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Scripps Career Pathways: Dan Dahlen, BSJ ’76, writer of “Where’s the Beef?” strategy for Wendy’s

Dec 5, 2013

Scripps Career Pathways: Dan Dahlen, BSJ ’76, writer of “Where’s the Beef?” strategy for Wendy’s

Dan graduated in 1976 with a degree in advertising and is currently the CEO of Dahlen Communications. Dan knows the ins and outs of the advertising industry of fast food. From finding “Jared” for Subway and working with Wendy’s, Shoney’s, Burger King, Papa John’s, Dunkin Donuts, Domino’s, Quiznos and many more, Dan has made a name for himself in the industry.


How do you feel your Scripps College of Communication degree has helped you in your career thus far?

Advertising Principles 101 got me interested in the advertising profession. I read the textbook and fell in love. I made a career of it …37 years later and am still doing it. I worked for incredible ad agencies and in many cities. That course and textbook has opened a career for me that has been highly rewarding. OU has a lot of credibility, whether you are in New York City or Chicago, people know Scripps College of Communication and that it is top-notch. It has given me a competitive advantage. I have interviewed and hired many Scripps graduates.


What steps did you take to achieve high-level positions in agencies?

Someone told me a long time ago that advertising is a small base and not that many people are in it. It is highly difficult to get in. Once you are in though and are good, the business will take care of you. You need to not burn any bridges, make sure that you create a community of contacts that you stay in touch with. You have to have patience for success. Kids are graduating and watching friends make more money than them right out of college, and think to themselves “Why did I choose advertising and marketing?” Those people that take those jobs for the money end up not liking them, while you took the necessary steps and had your priority straight. Follow your passion, hang in there and have patience for success and if money or financial security is of importance, the money will come.  


What is the most important thing you believe has helped you secure your current position? 

Tenacity, patience and a high level of competitiveness.


What is a typical day like for you in this position? 

I help build brands. Start-ups hear about me and know I know business and have a lot of contacts. These guys that are starting up companies need traction fast, they need branding help and don’t have a lot of money or time. I know the restaurant space very well. My day varies dramatically, and I am constantly traveling. I am working for myself, I am in my home office at 8:30 a.m. every single day. On a typical day, I am on the phone and online a lot. I am either taking care of clients or trying to find more clients. My day goes from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and it is hard long hours.  I am working longer hours now that I work for myself.


After 35 years of working for different agencies, when did you know it was time to start your own company?

The advertising business is a young business. The minute you are over 50, you get the feeling you need to find something else to do. You do not want to rely on it after 50 years, it is a young person’s business. I have a phenomenal profile for for restaurant marketing. However, the restaurant agency is not going to hire a 50-year-old guy. It is all about the digital world today, and agencies are interested in people who grew up in the digital era. 



- Katie Quinn, social media intern