Chairwoman and chief executive officer, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
Born: September 1, 1947.
Education: Smith College, BA, 1968; Columbia University, MBA, 1970.
Family: Daughter of Lewis Braff (a certified public accountant) and Sylvia; married George Lazarus (pediatrician), 1970; children: three.
Career: Clairol, 1970–1971, assistant product manager; Ogilvy & Mather, 1971–1974, account executive; 1974–1976, department store buyer; Ogilvy & Mather, 1976–1987, management supervisor; O&M Direct, 1987–1989, general manager; O&M Direct, 1989–1991, president; O&M New York, 1991–1994, president; O&M North America, 1994–1996, president; Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, 1996–, chief executive officer; 1997–, chairwoman.
Awards: Named Advertising Woman of the Year by the Advertising Women of New York, 1994; honored with Matrix Award from Women in Communications, 1995; named Businesswoman of the Year by New York City Partnership, 1996; honored with Distinguished Leadership Award, Columbia Business School, 2003.
Address: Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Worldwide Plaza 309 W. 49th Street, New York, New York 10019; http://www.ogilvy.com.
■ Rochelle (Shelly) Lazarus spent nearly her entire career at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide (O&M), progressively developing new skills and meeting larger challenges as O&M provided opportunities. As chairman and chief executive officer, with more than 25 years at O&M, Lazarus exemplified the company culture of dedication to brand image, originated by the company's founder, David Ogilvy. Through her experiences in both general advertising and direct marketing, Lazarus expanded the company's practice of brand building by encouraging a cross-disciplinary approach to public communications, particularly through development of the 360 Degree Brand Stewardship program. While she attributed much of her success to O&M as a meritocracy that rewards creativity and excellence, observers noted her personable style as an important factor in her achievement. Throughout her career Lazarus balanced her personal and professional lives, and she provided flexibility for her employees to create that balance as well.
Lazarus decided to enter the field of advertising during her senior year at Smith College, when she attended a career seminar hosted by the Advertising Women of New York. Lazarus found that she had a natural inclination toward advertising, and her education in psychology fit the profession well. Also, she was motivated by the practical need to work while her fiancé attended medical school. After a summer internship at General Foods, she studied marketing at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business. She earned her MBA in 1970 and married George Lazarus the same year.
Lazarus began her career as an assistant product manager at Clairol, where she stayed for less than two years. At the urging of friends, she sought employment at O&M and obtained a junior account executive position specializing in hair-care products for such companies as Lever Brothers. Frequently, Lazarus found herself speaking for all women as the only representative of the gender at client meetings. While her husband fulfilled a two-year military obligation in Dayton, Ohio, Lazarus worked as a department store buyer. She returned to O&M in 1976 as a management supervisor, overseeing accounts for Avon, Campbell Soup, Ralston Purina, and Clairol. As the account supervisor for American Express from 1980 to 1987, Lazarus demonstrated her ability to sustain client satisfaction over the long term.
O&M promoted Lazarus to general manager (1987) and then to president (1989) of its direct marketing branch. Lazarus carried a brand-building attitude from general advertising, which looked to the client's overall business and image, to direct marketing, which tended to focus on a specific offer for client customers. At O&M Direct she learned about the sales consciousness of direct marketing as it related to stimulating an immediate response from potential customers. In turn she taught account executives at O&M Direct the benefits of getting into the heart of a company's business and image, rather than focusing strictly on the immediate product offer. In particular this cross-disciplinary approach positively affected the "membership has its privileges" campaign for American Express. Through her experiences at O&M Direct, Lazarus developed an integrated marketing and advertising strategy to convey brand image throughout every aspect of a company's public communications. Lazarus carried this strategy back to general advertising when O&M promoted her to president of O&M/New York, the company's advertising headquarters, in 1991.
As president of O&M/New York Lazarus attended to the company's most important clients, such as Kraft, Duracell International, Kimberly Clark, Kodak, and Unilever. Shortly after taking the position in 1991, Lazarus faced the biggest challenge of her career when the company lost a 30-year, $60 million account with American Express. Lazarus supervised the campaign to regain the account. She instigated new research and infused the project with fresh creative energy supported by comprehensive attention to detail. Within the year American Express returned to O&M.
Lazarus's success with American Express contributed to her obtaining a $500 million global account with IBM in 1994. Her association with Abby Kohnstamm and Lou Gerstner at American Express transferred with the two executives when they took positions at IBM. After several formal and informal conversations with Lazarus, Kohnstamm decided to consolidate all of IBM's advertising activities at O&M. The deal required O&M to relinquish contracts with Microsoft, Compaq in Europe, and AT&T, drawing criticism from some in the advertising industry, but Lazarus felt that stalled growth with those companies justified the trade. The account presented O&M with one of its greatest challenges, that of handling IBM's first global campaign at a time when Big Blue's identity was in transition.
Lazarus's achievements led to further promotions, first to president of O&M North America in 1994, then to president and chief operating officer of O&M Worldwide in 1995, chief executive officer in 1996, and the additional position of chairwoman in 1997. As the successor to Charlotte Beers, Lazarus took charge of the sixth-largest advertising agency in the world, with $7.6 billion in annual revenues and 272 offices in 64 countries. The choice of Lazarus for the position was no surprise, as coworkers and clients considered her likable and trustworthy. To clients she offered attention and care toward the best outcomes, and to employees she provided an environment that both nurtured and challenged them to fully utilize their talent.
As chief executive officer Lazarus contended with both practical and creative issues. She addressed the need to improve profit margins by pooling talent regardless of location. Her "long hallways" approach removed operational barriers across the company's 35 offices in the United States, creating a single, more efficient profit center. Creatively, Lazarus continued to emphasize the integration of marketing and advertising, combining brand image with a strong sales orientation in a manner that related to a client's overall strategy. O&M Worldwide developed its 360 Degree Brand Stewardship program based on the idea that all points of contact build the brand. This approach incorporated brand identity into advertisements, promotions, and signage at local, national, and international levels. The success of the program—applied to campaigns for high-profile clients such as Kodak, Unilever, DuPont, and Motorola—led Advertising Age to recognize O&M with its 2002 Agency of the Year Award.
"Creating an Environment Where People Can Do Great Work: Shelly Lazarus Talks About the Challenges and Satisfactions of Her Role as CEO of Ogilvy & Mather," Advertising Age , September 21, 1998, p. 14C.
Farrell, Greg, "Full Plate," ADWEEK Eastern Edition , January 16, 1995, p. 20.
Much, Marilyn, and Toni Apgar, "Direct from O&M New York," Direct , September 1991, p. 16.
Tylee, John, "O&M Chooses Chief with True International Vision," Campaign , August 16, 1996, p. 13.