When Clara Peller first said “Where’s the Beef?” in a humorous ad for Wendy’s in 1984, the company had no idea the catchphrase would become a household expression. The spot, created by Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, used exaggerated imagery of a teeny burger on a ginormous bun to poke fun at the small beef patties of competitors.
The day of the Wendy’s shoot went pretty smoothly until we got to the part where Clara had to bellow ‘Where’s all the beef?!’ She’d repeatedly run out of breath before reaching ‘beef’. Clara was a real trooper, but in her eighties with a few health problems––shortness of breath being one. Finally, I told her to trash ‘all.’ That did it. It also helped Wendy’s sales to shoot up 36% and Clara to become an institution.
– Joe Sedelmaier, Advertising Director (4A’s interview, 2017)
During the 1984 U.S. presidential election primaries the laugh-out-loud commercial was at its height of popularity, and became associated with Democratic candidate and former Vice President Walter Mondale’s campaign. It was often used by Mondale to sum up his argument that program policies championed by his rival, Senator Gary Hart, were without substance.