10 Iconic Restaurant Advertisements From the Last 3 Decades

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Do you remember Dunkin’ Donuts’ “Time to make the donuts” campaign or Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” commercial? Read on to see the most iconic restaurant advertisements in the last three decades.

10 Iconic Restaurant Advertisements

1. Wendy’s ‘Where’s the Beef’ commercial

Wendy’s classic 1984 television advertisement, which still stands out in the annals of Super Bowl commercials, uses humor but really gets its point across at the same time: Wendy’s burger has more beef than either of its more popular rivals, Burger King or McDonald’s. Clara Peller, who is featured in this advertisement, spawned many imitators but none were able to match her crankiness.

2. Denny’s ‘It’s Nanerpus!’ TV spot

Poking fun at an arch-rival often is a good way to gain the attention of consumers, as this Denny’s spot proves by targeting IHOP’s pancake messaging. A hybrid between an octopus and a banana, Nanerpus, managed to develop quite a following when it hit the airwaves in 2009, and caused quite a stir on its Super Bowl debut.

3. Nando’s Many Wives

South Africa’s Nando’s uses humor in a big way in this commercial that that lit up the airwaves when it first aired in 2010 as a prelude to the World Cup. The commercial, which was part of a series of side-splitting advertisements, targeted visitors by poking fun at the South African practice of allowing multiple wives, or polygamy.

4. McDonald’s Larry Bird versus Michael Jordan

Leave it to McDonald’s to create one of the most humorous and memorable ads in television history by stressing the lengths two of America’s premiere athletes will go to for a Big Mac. The ad, which debuted in 1993, features basketball stars Larry Bird and Michael Jordan playing a game of H.O.R.S.E. for the chance to win one of McDonald’s signature burgers, and is still considered a classic in the annals of advertising.

5. Jack in the Box’s ‘Jack Back’

In 1980 Jack in the Box aired a series of attention grabbing, humorous advertisements blowing up its mascot, Jack. But 15 years later, in 1995, Jack was back, clad in a suit and tie and ready to seek his revenge. Taking on the role of Jack in the Box’s CEO, Jack, whose last name is Box, demonstrated once and for all that he has a sense of humor second to none.

6. Burger King’s Whopper Freakout

This 2007/2008 Burger King spot, which uses a hidden camera technique for the video, asked the question, “What would fans do without their Whoppers?” if they were discontinued. The award-winning commercial, which capitalized on humor big time, also delivered a solid branding punch that coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Miami-based chain’s signature sandwich. Many advertising insiders considered the campaign genius.

7. Dunkin’ Donuts’ ‘Time to make the donuts’ campaign

Fred the Baker earned a place in advertising history as he put humor to good use, and also let consumers know that as much as he hated it, he was up at the crack of dawn because it was “Time to make the donuts.” The Dunkin Donuts’ television commercial, which aired in 1983, also made the point that unlike its grocery store competitors, these donuts were made fresh, and made often.

8. Outback’s Made from Scratch

Ordering birthday candles on your steak never sounded so good, or so funny, as they do coming from this Aussie customer who also manages to let the world know that everything served up by Outback is made fresh on the premises. The Australian themed steakhouse’s branding never manages to stray too far from its roots or its irreverent sense of humor.

9. Carl Jr.’s Happy Birthday

This humorous add takes aim at the restaurant industry itself by lampooning the age old practice of servers serenading birthday guests with a rousing and often embarrassing impromptu chorus. The exaggerated antics are not lost on these two dudes, who really just want to be left along to enjoy their birthday burgers.

10. Arby’s Chimpanzee Commercial

These dancing chimpanzees add a light touch to this humorous spot, which also highlights some delicious offerings from the featured line of Arby’s toasted sub sandwiches. The great food shots follows the hilarity and all together captivating scene of a Rockettes style line up of primates, with a special fondness for dancing the jig.


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