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Big Mac

Of Meat and Money

How ubiquitous has the Big Mac become? In 1986, The Economist introduced something known as the Big Mac Index, an informal way to compare foreign currency values against the U.S. dollar. It's based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), which says that exchange rates should equalize the price of a purchased item in any two countries. The magazine uses just one item -- a Big Mac hamburger -- because it is available in 118 countries.

Nothing is more synonymous with McDonald's than the Big Mac -- the multilayered sandwich that towers over all other fast-food competitors. Jim Delligatti, a McDonald's franchise owner in Uniontown, Pa., invented the now-iconic burger and began selling it at his store in 1968 for 45 cents [source: Alfano]. It was so popular that McDonald's decided to sell the sandwich nationally. The rest is history.

By some estimates, McDonald's sells 550 million Big Macs each year in the United States alone [source: Alfano]. But the sandwich has global popularity. It is available in more than 100 countries and is consumed 900 million times a year around the world [source: Big Mac Museum].

One important factor behind the success of the Big Mac has been advertising. Needham Harper & Steers, a New York-based advertising agency, developed the famous "Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun" Big Mac jingle in 1974. The agency had already created the company's "You deserve a break today" campaign in 1971, one of Ad Age's top 100 advertising campaigns of all time, so maybe it was too much to hope for another lightning strike. But strike it did. The Big Mac jingle became a cultural phenomenon and remains imprinted on our collective consciousness today.

Now for No. 1. We bet you can guess what it is, if you didn't already cheat and look.

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