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Yesterday in La Crosse

The ‘Herb’ campaign was a whopper of a promotion, 35 years ago

Brad Williams

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In early 1986, Burger King was running an ad campaign, asking customers to watch for a fellow named ‘Herb’ at their restaurants. According to the commercials, Herb was from the town of South Bexley, Wisconsin…which doesn’t exist. Herb was supposed to be the only person in America who had never eaten a Burger King Whopper. If somebody saw Herb at a BK, that customer would win $5000, and others in the restaurant would be eligible for a million-dollar drawing. When Herb was finally shown on the TV ads, he was a bald, nerdy-looking guy with glasses, played by Wisconsin native Jon Menick. At least one Burger King owner in Wisconsin said the commercials were poking fun at the Badger State.

The Herb ads ran around the same time that McDonald’s was promoting a burger called the ‘McDLT,’ where the lettuce and tomato were separated from the meat until you opened the styrofoam package and put them together. And it was a few months after Coca-Cola tried to replace its classic formula with ‘New Coke.’ The Burger King campaign climaxed on Super Bowl Sunday, when the Chicago Bears won 46-to-10, over the New England Patriots.

And Ace Hardware was celebrating the opening of a brand new $8 million distribution center on French Island, near the airport. New movies on local screens included “F/X,” “The Best of Times,” and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” in 1986, yesterday in La Crosse.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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