Donna Weinheim

2024 Creative Hall of Fame Inductee

Former Executive Creative Director, BBDO

Donna is the creative mastermind behind numerous iconic tag lines and memorable campaigns in the 1990's that remain relevant and revered in culture today. From "Pizza Pizza" and "Where's the Beef?" to several top rated Super Bowl ads including Pepsi's "Innnertube" commercial.



The creative leaders of the past forty years know the name Donna Weinheim. To the people who have proven time and time again that our industry only moves forward when we push the boundaries of creativity, Donna Weinheim is a legend and a true pioneer. The combination of Donna’s creative genius and ability to rise to the top of the male dominated creative circles has led to countless creative ideas that have moved businesses and inspired minds to this day. In Donna’s 33 year career, she has not only shown that she is a brilliant creative, but an inspirational mentor to other women making their way through the creative world. She has always felt the need to help diverse voices be heard, whether in our industry or in her own community. Donna was creating world-famous, culture setting work in a time when few women were in the creative department. Her perseverance and also her being ahead of today’s imperative to help other women and other diverse creators are worthy of the recognition of the Hall of Fame.


Donna 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, Donna couldn’t find a job as an art director. In the seventies there were few women creators and even fewer women creative directors. To top it off, her god given talent was humor, and she was constantly told “Women aren’t funny”. This would continue for years. From recruiters, creative directors, and clients. She finally landed a paste up job in the studio at Ogilvy.


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. She had to work twice as long, twice as hard, and come up with twice as many ideas to succeed. And she did. She learned a lot doing paste up in the back rooms of Ogilvy. “I was told great ideas evoke an emotion. I leaned towards humor because if you can either make people laugh or cry. I would rather make people smile.” Her hero was Mary Wells, founder of the landmark agency Wells, Rich, Greene. Throughout her entire career, Donna would never forget the importance of having a female role model as a source of inspiration.


Her talent, perseverance, and determination got her to Dancer, Fitzgerald, Sample. Executive Creative director Stan Becker hired Donna as an art director, later promoting her to creative director. Becker knew the perfect partner to match Donna’s talent and wit. He teamed her 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 behind McDonald’s and Burger King. The campaigns won every industry award and became part of pop culture. According to New York Magazine, “Where’s the Beef?” had the “highest recall of any TV spot in the 20th century”. “Where’s the beef?” even became the democratic nominee for president Walter Mondale’s campaign slogan.

Cliff Freeman then asked Donna to join him as partner, creative director, and senior VP at his new agency Cliff Freeman and Partners. As a founding partner at one of the world’s most awarded agencies, she helped set the benchmark for humor that our industry uses to this day.

At Cliff Freeman and Partners, 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. Donna’s “Conga Line” spot is a master class in comic simplicity. The Little Caesar’s tagline “Pizza Pizza” is now the second most popular taglines in the world. And 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”.


Her newfound status as partner in the most sought out agency in the country allowed Donna to give back and mentor young women creatives. Marianne Besch, who would go on to become global executive creative director at Mcgarrybowen, says this about her time working for Donna, “Donna was a mentor. She steered me through and taught me how to hold my own.”

Donna was then asked by Phil Dusenberry and global creative chairman Ted Sann to join BBDO. The agency had just won “Agency of the Year” at Cannes and it had the reputation as a global creative powerhouse. Donna would raise that reputation, while at the same time devote herself to being a mentor and inspiration for the diverse, unheard voices in the agency. This was not just BBDO in the 90s, but BBDO in the 90s working in the exclusive Pepsi group! In her first year she won 5 Cannes Lions. But maybe more importantly to BBDO, Donna’s Pepsi “Innertube” spot was voted the number one spot on the Super Bowl on the USA Today AdMeter. Twenty years later, “Innertube” was named the “Highest rated Super Bowl ad of all time” by USA Today. And she did this alone. For some reason she didn’t have a partner. Her Pepsi “Goldfish” campaign, as well as FedEx’s “Wizard of Oz”, and HBO’s “Roach Motel” are all on the lists of greatest Super Bowl spots of all time. Donna had once again proven her belief that “great ideas with heart move the business”.


Donna didn’t let her status as one of the best creative minds in advertising go to waste. She gave back to other women and all the unheard diverse voices. Jean Batthany, Chief Creative Officer at Walmart, was a young creative at BBDO with Donna. “Always generous with her time and spirit. Always going out of her way to help the other (few) women in the creative department. Whether she was your ECD or not, you knew Donna was the one to go to for help getting your ideas seen.”

Vann Graves, former CCO of J. Walter Thompson worldwide, who himself has gone on to mentor and open doors for diverse talent as head of the VCU Brandcenter agrees, “Her unwavering support and mentorship have inspired countless individuals, including myself, and continue to resonate with those fortunate enough to have worked with her.”