Joe Pedott, founder of company known for the Chia Pet and the Clapper, dead at 91

The native Chicagoan was the advertising genius behind the jingle ‘Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia’ that helped sell more than 25 million of the terra cotta planters that have been made into animals, Homer Simpson and Barack Obama.

SHARE Joe Pedott, founder of company known for the Chia Pet and the Clapper, dead at 91
Joseph Pedott Chia Pet Clapper

Joseph Pedott marketed the Clapper and the Chia Pet with catchy jingles on TV.

Sun-Times file

Joseph Pedott, a native Chicagoan and the advertising mastermind behind the iconic ’80s products the Clapper and the Chia Pet, died recently at 91.

Services were held Tuesday for Mr. Pedott in San Francisco, where he moved in 1958 after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1955 from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and running his advertising business in Chicago.

He began the advertising agency, Pedott & Peters, with his friend Daryl Peters while going to school at the U. of I., according to a 2018 blog post on the university’s website.

The partners would work at their company in Chicago all weekend and drive back to campus at 5 Monday mornings. The hard work paid off as the company grew, and after his last course, Mr. Pedott moved to Chicago to manage the business full time.

In 1980 while attending a housewares trade show in search of new clients, Mr. Pedott learned about a terra cotta planter shaped like a ram that grew chia sprouts resembling hair when watered, according to a timeline of the product’s history on chia.com. The inventor said it was popular but not profitable, so Mr. Pedott bought the rights and tinkered further.

Mr. Pedott created a new company, Joseph Enterprises Inc., to make the Chias, according to the Smithsonian, which featured the Chia and another famous product of the 1980s, the Clapper, in an exhibit about American icons.

Two years after that fateful meeting at the trade show, the Chia ram debuted, followed by more animals over the years, including turtles, kittens and puppies and later, pop culture figures Homer Simpson and The Child aka Baby Yoda/Grogu from “The Mandalorian.” There is even a Chia version of President Barack Obama.

Chia Obama Joseph Enterprises Joe Pedott

The Chia Obama was sold by Joseph Enterprises, whose native Chicagoan founder Joe Pedott died recently.

Provided/Sun-Times files

As for that famous phrase “Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia,” the company’s website says it either was created during an agency brainstorming session or a night out at a bar. Either way, someone stuttered the word Chia and a jingle was born, according to chia.com.

The catchy jingles continued with the Clapper, a gadget that turned lights on and off when someone claps or as the catchphrase goes, “clap on, clap off.” That product was released in 1985.

Mr. Pedott’s companies, Joseph Enterprises and Joseph Pedott Advertising and Marketing, were acquired in 2018 by National Entertainment Collectibles Association, according to a news release at the time.

The entrepreneur said his success had been a wonderful surprise.

“It’s hard for me even to accept,” he said, according to the U. of I. blog post. “It’s just amazing — an achievement beyond my wildest dreams.”

Even though he lived in California for many years, Mr. Pedott was committed to his hometown and supporting organizations like the Chicago Community Trust.

“Joe Pedott was an active, longtime donor of The Chicago Community Trust. His passion for giving back shone through the Joseph Pedott Family Fund and his desire to help thousands of Chicago youth attend and succeed in college,” Andrea Sáenz, president and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, said in a statement. “His memory will live through the next generation of family members, who will continue his legacy and vision through his fund at the Trust.”

Contributing: Kade Heather

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