The Man Who Made 'Where's The Beef?' Famous Has Died

The New York Times has reported that Cliff Freeman, a famed copywriter for some now-legendary commercials, died on September 5 at the age of 80. His wife was cited as naming the cause of death as pneumonia. In the food world, he was the voice of the Roman uttering Little Caesars' slogan "Pizza! Pizza!" slogan. He penned the lyrics of the Almond Joy jingle, "Sometimes you feel like a nut/Sometimes you don't." And of course, Freeman acted as the creative director on Wendy's "Where's the Beef!?" advertisement.

For such work, Freeman enjoyed widespread renown in the industry and was inducted into The One Club for Creativity's hall of fame in 2005. His hall fame page includes a glowing description of his abilities and mentality that reads in part, "Cliff has a philosophy about how advertising works and he has never wavered from it because no one ever proved him wrong simply, that to connect, advertising must entertain." 

Freeman's outlook on how food advertising should work is also captured in a maxim he shared with New York magazine in the 1980s. "Almost all our clients are Davids up against Goliaths," he explained. "We have to win with wit." This aim of finding clever angles to highlight the flattering aspects of the food in an entertaining way informed the very best of Freeman's work.

Where's the beef?

We cannot talk about Cliff Freeman without delving into his famed Wendy's ad. In the commercial, three elderly women stand around a massive bun (YouTube). It's certainly a big bun," comments one of them. "It's a very big bun." A second agrees: "Big fluffy bun." They lift up the top bun to reveal a ludicrously minuscule patty, causing the third lady to exclaim "Where's the beef?" Thus, a catchphrase was born. 

As Yahoo! Entertainment writes, the ad became a sensation, with the infectious catchphrase appearing in the Democratic primaries for the 1984 presidential election. Candidate Walter Mondale used it as a zinger to imply a rival's campaign didn't have meat to it. It made Wendy's millions. The story takes a sad turn, however, as Clara Peller, the "Where's the beef" lady, appeared in a Prego ad shouting, "I found it!" Wendy's thought that this sounded too much like Peller had found "the beef" in a product it didn't sell, and their relationship ended. 

Having the original idea, though, gives Cliff Freeman a good claim to being one of the best admen the country has ever seen.