Calexis

The Accidental Spokesman

August 20, 2017

A lot of products and companies use a spokesman.  And there are a lot of risks associated with putting your company’s reputation on a living person.  But sometimes, it happens by accident.

I managed the Wendy’s Canada account back in the mid ’80’s and we had a problem.  The brand had run a fabulously successful campaign with Clara Peller famously asking the question “Where’s the beef?”  It was a popular phenomenon even being quoted in a Presidential debate.  But it was designed to be a short term promotional commercial.  It got extended but whither do we goest from there.

As a short term solution, while our New York partner, DFS, struggled finding a new campaign idea, the franchisees in Columbus, Ohio, decided to run a promotional commercial featuring Dave Thomas, the somewhat avuncular founder to Wendy’s.  Dave just presented the promotion and it worked.

While copy testing was coming up dry, the company decided to simply roll out the Dave Thomas advertising under a new Marketing Director who also happened to be the guy responsible for getting the Dave Thomas promotional advertising going.

In Canada, we didn’t always run the same creative, but that changed.  In real life, Dave Thomas was exactly the same as he was on TV.  Very friendly, easy going until he needed to be firm.

There is a saying in advertising – If you have nothing to say, sing it.  If you can’t sing it, have the client say it.  Local advertising abounds with this; but, few national advertisers go there.  For Wendy’s it was accidental.  Plus the approach was far from the Clara Peller “where’s the beef” advertising so it was clear that it was a new message.

Dave’s friendly manner was also a plus for Wendy’s in the aggressively competitive hamburger market.  The campaign came on and it lasted more than 800 commercial advertisements for the chain.  That’s serious longevity.

The easy casual approach in the commercials also improved Wendy’s corporate image making the stores seem more friendly.  And it happened by accident when there was a need for some creative and the fill in lasted and lasted.

Dave Thomas has also been the model for the A&W store manager campaign in Canada.  You can see the personality and the demeanor transferred very effectively into a campaign that has lasted for many years as well.  A&W started their campaign years after Dave was off the air, and probably had passed away.

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