Joe Sedelmaier

Advertising Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Joe Sedelmaier discusses his early years working as an art director at several advertising agencies including Young & Rubicam and J. Walter Thompson. He talks about his difficulties in breaking the mold in television commercials, from the content, to the camerawork, to the insistence he felt agencies had on sticking to the storyboard and not discovering things on-set. He recalls creating his own company to produce commercials and his interest in working with the smaller agencies who were less rigid in their thinking. Sedelmaier addresses the animosity that existed toward using humor in television advertising and how he embraced it as his sole "genre" in creating commercials. He describes his approach to humor, casting his commercials with "real" people, and the importance he felt in having control over every aspect of production. He outlines how his insistence on complete creative control wasn't tolerated in Hollywood, when he was hired to direct the feature film "Easy Money". He recalls his most well-known advertising campaign, the "Where's the Beef?" spots for Wendy's, which made a star out of octogenarian Clara Peller. He talks about some of his other commercials for Wendy's including the celebrated "Russian Fashion Show" commercial which featured a portly runway model sporting the same gray frock to illustrate daywear, eveningwear, and swimwear attire, and the "Parts is Parts" commercial featuring a Southern-accented fast food counter employee explaining processed chicken to a customer. Sedelmaier speaks of other well-known ads he created, including his 1974 Southern Airways ad (which "put him on the map") that showed a passenger discovering a frighteningly somber coach section, as well as ads for Federal Express (featuring fast-talking man John Moschitta) and Valvoline ("Motor Oil is Motor Oil"). Karen Herman conducted the interview on April 7, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois.

"A sweet little lady asking 'Where's the beef?', fighting for the rights of elderly people. It was amazing! People would say "Are you looking for your next Clara Peller?" I never looked for the first Clara Peller. She was just there!"

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" campaign with Clara Peller
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Russian Fashion Show" commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on his famous, fast-talking Federal Express series of commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on creating Mr. Coffee commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on his style
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on wanting to be a cartoonist; on being interested in film and getting into advertising
On his early memories of television; on working for Young & Rubicam, Clinton Frank, and Leo Burnett

Chapter 2

On the state of television advertising in the '60s; on incorporating more subtlety into television advertisements; on starting his own advertising agency
On the early days of his advertising agency; on his early clients

Chapter 3

On Southern Airways putting his agency on the map; on gaining creative control over his advertisements
On his preference to use film in his advertisements; on his Alaska Airlines commercials; on his Federal Express commercials 

Chapter 4

On his famous, fast-talking Federal Express series of commercials 
On discovering Clara Peller, Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" lady; on Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" campaign with Clara Peller
On Wendy's "Russian Fashion Show" commercials 

Chapter 5

On various Wendy's commercials; on structuring his commercial rates and dealing with the heads of companies; on various Federal Express commercials
On foreign commercials he created; on creating commercials for Mr. Coffee and Jartran; on creating commercials for Eyewitness News and Valvoline

Chapter 6

On creating commercials for Texaco Super Unleaded and the process of casting commercials; on then-current projects
On considering directing feature films; on the then-current state of advertising; on his style
On market research; on gauging the success of an ad; on his son; on advice to aspiring advertising professionals, his greatest career achievements, and how he'd like to be remembered
Topics

Advertising and Sponsorship

View Topic
Joe Sedelmaier on becoming interested in film and getting into advertising
Joe Sedelmaier on working for Young & Rubicam, Clinton Frank, and Leo Burnett
Joe Sedelmaier on the state of television advertising in the '60s
Joe Sedelmaier on incorporating more subtlety into television advertisements 
Joe Sedelmaier on starting his own advertising agency
Joe Sedelmaier on the early days of his advertising agency
Joe Sedelmaier on his early clients
Joe Sedelmaier on Southern Airways putting his agency on the map
Joe Sedelmaier on gaining creative control over his advertisements 
Joe Sedelmaier on buying out his partner and taking control
Joe Sedelmaier on turning down clients and his affinity for comedic commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on his preference to use film in his advertisements 
Joe Sedelmaier on his Alaska Airlines commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on his Federal Express commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on his famous, fast-talking Federal Express series of commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on discovering Clara Peller, Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" lady
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" campaign with Clara Peller
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Russian Fashion Show" commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Russian Fashion Show" commercial 
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Parts is Parts" commercial
Joe Sedelmaier on the effect his ads had on Wendy's
Joe Sedelmaier on structuring his commercial rates and dealing with the heads of the companies
Joe Sedelmaier on Federal Express commercials he created
Joe Sedelmaier on foreign commercials he created
Joe Sedelmaier on creating Mr. Coffee commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on his Jartran commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on creating Eyewitness News commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for Valvoline 
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for Texaco Super Unleaded and the process of casting commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for AAMCO and HP
Joe Sedelmaier on the then-current state of advertising 
Joe Sedelmaier on his style
Joe Sedelmaier on market research 
Joe Sedelmaier on gauging the success of an ad
Joe Sedelmaier on advice to aspiring advertising professionals 
Joe Sedelmaier on his greatest career achievement and how he'd like to be remembered

Advice

View Topic
Joe Sedelmaier on advice to aspiring advertising professionals 

Television Industry

View Topic
Joe Sedelmaier on becoming interested in film and getting into advertising
Joe Sedelmaier on working for Young & Rubicam, Clinton Frank, and Leo Burnett
Joe Sedelmaier on the state of television advertising in the '60s
Joe Sedelmaier on incorporating more subtlety into television advertisements 
Joe Sedelmaier on starting his own advertising agency
Joe Sedelmaier on the early days of his advertising agency
Joe Sedelmaier on his early clients
Joe Sedelmaier on Southern Airways putting his agency on the map
Joe Sedelmaier on gaining creative control over his advertisements 
Joe Sedelmaier on buying out his partner and taking control
Joe Sedelmaier on turning down clients and his affinity for comedic commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on his preference to use film in his advertisements 
Joe Sedelmaier on his Alaska Airlines commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on his Federal Express commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on his famous, fast-talking Federal Express series of commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on discovering Clara Peller, Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" lady
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" campaign with Clara Peller
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Russian Fashion Show" commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Russian Fashion Show" commercial 
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Parts is Parts" commercial
Joe Sedelmaier on the effect his ads had on Wendy's
Joe Sedelmaier on structuring his commercial rates and dealing with the heads of the companies
Joe Sedelmaier on Federal Express commercials he created
Joe Sedelmaier on foreign commercials he created
Joe Sedelmaier on creating Mr. Coffee commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on his Jartran commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on creating Eyewitness News commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for Valvoline 
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for Texaco Super Unleaded and the process of casting commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for AAMCO and HP
Joe Sedelmaier on the then-current state of advertising 
Joe Sedelmaier on his style
Joe Sedelmaier on market research 
Joe Sedelmaier on gauging the success of an ad
Joe Sedelmaier on advice to aspiring advertising professionals 
Joe Sedelmaier on his greatest career achievement and how he'd like to be remembered
Professions

Advertising Executive

View Profession
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for Texaco Super Unleaded and the process of casting commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on his style
Joe Sedelmaier on advice to aspiring advertising professionals 

Executives

View Profession
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for Texaco Super Unleaded and the process of casting commercials 
Joe Sedelmaier on his style
Joe Sedelmaier on advice to aspiring advertising professionals 
Genres

Commercials

View Genre
Joe Sedelmaier on the state of television advertising in the '60s
Joe Sedelmaier on incorporating more subtlety into television advertisements
Joe Sedelmaier on his Federal Express commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on his Alaska Airlines commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on his preference to use film in his advertisements
Joe Sedelmaier on turning down clients and his affinity for comedic commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on gaining creative control over his advertisements
Joe Sedelmaier on Southern Airways putting his TV commercial agency on the map
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Russian Fashion Show" commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" campaign with Clara Peller
Joe Sedelmaier on discovering Clara Peller, Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" lady
Joe Sedelmaier on his famous, fast-talking Federal Express series of commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for Valvoline
Joe Sedelmaier on creating Eyewitness News commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on his Jartran commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on creating Mr. Coffee commercials
Joe Sedelmaier on foreign commercials he created
Joe Sedelmaier on Federal Express commercials he created
Joe Sedelmaier on structuring his commercial rates and dealing with the heads of the companies
Joe Sedelmaier on the effect his ads had on Wendy's
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Parts is Parts" commercial
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Russian Fashion Show" commercial
Joe Sedelmaier on the then-current state of advertising
Joe Sedelmaier on advice to aspiring advertising professionals
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for AAMCO and HP
Joe Sedelmaier on creating commercials for Texaco Super Unleaded and the process of casting commercials
People

Clara Peller

View Person Page
Joe Sedelmaier on discovering Clara Peller, Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" lady
Joe Sedelmaier on Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" campaign with Clara Peller

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