memories of the ’80s – Where’s the beef?

In the mid 1980s, a successful marketing campaign by fast food company Wendy’s had us all saying Where’s the beef?¬†

Launched in 1984, Wendy’s was trying to get some notice in the competitive fast food burger chain world by going up against McDonald’s and Burger King by focusing attention on their large beef patty.

In the first commercial, three senior citizen ladies examine their burgers, noticing an oversized bun and small burger patty, with one of the ladies exclaiming Where’s the beef?

This lady, actress Clara Peller’s delivery became a hit – and she went on to star in numerous tv commercials for Wendy’s as the campaign hit the right note with viewers.

Written by Cliff Freeman, the campaign was created by Wendy’s executive vice-president William Welter and advertising agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample working with Burson-Marsteller.

The merchandise spin from Peller’s infamous line was spotted on bumper stickers, frisbees, t-shirts and all kinds of items. The campaign continued into 1985, until Peller did a commercial for Prego spaghetti¬†sauce, proclaiming she had finally found the beef.

But the most popular note of this campaign was when during the 1984 presidential campaign, a debate between primary candidates Walter Mondale and Gary Hart became memorable when Mondale accused Hart of a weak platform and said that Hart’s campaign reminded him of the phrase “Where’s the beef?”.

For those who remember the mid 1980s, this phrase is one that became part of pop culture’s lore.


memories of the ’70s – McDonald’s Happy Meal

In the last days of the 1970s, kids were given an unique extra when they ordered a meal at McDonald’s – the Happy Meal.

Debuting in June 1979, the Happy Meal was a drink, fries, hamburger, cookies and a toy – oh joy!

This simple marketing tool became a sought-after must-have for kids – especially when they knew the latest blockbuster movie or popular tv show was including their characters in the meals.

In Guatemala, a McDonald’s manager came up with the Ronald Menu, focusing on items for kids. Coming to the attention of McDonald’s, they asked their advertising guy Bob Bernstein to come up with an idea for kids meals.

He realized most kids ate from their parents’ meals and came up with the idea to package the kids meals in a box – a separate item just for them that initially resembled a lunch pail. Test marketed in Kansas City in 1977, the Happy Meal went national in the US in 1979.

In Canada, Quebec offered the Joyeux Festin (Happy Feast) while around the world, the different countries varied the contents and name in their native tongues – in Spanish Happy Meal became Cajita Feliz – Happy Little Box while in Brazil it is called McLanche Feliz – Happy McSnack in Portuguese.

In Japan, McDonald’s named the children’s meals Okosama Lunch, then Okosama Set and finally Happy Set. Okosama is the formal word in Japanese for child.

No matter where you went, the Happy Meal was a popular option – and the toys became collectibles, since only available via McDonald’s for a limited time, usually at the beginning of a tv season or in the first weeks of release for a film.

Countries varied the contents and toys were always bonus, but to this day, its the Happy Meal that still attracts kids attention.


memories of the ’80s – Jane Fonda’s Workout Book

Jane Fonda Workout BookIn the early 1980s, actress Jane Fonda took us through our paces with her first book – Jane Fonda’s Workout Book.

Unlike diet books that had been published, Fonda focused on sharing her philosophy for exercise, diet and how to deal with daily stress – showing us how she kept in shape.

An avid ballet fan, Fonda was injured while making the film The China Syndrome and turned to Leni Cazden to help her keep in shape. This became the backbone of the Jane Fonda Workout Book.

Published in 1981 by Simon & Schuster, Jane Fonda’s Workout Book easily hit the bestseller lists, drawing from her celebrity as an actress as well as from her new approach to focusing on mental as well as physical changes.

A New York Times bestseller, this book was on the list for six months at number one, and stayed on the list until 1983 in the top five bestselling specialty books.

I remember a friend of my Mum’s who was dedicated to Jane’s prescription of wellness, diet and exercise, happily sporting the aerobics style of the 1980s.

As a result of its publishing success, Fonda created a workout video, Jane Fonda Workout – which thanks to the boom in VCR sales, sold a million copies in the first two years of release. Consequently, Fonda created 23 more videos, five more workout books, numerous audio books and has in the 21st century created new workout products, as well as continuing to act.