One of Burger King's biggest and least successful ad campaigns was launched in 1985. For weeks via in-store ads, billboards, and television commercials, it teased its customers with the enigmatic "Where's Herb?" slogan. Eventually it clued its customers in to be on the look out for someone named Herb. If you spotted Herb, you would win $5,000. Alas, Burger King failed to tell its customers what Herb actually looked like. That was the other part of the gimmick, see. Keep 'em guessing. Create "buzz" by having people debate each other what Herb actually looks like.
None of that happened.
The net effect of asking its customers to find Herb -- but not telling anyone what Herb looked like -- was that Burger King caused its own customers to harass each other in its stores.
Mercifully for those who liked to enjoy their fast food in peace, Burger King finally revealed on Superbowl night Herb to be this geeky looking fellow in a too-tight, loud suit.
By this time, no one really cared.
Lost on the vast majority of fast food consumers was the message that Herb had never actually tried a Whopper, hence he was a geek, hence you were a geek too if you've not actually bit into one of Burger King's moist, juicy flame-broiled patties.
It was too much of a leap in logic for most burger consumers to grasp. Since the ads were telling customers that Herb was spending all his time in Burger Kings, what the fuck was he doing there if he wasn't eating burgers? Most assumed Burger King was trying to tell us Whoppers are the burger of choice by geeks everywhere.
Burger King blew $40 million on an ad campaign that only managed to drive off customers. The burger company's sales plummeted during the campaign. Advertising Age magazine labeled the "Where's Herb?" campaign the "most elaborate advertising flop of the decade". Other advertising insiders have more charitably called it "simply one of the greatest fiascoes in the history of advertising."
-- Karl Mamer