Fast Food: What Happened?

Retrospective of fast food advertisements.
May 06, 2008

Fast food restaurants have always been of people's interest. Was it because we loved the food? Was it because we liked the atmosphere? Was it because we always looked forward to the toys that came with the kids meals? Or was it...the commercials? Well, those are what I'm going to be talking about. I'm going to discuss ten fast food places in no particular order and discuss how the commercials have changed over the years. So, enjoy this little trip down memory lane as I give you the fast food chain timeline of ads! (Please note that these ads are as far back as I can remember.)

Burger King

As you all know, Burger King has long been the #1 rival of McDonald's. It all started when they introduced custom orders so that customers can have their burgers done their way, which originally, McDonald's didn't do.

Then, in the early 80's, Burger King started saying in their commercials that their burgers are flame-broiled while the burgers at McDonald's were fried. This was all during its "Aren't you hungry?" campaign.

It was in the late 80's when the Burger King Kids Club was introduced. These animated kids represented the kids meals at Burger King until about 1996.

I remember in December of 1997, Burger King announced that they were improving the taste of their fries, and they made quite a big deal out of it for a while by showing claymation commercials with Mr. Potato Head (an appropriate character choice).

Shortly after that, they started doing commercials for the new Big Kids Meal, which were quite stupid; they were about these kids using a Big Kids Meal as an identification on being a big kid so that they could ride a horse or go on a roller coaster or something.

Nowadays, Burger King commercials are commercials that have that mascot king who appears outside your bedroom window every morning to scare the crap out of you. In the mid-2000's, for a while, I thought Burger King was going out of business since I noticed a lot of Burger Kings around my area were shutting down, but it was only due to financial problems, and I'm glad their doing better now.

Del Taco

Believe it or not, I tried Del Taco for the first time when I was 10, and now, it's one of my favorite fast food places. As far as commercials go, I don't recall very many of them.

I seem to remember early commercials to be really crazy. Some commercials from the mid 90's were pretty crazy too, like the ones that showed when Del Taco was giving out Pogs and tattoos.

Today, Del Taco is introducing all these new monstorous products with it's "Feed the Beast" campaign, and even those are crazy. Yes, Del Taco has always had the craziest advertisements of all the fast food chains.

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut always seems to bring back really good memories for me. They always seemed to have really good pizza, and I remember the days when they used to give out puppets.

I'm sure you remember those puppets of characters from "The Land Before Time", "Eureka's Castle", "Beauty and the Beast" and "Casper". Too bad they don't do that anymore.

I also remember the commercials with Pizza Head. Pizza Head was around from 1993 to 1997, and those commercials were created by the same guy who made "The Mr. Bill Show" on Saturday Night Live. Along with Pizza Head, these commercials also had a pizza cutter named Steve (he was supposed to be this series' Slugo).

All those new pizzas that they kept introducing like the Stuffed Crust Pizza and the Four-for-All Pizza always stuck out with me. I miss the Triple-Decker Pizza; I don't know why they don't make it anymore. I also remember, for a limited time, they additionally put pepperoni into the crust of the Stuffed Crust Pizzas.

This isn't really on topic, but Pizza Hut always had good atmosphere; I always loved going into one of those places and smelling the pizza, and while I was waiting for my food, I passed the time by playing either Addams Family pinball or that Simpsons arcade game!


Jack-in-the-Box commercials have had very little change overtime.

I wasn't around at the time, but after doing some research, there was a clown who was a popular icon in the chain, but they got rid of him in 1980.

I seem to remember commercials in the late 80's and early 90's showing these people just talking about food that they liked at Jack-in-the-Box, and playing in the background would be music that sounded like music from a jack-in-the-box toy.

It was in 1994 when Jack (the clown) came back, which was supposedly out of surgery. Ever since then, he's been in every commercial promoting all the great food that the restaurants are now serving. I like Jack, and his personality never changed.

Carl's Jr.

The earliest commercials I seem to remember from Carl's Jr. are the ones from the early 90's.

I remember the commercials were animated commercials that featured a characature of Carl Karcher and Happy Star (the mascot of the restaurant). During their production, those commercials have changed. Originally, Carl was a friendly person and Happy was kind of a toned down character with a lot of common sense, but later, Happy became more of a comedic relief character while Carl started gaining more common sense. I've been working my ass off trying to find those commercials but couldn't, so if anyone finds any, please let me know!

Later on, throughout the 90's, advertisements showed guys eating big Carl's burgers, and we had to watch all that ketchup drip from them as they bit into them.

Nowadays, most of the commercials focus on their $6 Burgers. My how those ads got boring.

I heard that recently, Carl Karcher passed away. May he rest in peace.
Kentucky Fried Chicken

As far as KFC commercials go, I didn't really see much of them.

The only thing I recall from the 80's were the commercials where they sang their slogan, "We do chicken right", and they weren't kidding. Ever since Colonel Sanders launched this chain, that's what they've been doing with their chicken all these years.

I remember commercials in the mid 90's were mostly advertising their new Mega Meal, which was a chicken dinner made for families with side dishes and all. I seem to remember one commercial ended with a guy saying, "Sure beats pizza!" and I was like, "Whoa, bad choice of words there!"

Commercials from the late 90's would feature an animated Colonel Sanders. Every time I think of those commercials, I can't help but to think about the Pokemon beanbags they gave out in late 1998 (I got all four of them, and in fact, I still have them all!).

The most recent KFC commercials I can think of are the ones in the 2000's that featured Jason Alexander with the slogan: "There's fast food, and then there's KFC". Man, what has happened to the world these days?


I probably wasn't around the time when the "Where's the beef?" commercials were being broadcasted, but I'll tell you what I do remember.

The earliest Wendy's commercial I seem to remember was one that featured a little fairy who would talk about the Wendy's Kids Meal.

Throughout the 90's, there were commercials for the Wendy's Kids Meals that said that they were just for kids and not for anyone else, and like any kids meal, inside was always a cool toy.

From 1994 to 2002, a lot of Wendy's commercials featured it's founder, Dave Thomas. For the uninitiated, 2002 was the year he died. I really miss Dave.

Sometime inbetween that era, I remember commercials in the late 90's advertising their chicken nuggets; they often showed people always coming back for more nuggets or stealing other people's nuggets, like they were trying to convince people how good they were.

Today, Wendy's is still going strong, but now, they're advertising their food with it's campaign: "It's way better than fast's Wendy's!" Call me crazy, but that's gotta be a total rip-off of KFC's slogan! I wish Wendy's went back to their old-fashioned ways of advertising.

Domino's Pizza

Domino's, as far back as I can remember, had numerous different kinds of commercials.

The earliest I can recall were the ones in the 80's. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about: Will Vinton's claymation commercials with the Noid.

This is sort of off-topic, but I seem to recall when Pizza Hut started selling the Steak-lover's Pizza, there were commercials about people calling Pizza Hut, and the employess would say, "yes, we have it", and there were some who called Domino's, who told them, "no". I mean, did they really think we were that stupid?

In the mid 90's, Domino's made sort of a new mascot to replace the Noid. It was basically the Domino's logo with sunglasses, a mouth, arms, hands, legs and feet; he kind of reminded me of the 7-Up spot.

Also, in the mid-90's, Domino's had some commercials to promote their buffalo wings and Ultimate Deep-Dish Pizza. The buffalo wings commercials featured a flying buffalo, and the Deep-Dish commercials featured people who would bite into them and suddenly speak with a really deep voice. Both of these types of commercials contained a rip-off of Queen's "We Will Rock You". Don't you remember? "Gotta be...gotta be...Domino's!" I actually remember kids all over my school singing that jingle, and it really annoyed me...kinda like that popular Alca-Seltzer commercial jingle from the 1960's ("Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is.").

In the late 90's, I recall seeing another series of commercials that I can't seem to find anywhere. These were commercials that featured Dr. Cravin, a little action figure guy who would always chase after a Domino's delivery person, but he'd always fail to get the pizza. The way he talked was just hilarious.
Fairly recent commercials talked about how Domino's always delivered their pizzas nice and hot in a heat-protected case, and they compared it by showing pizza delivery guys bringing ovens into houses and stuff.
Today, Domino's commercials are just basic with nothing really special about them.

Taco Bell

I gotta say, it kinda took me a while to get into Taco Bell. I don't remember much about Taco Bell commercials from the 80's except for that bell at the end.

I do, however, recall some commercials in the early 90's when they advertised how cheap everything on their menus were. These commercials often featured some famous musicians like Little Richard and Johnny Cash.

I remember in 1995 when they first introduced the Taco Bell Kids Meal! It was later that year when they introduced that animated cat and dog, Nacho and Dog, to help promote it. Those two were a pretty crazy duo, and their commercials held a lot of Simpsons-like goofiness. They were dropped in mid 1997 to make way for a new guessed it...Gidget, the chiuaua!

Who doesn't remember Gidget? He was a trademark in the commercial world ever since his debut commercial in late 1997 when he walked up to a guy eating a taco and said, "Yo quierro Taco Bell!" He remained popular for the rest of the decade, and by the new millenium, his popularity had dropped as other commercial stars were overpowering him.

In the 2000's, Taco Bell had been advertising it's value menu with it's "I'M FULL!" campaign, trying find ways to "keep your stomach and your wallet full". Today, Taco Bell is still doing pretty well, especially with it's current slogan, "Think outside the bun."

...and now, I've saved the best for last...

Man, I've remembered all these advertisements since McDonald's slogan was "Good times, great taste."

McDonald's had such great commercials with Ronald McDonald having adventures in McDonaldland with all those other great characters: Birdie, Grimace, the Hamburglar, the Fry Kids, the McNugget Buddies, and the McDonald's Happy Meal Guys. A lot of those characters were one by one being dropped as time went by.

Other commercials would feature Ronald appearing with kids in real life situations.

Others would basically have kids doing stuff with their parents and getting awarded by going to McDonald's.

I seem to remember in 1988 when the McDonald's Menu song was made. There was this guy who would sing the entire menu of what was currently at McDonald's at a really fast speed. That song was released on LP records, and anyone who purchased them would listen to the song, and if there were no mistakes, they'd win $1 million. I got one of those LP's, but we didn't win anything.

As the slogans were changing, the ads were changing. During the "Food, folks and fun" campaign in the early 90's, McDonald's started showing commercials with these kids who always hung out together, especially at McDonald's.

In the mid-90's, they started getting more enjoyable with Ronald singing that parody on the Loving Spoonful's hit, "Do You Believe in Magic?"

Then, in 1997, came the "That's my Ronald" and "Did somebody say McDonald's?" campaigns. Whenever, I watch one of those "That's my Ronald" commercials on Retrojunk or YouTube, I always cry, because they always bring back good memories as 1997 was a great year to be alive (well, for me, at least).

Ever since the 2000's began, commercials for McDonald's have been just lame. McDonaldland doesn't even exist anymore, and none of our favorite characters are showing up anywhere; well, Ronald does show up once in a while, but that's pretty much it.

Right now, the only thing McDonald's seems to care about is advertising new things on their menus, like today, it's their iced coffee. I heard that the reason they're doing this is to compete with Starbucks, which I don't blame them for; I mean, lately, Starbucks has been sucking the lifes out of most of my friends! Still, they really need to go back to entertaining kids and bring the magic back into their commercials.

Well, there you go. There's my retrospective of fast food advertisements. It seems that back in the 80's and 90's, they were shooting for entertainment values while today, they're just focusing on menu items. It's like today, they're making a fuss out of new burgers being made with either sirloin or angus beef. I mean, the 80's and 90's were great decades to be a kid, because there were so many things that would entertain us, but today, kids seem to obsess with computer-animated movies. Okay, I think I'd better shut up now before this article ends up being another "life sucks" article!

Well, in conclusion, I hope this article was fun to read. Hopefully, I jogged your memories pretty well, and hopefully, I didn't make you guys too hungry. Fast food is still good these days, but advertisements are a lot different. Thanks for reading my article. This is dalmatianlover signing off.
More Articles From dalmatianlover
4 years, 10 months ago
Having worked at Pizza Hut, I can tell you that people are that stupid. I can't tell you how many times I was taking an order on the phone, and the customer would ask for an item or special that was at the time available at Domino's or Papa Johns, and I would have to politely explain to them that we didn't have that. Sometimes the people would even get angry with me, and insist that I was wrong, because they had just seen a Pizza Hut commercial for that specific item.
    11 years, 1 month ago
    I love that picture at the end with the four Sheltie dogs dressed up like food items. On topic I've always liked Burger King the most with Wendy's a close second. I don't really consider Pizza Hut fast food but I like them nonetheless.
      11 years, 1 month ago
      I joined the Burger King Kids Club when I was little. My mom signed us up & I was probably about 3 or 4 so I don't think I even remember that much.
        11 years, 10 months ago
        Great article! Sadly, the Mcdonald's "commercials" really aren't commercials because there's nothing to them. Basically, all they do is talk about a food product for fifteen seconds or less. Mcdonald's used to have some of the best commercials back when I was growing up. They were my favorite ones to watch. (Sob).
          11 years, 11 months ago
          What the heck was the name of that half moon guy with the glasses that was used in McDonald's campaigns? It was during the late 80's to early 90's. I think he would use a saxophone as well. Nothing will ever replicate what we all had as a youth back then. Nick sucks. Disney sucks. Kids don't know what real entertainment is anymore.
            12 years, 2 months ago
            Huge rush of nostalgia for me here. I remember all of this. If I had one thing to add, its that you could have delved into Domino's "30 mins or less" campaign.
              12 years, 4 months ago
              There's a Burger King in the Bronx that has a huge mural with all of the Burger King Kid's Club crew. Everytime I drive past it I start thinkin about those old commercials.
                12 years, 6 months ago
                Wait a minute. I think the BK Kids Club was around longer than '96, because I was born in '94 and those kids were still shown on Kids Meals and toys and on the play area of one of my local BKs when I was young, and older than two. I remember Pizza Head, the Taco Bell cat and dog, and Gidget from when I was very young, and I have all four Pokemon KFC toys too! (Well, my brother got them first, but I took them. I love Vulpix and Seel.) I actually used to say "Did somebody say McDonalds?" a lot when I was little.
                  12 years, 7 months ago
                  (to sara static) I agree. Boomer will always be my favorite.
                    12 years, 8 months ago
                    I remember around 1992 when I was six, there were Popcorn Chicken commercials on KFC with MC Hammer.
                      12 years, 9 months ago
                      I miss the old mascots. They should've kept them.
                        13 years, 3 months ago
                        burger king should have definately kept those cartoon kids as their mascot. I loved them when I was little and the king is plain old creepy now.
                          13 years, 4 months ago
                          why arnt the ads like they use too?
                            13 years, 5 months ago
                            I hate you now. You know why? Beacause now "That's My Ronald" is stuck in my head where Chris Brown used to be. thanks alot. I actually might still have a casette tape with the song and several other songs being sung by Ronald and random kids. It was a funny tape and I must try to find it again.... I remember belonging to the BK kids club and getting free food every year on my birthday. I think they still play that McDonalds Christmas commercial actually. That ad never fails to raise a lump in my throat.
                              13 years, 6 months ago
                              The Pizza Hut slogan I remember best is "Makin' It Great". The ad shows a kid winning at baseball, and then he gets pizza. It's on the beginning of either my An American Tale tape or my The Land Before Time tape.

                              I also remember stuffed crust pizza. They initially showed people eating it backwards, because it was "that good". I remember being disappointed at how the mozzarella in the crust tasted. It could maybe have used some sauce.

                              I also remember the Big New York Pizza because we had a really bad one, where the cheese and sauce weren't cooked right because they were all soupy. This may have been in the early 2000's, I'm not sure.

                              The Taco Bell slogans I remember are "Nothin' ordinary about it" and "Run for the border". These were during the height of the 1990's, and my family was eating at Taco Bell all the time - probably two times a week.

                              For McDonald's, my favorite was "Do You Believe in Magic?" I also loved when McDonald's had pizza. Their pizza was delicious. It was also fun to get a shake or their little ice cream cones.

                              I remember Arby's Beef and Cheddar (yeah, I know they still have it, but I'm a vegetarian now and have been for a long time). Those were awesome. I miss that and their fries more than anything else that I don't eat anymore - even though there were always flies buzzing around the Arby's we went to.

                              KFC now has a rip off of Sweet Home Alabama sung by a chorus of chickens in their commercials. I hate that song.
                                13 years, 7 months ago
                                You missed the Great Root Bear from A&W.
                                  13 years, 7 months ago
                                  Meh. This article was okay.
                                    13 years, 7 months ago
                                    I told one of my teachers like a little baby in Kindergarten that I didn't any of the food that they were feeding me at I think it was Burger King and she cried "EAT YOUR FRIES!" She acted like she didn't care. I ate a few fries. I was picky is why I threw a tandrum. My teachers told my mom and dad what I did. I was picky is why I wasn't eating like everybody else in my family at McDonald's even though they did get me food when I was little that same year.
                                      13 years, 8 months ago
                                      I have no idea why it's leaving a space between "Value" and Combo"(even after checking it myself before BOTH posts) be sure to correct that space when you copy the link or it won't work.
                                        13 years, 8 months ago
                                        I thought this picture was appropriate for this article:

                                          13 years, 8 months ago
                                          actually, try this one instead:

                                            13 years, 8 months ago
                                            I recall McDonaldLand originally, when the big rage was having characters aimed at the kids. Now I notice since you're on your memories with fast food, what you may not recall Jack-In-The-Box actually had some characters as well, with a Jack-In-The-Box character but it didn't look anything like our Jack, but had blue hair and was supposed to be sort of a knock off of Ronald.

                                            Regrettably, because I lived in a small town of Orange, we didn't have a McDonald's nor Jack-in-the-Box. Instead we had Dairy Queen and a little known burger joint called Burger Chef.

                                            Naturally, they originally got into the act with their own kid gimmicks. With Dairy Queen, it was first with the DQ Kid and his western friends vs. Funfighter McDoom. (Sort of an inside play against McDonald's.)

                                            Later DQ went with Dennis the Menace as it's spokesperson.

                                            Burger Chef was genuinely the innovator of kids' meals before McDonald's and Burger King got a hold of the concept. Originally, Burger Chef came out with something called a Funburger. Sort of a kids' hamburger in a box which also contained a prize inside.

                                            I can still remember getting my first Funburger and held that box as if it was gold back in 1972. Of course, any kid from that era recalls the hamburgers were made in this fashion, pickles, ketchup and mustard (yuck!) so I usually had to perform, 'burger surgery' to enjoy my hamburger.

                                            Later after Burger King started enforcing, 'Have it your way,' Burger Chef and others started taking 'special orders.'

                                            Anyhoo, I digress, later Burger Chef decided on graduating the Funburger into the FunMeal, which was better than McDonald's Happy Meal. Mainly because rather than have stuff packaged in a box, the FunMeal was in reality a tray which had games and cool stuff with it, as well as fries and a drink.

                                            My favourite FunMeal to this day was the Time Travel themes, because I had made several things with it and enjoyed them immensely. In fact, before Salad Bars became all the rage, Burger Chef also installed one of those as well.

                                            Regrettably, however, by the time the late-80s rolled round, and Orange ended up getting Wendy's, McDonald's and Burger King, Burger Chef wound up going out of business.

                                            And I agree with cweezy, it seems Today's kids are getting short-changed with these meals, and thanks to this sudden health craze, it seems most meals are something one might find in the school cafeteria than in a fast food restaurant.

                                            Anyway, great article, brought back some interesting memories.
                                              13 years, 8 months ago
                                              dood awesome article. brings back good memories. What ever happened to those nice toys you used to get in the kids meals that could barely fit in the bag. Now we have these cheap ones
                                                13 years, 8 months ago
                                                @ jaywf21

                                                The moon was called "Mac Tonight"
                                                  13 years, 8 months ago
                                                  good article but you failed to mention in your mcdonalds portion about the moon guy mascot? i remember him in my early childhood, cant remember what he was called so i call him the moon guy,lol.
                                                    13 years, 8 months ago
                                                    wow brings back alot of memories lol
                                                      13 years, 8 months ago
                                                      This article made me hungry. Cheers for the read!
                                                        13 years, 8 months ago
                                                        There was at least a ten year gap between the arrival of Carl's Jr. in my town and the last Hardee's leaving. All the Hardee's locations became Burger King here. I understand that Carl's now owns Hardee's but it is very different from the 80's hardee's I remember. Incidently I dated a girl whose dad invented the Hardee's purple Hoobie the bear kids sack figure. Not sure if they still use that as there aren't any hardee's here.
                                                          13 years, 8 months ago
                                                          "We don't have jack in the box and didnt get Carls Jr till years after I had grown up."

                                                          CKE, the company that owns Carl's Jr. bought out Hardees, and they now pretty much offer the same menu. If you have a Carl's Jr. in your town, then you wouldn't have a Hardees, as they are split up by region.
                                                            13 years, 8 months ago
                                                            Micky D's and Hardee's were the fast food of choice as a wee tot because they always seemed to have good toys or promotions. Man I miss Hardee's. they all turned into burger king around here. I came across an old 80's ad for a frisco chicken sandwich. I would hitchhike to Peru to taste that again.
                                                            Wendy's recently got bought out by Arby's and if they screw it up I am gonna go terrorist on them. We don't have jack in the box and didnt get Carls Jr till years after I had grown up. As a product of divorced family I ate a majority of fast food growing up so consider myself somewhat of an epicurian expert on the subject.
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