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In Search of The Beef: A Look Back at Iconic American Ad Slogans

It's hard to imagine, but it's been 27 years this week since little old Clara Peller first questioned the size of her hamburger patty, launching one of the most iconic advertising catchphrases in American history.

In celebration of the missing beef's birthday, we take a look back at some of the most popular advertising slogans in recent history...after the jump.

"Where's the Beef?" Wendy's, 1984 Scrappy, loudmouthed actress Clara Peller first asked the question in a Wendy's commercial that aired January 10, 1984. The campaign, centered around Peller's interactions with the fictitious "Fluffy Bun Hamburger" corporation, ended in 1985 when Peller announced in a Prego spaghetti sauce commercial that she had, indeed, "found the beef." While the actual marketing campaign was short lived, its impact on popular culture was not. The iconic catchphrase or variations of it can be found everywhere from '80s T-shirts, television episodes of The Simpsons , Scrubs , and The Office , movies like Hot Tub Time Machine , or in the lyrics to a Leonard Cohen song ("Closing Time": We're lonely, we're romantic, and the cider's laced with acid, and the Holy Spirit's crying," Where's the beef? )

 

In an episode of Friends, a bitter post-break up Ross demands that Rachel return his stuff, even the shrunken "Frankie Say Relax" T-shirt she likes to sleep in.
In an episode of Friends, a bitter post-break up Ross demands that Rachel return his stuff, even the shrunken "Frankie Say Relax" T-shirt she likes to sleep in.
faithieee.wordpress.com

"Frankie Say Relax" Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1984 The slogan originated from aggressive T-shirt marketing for '80s British dance-pop band Frankie Goes to Hollywood (FGTH) to promote the release of their Two Tribes album during the summer of 1984. Oddly, the song the phrase makes reference to ("Relax") was released a year earlier, on a completely different album. The T-shirts are often used in TV and film as an example of the ultimate '80s kitsch.

 

The baritone-voiced Taco Bell mascot, played by a female Chihuahua named Gidget.
The baritone-voiced Taco Bell mascot, played by a female Chihuahua named Gidget.
4-legged.com

"Yo Quiero Taco Bell" Taco Bell, 1997 Not everyone was amused by Taco Bell's wildly popular '90s ad campaign featuring a talking Chihuahua. Many Hispanic rights groups lobbied against the commercials that they saw as reinforcing unflattering stereotypes of Latin American culture, ultimately getting them taken off the air in 2000, despite the prevailing rumor that the dog had died. Gidget, the dog featured in the commercials, was alive and well until 2009.

 

On the list of most annoying spokespersons, the Dell Dude is king.
On the list of most annoying spokespersons, the Dell Dude is king.
ripten.com

"Dude, You're Getting A Dell." Dell Computers, 2000 Actor Ben Curtis played "Slacker Steve," a gratingly chipper spokesperson that would educate prospective buyers on the merits of Dell ownership in a string of commercials that ran from 2000-2003 and always ended with the line, "Dude, you're getting a Dell!" Curtis was dropped as the marketing spokesperson from the campaign following an arrest for criminal possession of marijuana on Manhattan's Lower East Side, spawning an endless array of parodied headlines, like, "Dude, You're Getting a Cell." The last time I heard this phrase referenced was a year or so ago: While buying a CD by a certain English singer/songwriter the cashier gave me a thumbs up and exclaimed, "Dude, you're getting Adele!"

 

The most overused and emulated phrase of the past decade.
The most overused and emulated phrase of the past decade.
sodahead.com

"Can You Hear Me Now?" Verizon Wireless, 2002 The "We Never Stop Working for You" campaign featured stage actor Paul Marcarelli endlessly wandering the globe testing reception, forever asking the question, "Can you hear me now? Good." The line has since been further repeated in film, TV, and as a headline for hundreds of newspaper, magazine, and online articles. Of becoming the spokesperson for the company, the actor had this to say: "For the last three years, girls would just slam their breasts in my face, and ask, 'Can you hear me now?' It was magical." Ironically, the Internet is littered with articles that seem straight out of The Onion, reporting that the actor is dead or dying from an inoperable brain tumor, directly affecting his auditory nerve (therefore making him unable to hear anything now). While this reeks of fake news, we were unable to find any credible evidence to support or refute the claim.


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