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Real-Life Wendy Unveils Chain’s New Burger

By • Nov 11th, 2010 • Category: Burger Blog

Do you recognize this woman???

Maybe not the way she looks now in that photo from Steve Marcus of the Las Vegas Sun, but you’ve seen the 8-year-old cartoon version of her staring down from one of 6,600 restaurants worldwide:

Yes, there really is a Wendy. And although she no longer sports the ponytails once held in place by pipe cleaners, she’s the newest pitchman (so to speak) for the fast-food chain started by her father.

Dave Thomas founded Wendy’s in 1969, naming the chain after the youngest of his children.  (The country’s third-biggest burger brand could just as easily have been called Pam’s or Molly’s instead.)  And although Dave himself starred in over 800 TV ads from 1989 until his death in 2002, this is the first time that the real Wendy has stepped out in front of the camera.

Watch the ad here.

Las Vegas is being served the chain’s latest menu offering- called Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy Cheeseburger- and the accompanying ad campaign.  In the 30-second spot, Wendy touts the new creation as having “our thickest, hottest, juiciest beef ever, new premium toppings, and a warm, buttered, toasted bun.

A few thoughts here:

Clearly, the ad- and the burger itself- tap into a certain sense of nostalgia and the universal love of Dave Thomas.  So starting the ad with a headless Dave impostor and a fake 8-year-old Wendy feels gross.  I don’t know how you tell that part of the story another way, but a fake flashback just starts the whole thing on a wrong note for me.

I’ve always been up front about my disdain for pickles… but are crinkle-cut pickles really considered “premium toppings?”  Or red onions?  That seems like a stretch.

“A warm, buttered, toasted bun.”  Nice touch, but does it warrant a glitzy ad campaign?  Will that generate a stampede of burger buyers?  (Besides, who serves toasted buns that AREN’T warm???)

The name.  Call it “Dave’s” in memoriam if you want, but “Hot ‘N Juicy” just sounds too much like “Big N’ Tasty” to me.  Seeing as how Mickey D’s didn’t deem that burger worth keeping or remembering, I’m not sure it bodes well for this one simply by association.

But my favorite point to nitpick?  The use of the word “hottest.”  Sure, you can quantify “thickest.”  Wendy’s will, after all, use a quarter-pound patty in the new burger, which can be ordered as a single, double, or triple.  And “juiciest,” while tough to prove, sure sounds good.  But “hottest?”  Really?!?  You’re promising me the hottest burger ever?  Like, you’re going to invite me in back so I can pluck it right off the flat-top with my bare fingers? How do you deliver on “our hottest beef ever?”  It just strikes me as an odd thing to say in an ad.

And lest you think I’m just grinding my Wendy’s axe… yes, again… know that I’m not the only one watching this ad with a skeptical eye.  Nation’s Restaurant News got some interesting thoughts from Gary Stibel, an industry marketing exec.  “They haven’t made the sandwich look that much better than the competition,” Stibel said.  He adds, “This [product] could have been lofted up as a tribute to one of the last, great hamburger restaurateurs, but it comes off as just another burger.

Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy Cheeseburgers are available only at Las Vegas Wendy’s locations.  The Sun speculates that the burgers will be rolled out everywhere in June 2011, but the chain says they are “a long way from deciding” whether to take this new burg nationwide.

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