Last week, I ripped apart an Arby’s fast food ad from their 2014 campaign. I only thought it fitting to present a competitor’s commercial that I argue to be more effective as promotional material. Full disclosure, I’m not a fast-food eater myself, so neither of these companies have my undying allegiance. However, after the snore that was the Arby’s commercial, it was nice to land on something that held my attention without any teeth-grinding. Wendy’s has gone slightly vintage with an early 90s throwback. Using the same actress, they recreated several iconic early 90s hits while plugging in their new menu item. Even though parodying old music videos isn’t the most groundbreaking idea of 2014, its the choice in song, casting, and lyric changes that give these commercials the quirky edge to make them entertaining.
The “To Be With You” commercial, in case you weren’t aware, parodies the 1991 smash hit of the same title by the band Mr. Big. It remains an infectious track impossible to truly forget, which is probably why it’s such a karaoke go-to. The commercial reinterprets the chorus, taking great inspiration from the original video, general hair-band aesthetic from the late- 80s early-90s, and even a Will Ferrell SNL cowbell reference from 2000. For those who pick up on all the components, this is a slightly aged pop-culture treat.
The lead actress Morgan Smith was an excellent decision as far as casting. Not only does she have a strong singing voice, but has an energy that charms you into laughing with little effort. She sings over the track and pours her heart out to her Pretzel Burger. The lyrics are changed to plug in the product where possible and she holds the burger (love of her life) through most of the song. Taking notes from the original video, she plays the various instruments just like the guys of Mr. Big in their video, as they jam out in a living room. The commercial strategically plays with the contrast between black and white and colour filming, like the original had done. Mr. Big’s music video slowly turns from black and white to colour by the end of the clip. At the 15 second mark, she whales on a cowbell, like Will Ferrell’s famous “More Cowbell” SNL skit.
So, why is this video so much better than the Arby’s? Truth be told, this isn’t the most innovative take on a fast food commercial we’ve seen in recent past. What does work is how all the elements team together to tap on that nostalgic nerve. The song choice, casting, and even lyric change boost the overall experience. Even though it’s unarguably cheesy to plug in a cheeseburger into a song, they accept the reality of what they’re doing and run with it–much needed self-awareness. It also helps that the lead actress has made several appearances in Wendy’s commercials recently, making her a familiar face to the brand. Allegedly, they dyed her hair red to match “Wendy”, but despite the peroxide, she seems to fit the role naturally. The commercial is light-hearted, catchy, and at least pulls a smile from the viewer. Thumbs up!