World’s best ads ever #91: Wendy’s inadvertently coins lasting phrase with ‘Fluffy Bun’
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
‘Fluffy Bun’ is a 1984 spot created in partnership with ad agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample starring actress Clara Peller. Peller’s character, dining at an unnamed Wendy’s competitor, is served a small burger patty on a huge bun. Angered by the injustice, Peller exclaims, “Where’s the beef?”
Directed by Joe Sedelmaier, the filmmaker behind other popular spots of the era including FedEx’s ‘Fast Talking Man’, the ad followed a less-successful iteration starring a middle-aged man. The newer version was reportedly meant to star a young couple, but Sedelmaier opted to feature elderly women instead.
The catchphrase ‘Where’s the beef?’ proved memorable; the line was echoed across culture in movies, TV shows and print media for years to come. Merchandise including bumper stickers, frisbees and even a Milton Bradley board game appeared with the slogan. It even made its way into politics: during the same year it launched, Democrat Walter Mondale used the phrase to undermine the policy platform of his rival, Republican Senator Gary Hart. Eventually, in fact, the term became so ubiquitous that it is now something of a catch-all term used for challenging the real substance of any given idea, service or product.
Wendy’s has been able to capitalize on the hype for decades: it brought back the catchphrase for a 2011 ad campaign, answering the initial question with the retort, ‘Here’s the beef’. Then, in 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, the company revived the ad as retailers suffered a beef shortage. Most recently, it launched a new spin on the ad, called ‘Where’s the Bacon?’, in honor of the rollout of its breakfast menu in Canada.