef quarter pounder patties in a fraction of its U.S. restaurants. It says the phased rollout is going well and that the patties should be out nationally by around May or June.

As of Wednesday, Wendy's said it had not gotten any response from McDonald's.

"They have been frozen on their response so far," Kane says, with a clearly rehearsed response.

After the anti-McDonald's push, will Wendy's target other brands? Nothing against, say, Burger King, is currently in the works.

"We do just have a general aversion to anybody that's providing frozen beef to their customers, so you never know," says Kane.

The day before the 2017 Super Bowl, Wendy's had roughly 1.39 million Twitter followers. Following that campaign and other social efforts including the #NuggsForCarter phenomenon, Wendy's now has more than 2.3 million followers on Twitter.

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