All Blog Posts

Goodbye Cliff Freeman & Partners, Your Pop Culture Contributions Will Be Missed

Mike Santoro

Wendy the Snapple LadyIn catching up with my AdvertisingAge weekend reading I was saddened to see that Cliff Freeman & Partners was closing up shop. The agency gave life to a number of iconic campaigns such as Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?”, Little Caesar’s “Pizza, Pizza” and Wendy the Snapple lady.

I dove into the article to determine how a once proud agency could now be shutting down. Read on for my thoughts, but more importantly to check out videos of some of their best work.

Based on AdAge’s account in Where’s the Shop we can learn two lessons – retain your top talent and always be searching for new talent.

Two quotes jumped out at me. “It’s been noted that it had a good reputation for old-school (if good) TV work and not for the cross-discipline, and in particular, digital work that most marketers demand today. Add to this that “by 2003, (the agency) began leaking crucial talent. One trio of executives started the boutique Amalgamated; creative director Eric Silver-he of the gerbil cannon-went to BBDO”.

Lessons learned: Always be moving ahead with new developments in the industry or your best people will move on without you.

But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s spend some time with what made them so great. It’s always good to have an excuse to watch classic television commercials.

Where’s the Beef

Where’s the Beef launched in 1984 and quickly integrated within popular American culture. According to Wikipedia, the phrase “was repeated in television shows, films, magazines, and other media outlets,” before ending it’s run in 1985.

If you want a good launching pad for an advertising icon to make a comeback, this is it. I can only image the kind of digital campaign that could be built around “Where’s the Beef?” It demands a full blown user generated campaign complete with video and picture uploads and Google map integration as customers travel across American and share where they found the beef. It wouldn’t be hard, but unfortunately the agency that conceived it won’t be around it to launch it.

Wendy the Snapple Lady

Wendy the Snapple lady was for a brief period in the 1990’s a beverage goddess. Her down to earth conversational style matched the brand perfectly and each little microstory always related, in a clever way, to the best stuff on Earth. It convinced me and I wasn’t alone. People loved her.

And then she got fired. People were heartbroken. Looking back it’s funny to think that people were upset as they were. She’s still loved. I think I last saw her popping up on an edition of VH1’s “I love the 90’s”

Little Caesar’s Pizza Pizza

I can clearly remember a few SuperBowls where people waited to see what clever ad Little Caesar’s would present. They always delivered. Today, I can’t imagine a pizza establishment making a run at best SuperBowl commercial. And, at least in Chicago, Little Caesar’s has gone from every corner establishment to completely gone. Sad. I could really go for some cheesy breadsticks. Gerbil Cannon

The AdAge article points out the dotcom bust was one of the contributing factors to the agency’s downfall. If nothing else, we got some quality ads out of the boom before everything fell to pieces. Cliff Freeman delivered some classic ads for Most people will cite the Gerbil Cannon as the best. It was quite shocking when it was first aired, but I far prefer the above Wolves commercial. There’s just something special about the pure look of terror on that tuba player’s face.