Monday, May 22, 2006

wendy's tackles soviet fashion shows

Wendy's was on an advertising roll in the mid-to-late 80s, hitting gold with the "Where's the Beef" campaign. Two others stick out in my mind: one where a customer is told to "step aside, please, step aside" and today's find, 1985's "Russian Fashion Show". None of these drew my family into Wendy's (we were Harvey's diehards until they changed the fries), but they lingered on in memory. Ask my sister how many times I've brought up this ad with no provovcation.

Some background on this commercial, from Bernice Kanner's 1999 book The 100 Best TV Commercials:

The commercial, called the best Cold War spoof since Dr. Strangelove, first aired during the week of the Reagan/Gorbachev Geneva conference. Viewers flooded the company's Ohio headquarters with complaints that it could jeopardize the preace process. "People don't really take commercials like these seriously," director Joe Sedelmaier said. "They recognize it's all in the spirit of fun."

The commerical was inspired by the classic movie Ninotchka, in which Greta Garbo was supposedly amazed by the freedom of choice Americans enjoyed as contrasted with the lmited choice Russians have. The model in the spot, which cost $250,000, was actually a man, Howard Fishler, whom Sedelmaier had used to play a woman once before in an Alaska Airlines spot. They shaved Fishler's eyebrows off and put a wig and glasses on him. Originally Sedelmaier sought three models but on the day of the shoot he decided to use the same one and have "her" wear the same thing each time.

"Russian Fashion Show" was shot at the South Shore Country Club in Chicago, its great Byzantine columns creating the aura of the old tsar's palace. Russian lettering on the banner around the promenade actually said, "Keeping your teeth clean at all times is important."
Sadly, the grey potato sack was not the hot fashion of 1985. - JB

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