Friday, Nov. 5, 2010 | 1:19 p.m.
Wendy Thomas remembers sitting anxiously in her red, braided pigtails and blue-checkered dress while her photo was taken to create a logo for her father’s hamburger joint. In her 8-year-old mind, it seemed like hours, Thomas recalls.
"I just remember sitting there forever. My mom stuck pipe cleaners in my pigtails to make them stick straight up and I smiled so much that my face hurt by the end," she said. "It was a painful process."
Thomas’ famous face has been plastered on Wendy’s locations worldwide since 1969, but surprisingly, she’s never appeared in a commercial for the fast-food chain. That will change next week when a set of three commercials featuring Thomas exclusively hits Las Vegas.
The TV ads will introduce the Dave's Hot 'N Juicy Cheeseburger line, which also will be exclusive to the Las Vegas market until it goes national in June 2011.
The commercial features a much older Thomas (sans pigtails), faux flashbacks of Thomas and her father, and a mobile drive-through serving drivers on a highway -- one of her father’s many crazy ideas, Thomas said.
Las Vegas has been singled out as the test market for the new burger and ad campaign, as it often is for new products for the chain, Wendy’s Senior Vice President of Communications Denny Lynch said.
"It’s an all-American city. You have a broad spectrum of people," Lynch said. "You can run a media campaign in this city that is pretty much contained to the Vegas area, so there’s no spillover to other cities."
Because of Las Vegas’ more remote location and distance from other major markets "what’s advertised in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas," Lynch said.
Thomas, who owns 33 Wendy’s franchises with her siblings, agreed that Las Vegas a near-perfect location for product testing.
"You have a great demographic. You’re young, you’re old. You have everything here," Thomas said.
The company recently tested its new line of salads in Las Vegas and will soon test a version of its fries seasoned with sea salt.
"Everything starts in Vegas," Thomas said.
Thomas and other Wendy’s executives are in town for the 19th annual Wendy’s 3 Tour Challenge golf tournament at the Rio Secco Golf Club in Henderson. Since its start, the tournament has raised more than $35 million for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which helps to place foster children in permanent homes.
This year’s tournament is expected to raise more than $3 million.