Former Partner, Cliff Freeman & Partners; Former Executive Creative Director, BBDO
Donna Weinheim was born in Sunnyside, Queens which she credits for giving her such a positive outlook on life. After graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA in Graphic Design, she landed a paste up job in the studio at Ogilvy & Mather.
Her talent and determination brought her to Dancer, Fitzgerald, Sample. Executive creative director Stan Becker hired Donna as an art director, later promoting her to creative director and teamed Donna up with Cliff Freeman. The rest is history. Her campaigns for Wendy’s, “Hamburger A. Hamburger B.”, “Russian Fashion Show”, and the legendary “Where’s the Beef?” propelled the regional Ohio hamburger restaurant to #3 in the nation, won every industry award, and became part of pop culture. According to New York Magazine, “Where’s the Beef?” has the “highest recall of any TV spot in the 20th century”.
She then became the only female partner and creative director at Cliff Freeman & Partners, the most highly awarded agency of its time. There, she set the benchmark for humor that our industry still uses to this day. At CF&P, Donna was asked to lead the agency's top account, Little Caesars Pizza. She set out to make some of the funniest (and most copied) commercials in advertising history. The regional Detroit pizza chain rose to the third largest pizza company in the world. Donna’s campaign “Laugh it off with the Comedy Channel” launched the cable channel that would later become Comedy Central. Her passion for animals and her compassion for anyone in need led her to create the award-winning campaign for the ASPCA “If you want to talk about adopting a pet, we’re all ears”.
Donna was then asked to join BBDO as ECD in the exclusive Pepsi Group. The agency had just won “Agency of the Year” at Cannes and it held the reputation as a global creative powerhouse. Donna would raise that reputation, while at the same time devoting herself to being a mentor and inspiration for the diverse, unheard voices in the agency. In her first year she won 5 Cannes Lions and Donna’s Pepsi “Innertube” spot was voted the number one Super Bowl commercial on the USA Today AdMeter. Twenty years later, “Innertube” was named the “Highest rated Super Bowl ad of all time”. Her Pepsi “Goldfish” campaign, FedEx “Wizard of Oz”, and HBO’s “Roach Motel” can also be found on the lists of greatest Super Bowl ads. Donna had once again proven her belief that “great ideas with heart move the business”.
After retiring in Southampton, NY, Donna continues to use her creative gifts to give back, working as a volunteer at the Bridgehampton Library’s Writers Workshop. This led to her meeting Amelia Green, a blind, 82 year old African American woman who needed assistance in writing her memoirs about overcoming racism and segregation. Donna worked with Green and eventually co-directed the documentary short Amelia about this incredible woman’s life.
Donna’s success despite the odds against her is due to her understanding that great ideas are neither male nor female. The only way to get over every hurdle thrown at her was simply to have better ideas than anyone else.
Inductee, Advertising Hall of Fame
Last Updated: November 2023