Friday, December 08, 2006

Flashback Friday: Herb

Back in the 80's, there was a Burger King contest where you had to try to spot Herb in a BK restaurant and win $5,000. Herb was supposedly the one guy in America who had never tried a Whopper. I used to dream of walking into a BK and finding Herb. Of course, they didn't tell you what he looked like, so it was kind of difficult to achieve that dream. When they finally did, I got excited about finding him all over again. But of course, I never did. I always wondered whatever happened to Herb. Turns out Herb was one of the biggest blunders of advertising in U.S. history. Now I'm glad I didn't find Herb.


  • The campaign began with a series of mysterious ads and billboards that said "Who's Herb?"

  • Herb was finally unveiled in a Super Bowl XX commercial in 1986.

  • The reason why Herb, a man who doesn't eat Whoppers, would be in Burger King restaurants was never explained.

  • The fact that Herb turned out to be a nerdy-looking guy in a loud suit was supposed to send the message that only losers don't eat Whoppers. Instead, the public took away the message that only losers eat at Burger King.

  • In hip-hop or street lingo, a "Herb" is a nerd or loser. The term comes directly from these commercials.

  • Instead of boosting sales, sales at Burger King actually dropped during this campaign.

  • The Herb unveiling came at the same time McDonald's launched the McD.L.T.

  • Advertising Age called the "Where's Herb" campaign the "most elaborate advertising flop of the decade."

  • Herb was played by an actor named John Merrick. John Merrick was also the name of the Elephant Man, a hideously deformed circus freak.

Surprisingly enough, Wikipedia is not the first place to go for info on Herb. I need to work on that. The best article is in E2. There's also an article in TV Acres about him. RetroCRUSH named the Herb campaign its biggest Fast Food Fiasco. Through the power of the Internet, you can even read an article from TIME Magazine circa 1986 about the unveiling. And for more retro flava, you can read a transcript of the infamous SNL sketch making fun of the Herb campaign.


glomgold said...

Really? This crappy Burger King ad campaign is where the term 'Herb' comes from? I don't know if I feel better or worse about the term now...

glomgold said...

Dear Sir,

Herb looks A.OK in my book.

Infomercial Guy in the question marks suit

Mauricem said...

Amazingly enough I do remember this one. It's hysterical to think about the repercussions of one slightly misaligned ad campaign.
That SNL skit is laugh out loud funny. Ah, the good old days of SNL.