Where's the Beef? Nathan's Famous Talks


This is the classic dog-bites-man scenario: Right in time for summer, Nathan’s Famous, the original New York frank since 1916, has gotten a rebrand and released a new ad campaign featuring talking hot dogs, from adam&eveDDB New York.

I would think  most people have positive associations with Nathan’s: I know I could watch champion Joey Chestnut chow down all the time, putting away as many as 73 franks during the brand’s famous hot dog eating contest held in Coney Island. It’s on every July 4th, including the one coming up

And I laugh every time The Mustard Belt -- as giant as any wrestling belt -- is awarded to the winner.

That alone is great advertising. But what about a wider campaign for the rest of the country?

 “Our goal is to take Nathan’s Famous to a whole new level with a new platform: 100% Beef, 100% New York,” Lauren Talbert, senior marketing director for Smithfield Foods, which is licensed to manufacture and sell Nathan's products, said in a release. The campaign “emphasizes our commitment to using 100% beef in our hot dogs, while paying homage to our 100+ year New York heritage.”



Still, updating the image with “modern” attitude mixed with the brand’s heritage is tricky.

One of the problems is that the New Yawk of old movies no longer exists. You’d be hard pressed to find that accent in Manhattan these days, or even a single cabbie who has it.

I have a Dominican friend with a Spanish accent who maintains she has a Bronx accent. I found that funny, since my mother had an old-school Bronx accent, like saying “swedah” (sweater) and “bott-al” (bottle) in a glottal way.

Indeed, the classic Jewish, Irish, and Italian accents of “dees, dose”days have been replaced by the inflections of speech of New Yorkers from Central and South America, the Sudan, the Caribbean, the Philippines, Korea, and all over the world.

But that’s getting into the weeds, and for a tough guy like Nathan’s all-beef talking dog “Goodfellas” would be the most identifiable way to go.

But then you might have an angry, hostile hot dog on your hands -- except that he won’t have hands to wave while he interrupts you, without aggressive body language and facial expressions.

Or how about making him a sweet, cuddly little wienie?  Though that personality doesn’t jibe with the New York stereotype, and you might feel bad biting into such a sweetie.

I’ve always had this problem with the idea of eating the innocent, individual M&Ms characters for that very reason.

The answer is to split the all-beef baby down the middle, as the creatives have.

These spots take place in what would seem to be suburban backyard barbecues far away from the city.

In the 30-second “Beef,” a female party guest grabs the talking dog to put it on her plate. He quickly shouts “Ay-oh lady!” and complains “your beans are touching my bun!” --  a funny line.

She apologizes and has a back-and forth that ends with his “Fuhgettaboutit.” 

She then says “I’m sorry, but is that a New York accent?”

The smart Alec beefster comes back quickly with sarcasm: “Actually, it’s Kansas” and tells her he used to “sell fake handbags in Times Square.”

What is genuinely funny is when the actress breaks the fourth wall as she backs away from the table and says, “Okay, okay, I’m talking to a hot dog.” The read on that line is charming.

And I’m glad that they didn’t make a mouth hole in the grilled frank to talk out of -- he just flaps his buns.

“Mustard,” a15-second spot, opens with a male guest trying to squeeze mustard on his frank and getting nothing but squeeze noise.

Now we get a semi-attack dog. “Ah, that’s a shame. Finishing the mustard and putting it back like that,” says the grilled dog who’s still on the table.

Our bearded guest, who doesn’t seem at all shocked to be having this convo over condiments with a grilled wiener, says “What guy?”

And the dog counters with “Do I look like a snitch to you, pal? It was Greg.”

I like the updated green graphics and the new look for Nathan’s mascot, Frankie, complete with a starched chef’s toque (no backwards baseball cap!)  sunglasses, bow tie, and two signs, one reading  “100% beef” and the other “100% New York.”

The spots are good, although they feel a bit tamped down, not wild or weird enough to be laugh-out-loud funny.

But of course, a hot dog on the hot seat with a bad temper might balk at that. “You think I’m funny? Funny how?  Do I amuse you? Like a clown? “

And then the whole backyard gang would have to flee in horror.

2 comments about "Where's the Beef? Nathan's Famous Talks".
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  1. Joseph Cerulli from Nathan’s, May 30, 2024 at 8:07 a.m.

    Smithfield is not Nathan's "parent company ".  They are contracted to manufacture Nathan's products and licensed to sell retail. 

  2. Barbara Lippert from replied, May 30, 2024 at 10:11 a.m.

    Thanks for the correction. I will change it.

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