Barbara Lippert’s Critique

You’d think with them big, ranchin’ Texas beef eaters moving into the White House, expelling the leftover pizza, fishwich and granola brigades within, the beef association folk could just sit tight for a while and wait for the benefits to kick in.

By that I mean the return to the full Ford administration ’70s zeitgest: stagflation, high gas prices, digital watches and big glasses. Can open steak sandwiches be far behind?

But I must say, even as a former vegetarian, that I have found the beef spots for the last 10 years darn inspiring. I’m hooked on the Aaron Copland music—you couldn’t pick a better suited or more exuberant riff. The music uncannily captures the sweep of the American plains—the vastness, the energy, the sheer determination.

Pretty good for a guy from Brooklyn, and now pretty identifable with “what’s for dinner.” It makes me want to take a tire iron to the dinner triangle and call everybody over to the big barbecue pit for supper. If I had a triangle or a pit, that is.

But in addition to showing the inspired, sped-up slicing and dicing, and then the family scarfing down the slabs, there’s a strategy afoot from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to target women. That’s fine, and even makes sense. Everybody ought to give beef a chance.

It’s treating women as “the other white meat” that I object to.

In this particular spot, chicks are brand extensions from another planet. (“What’s next?” my Brandweek colleague Becky Ebenkamp cracked, “The Lady Manwich?”)

One NCBA spot opens in a power steak restaurant—the kind with macho black-and-white photos of skyscrapers framed and hung all over the walls—great erections, so to speak. Two men in suits and ties sit in a booth in the corner, clutching their leather-covered menus.

They are obviously ill at ease, and finally, one asks, “You want to go …. I feel a little…” while the other finishes his friend’s thought—with “out of place?”

They scan the restaurant—and here’s where the pull-back suggests a scene from a horror movie—the restaurant is filled with women!

Every padded seat is filled by the fanny of some—ugh!—estrogen-loaded biped! The kicker, in the horror-disgusto department, is that a pregnant woman pads by their table. (Beef—the secret fertility packer.)

I realize this turning the tables idea (and steak houses were traditionally male bastions) is supposed to be funny and “empowering.” The announcer says, “Make room at the table, boys!’ and then goes on to list all the iron, zinc and B vitamins that women need and beef contains. It’s treating women like slabs of “other” that is polarizing.

The second spot, however, is enjoyable. A soon-to-be bride and her mom, sitting in her childhood bedroom, review the meal choice response cards that have come back for her wedding reception. The future Mrs. ends up reciting the word “beef” over and over. It’s nicely shot, and the repetition is unexpected and clever—99 beefs to one chicken—clearly gets the word out.

These commercials have been running since last year, so the strategy may be changing. Still, the notion that men find sharing space in a restaurant with women emasculating is really food for thought. It’s almost as scary as noting that in our nation’s capital these days, retro is what’s for dinner. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association


Leo Burnett


Executive CD

Jonathan Hoffman

Art Director

Amy Haddad


Anne Patanella


Gary Kaney


John Adams/

Area 51 Films

Santa Monica, Calif.