Cliff Freeman, Adman Who Asked, ‘Where’s the Beef?,’ Dies at 80


The Little Caesars pizza chain was one of the first accounts Mr. Freeman won after starting his own agency, and it remained a signature client for 11 years as it fought for market share against competitors like Pizza Hut and Domino’s.

“Well, you know, pizza is a fun product,” Mr. Freeman told Luerzer’s Archive, an industry magazine, in a 1998 interview. “Everyone sits around and eats pizza together, so you’ve got to have fun when you advertise it. You certainly can’t treat it seriously.”

One ad Mr. Freeman devised emphasized the stretchiness of pizza cheese, to slapstick effect (a baby goes on a wild ride in her high chair throughout the house while holding onto a slice). In another, a goofy worker for an unnamed rival chain tries to impress a customer by contorting a pizza box, origami-style, into the shape of a pterodactyl (underscoring its offering of just a pizza and a box, compared with Little Caesars’s two pizzas for one low price).

Those commercials helped lift sales of Little Caesars 138 percent from 1988 to 1993. Nonetheless, after sales flattened and Little Caesars considered changing ad agencies, Mr. Freeman ended his firm’s association with the chain in 1998.

Over the years, Mr. Freeman’s agency won many Clio Awards for advertising excellence. It won for commercials created for clients like Little Caesars, Philips and Outpost.com, and for a series of ads for Fox Sports’ National Hockey League coverage that demonstrated how basketball, bowling, billiards and golf would be better if they were played more physically, like hockey.

Neal Tiles, a marketing executive for Fox Sports, told The New York Times in 1998 that it had chosen Mr. Freeman’s agency because it took “creative risks in a strategic way” on so many campaigns.

But Cliff Freeman & Partners lasted only 11 more years. Amid a recession, executive turmoil and client departures, it shut down in 2009.



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