Wendy’s sanitized hipsters… so painful

Watching football games on TV this weekend we saw an inordinate amount of commercials for fast food. In one quarter of the 49’rs game there were spots for Burger King, Wendy’s and Jack-in-the Box. Oddly, I don’t recall seeing anything from McDonald’s. More likely I just don’t remember seeing them. Like beer and cars, birds of a feather tend to flock together.

What I also don’t remember is the last time I paid attention to fast food (QSR in the parlance of marketing) as a category. Not to come off as a food snob but I haven’t eaten at any of these places in years, maybe even a decade. Can that be possible? Fast food is ubiquitous to the American experience. You’d think I’d have indulged at one time or another: at an airport, on a road trip or just because of a craving.

But no, I don’t think so. Not even for a bag of fries, which has always been a weakness of mine. Clearly, I am not the target anymore. Like booze, which I gave up ten years ago, I don’t even think about fast food anymore. No doubt I am better off but it still makes me wonder. When did I stop? Was my abstinence a conscious decision?

In any event, there’s zero chance any of the commercials I saw were going to change my mind. It’s not that they were terrible (we’ve seen worse) but they were just… there.

What the hell is going on here?

Even the Jack-in-the-Box spot (from a campaign I admire) felt busy and convoluted, something about a zany director making a commercial about two kinds of gigantic sandwiches. Like the food itself the spot was colorful, in your face and full of cuts. Kind of ugh.

But anything is better than Wendy’s “adorkable” red head and her relentless shilling. I get it. Let’s create a sanitized, hipster version of the brand’s namesake, Wendy. It’s an obvious play and I can’t begrudge them for making it. Still, this chick grates on me and has done so since she first replaced the old man, who up until his death was Wendy’s spokesperson from before the Internet. Red, or whatever they call her, is like, well, the red headed stepchild of Progessive’s Flo, whom I also loathe.

Kill two birds with one stone… please!

And what can I say about Burger King, where “Taste is King?” Not much I’m afraid. I recall pictures of food, a smiling woman in the restaurant, more pictures of food. Yawn.

Not long ago I wrote that fast food, as a category, hasn’t moved the needle from a cultural standpoint in decades. Yes, they added salads. Made more of their coffees. But popular culture just kind of passed them by. I’m not stupid enough to think millions of people aren’t clogging their arteries on such fare but with chefs being celebrities now, and everyone posting pictures of their dinner on Instagram, who really gives a shit about the latest bacon cheeseburger?

I don’t. Do any of you?

You look good enough to eat…

“If you love bacon, make it official.” And sure enough the guy marries a BLT cheeseburger from Jack in the Box. At the wedding, the priest blesses the happy couple and his final line is no less priceless for being obvious: “You may eat the bride.”


Doing a little research I discovered the commercial actually first ran on the Superbowl. How did I miss it? Maybe its silliness got lost in the shuffle. Maybe it ran pre-game, or regionally. Whatever. It’s worth another look.

Bottom line the commercial is funny and it makes sense. Guys love bacon. A TV spot that takes this true love to its obvious conclusion is, well, on strategy. Think about it. For all the advertising that tries to sell bacon as the ultimate accouterment on a hamburger none, as far as I know, did the obvious. Congrats to Jack in the Box for doing so.

Over the years, Jack in the box has made some pretty damn fine commercials, using one of America’s finest, if under the radar, creative agencies: Secret Weapon. While McDonalds and Burger King get all the publicity, JITB might be the better case study, creatively.

When I first started in this business my father gave me a small book, called “Obvious Adams.” His then boss and now a living legend, Keith Reinhardt, had previously signed the copy. It said “All you need to know about advertising.” I gotta find that f**king book! In any event, the story was about a newbie ad executive in New York who had the courage and wisdom to offer an obvious if at first unpopular solution to a package goods company, I forget which one. Anyway, it worked.

Ah, a timeless relic

As goofy and irreverent at Marry Bacon is it is also a textbook example of doing the obvious in the 21st century.


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