Clara Peller was a 4’10" Chicago manicurist in her 70s when ad man Joe Sedelmainer discovered her in 1970. Sedelmainer used her and her distinctive growl for dozens of local advertisements. In 1984, they worked on the biggest ad campaign of either of their careers, the Wendy’s "Where’s the beef?" ads.

Traditionally third place in the fast food wars, the ads caused Wendy’s sales to jump 31%. The campaign cost $8 million, but the restaurant chain was certainly getting its money’s worth in terms of free publicity. Peller’s voice and image adorned T-shirts, coffee mugs, posters, beach towels, and even a doll. And the slogan was literally everywhere: kids, adults, disk jockeys, comedians, and even presidental candidates were uttering it. It was probably one of the most ubiquitous slogans in history.

Nothing lasts, of course, and the slogan was eventually beat into the cold, dead ground, though it lingered far far longer than one might expect. Peller was canned after appearing in a Prego spaghetti sauce commercial saying "I found it". A Wendy’s VP said "Clara can find the beef only in one place, and that is Wendy’s." It does seem rather tight-assed, but I can’t say I blame them for not wanting other products piggybacking on their slogan. Peller, however, was pissed. "I’ve made them millions and they don’t appreciate me."

Peller died two years later at age 86.

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