In her 40-plus years at Ogilvy & Mather, Shelly Lazarus went from frequently being the only woman in the room to being the woman running the show at the global advertising giant. Lazarus graduated from Smith College in 1968 and earned an M.B.A. from Columbia University, where she was one of only four women in her class. After a short stint as a product manager at Clairol, her passion for marketing and brand building led her to Ogilvy & Mather, making her one of few women in the ad industry at that time, particularly on the accounts side. Lazarus subsequently spent two years in Dayton, Ohio where her husband, a pediatrician, was stationed in the Air Force. While there she headed a division at a local department store and began raising the first of her three children.
Returning to Ogilvy in 1976, she shot up the corporate ladder and formed a close relationship with the firm’s legendary founder, David Ogilvy. When Ogilvy’s first female CEO and chairman, Charlotte Beers, stepped down in 1996, Lazarus stepped up. She took the helm of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and remained there for over a dozen years, formally turning over the reins as CEO in 2009 and as chairman in 2012.
Her signature impact at the global advertising giant has been clear branding, close client relationships and being at the vanguard of integrated marketing campaigns for the digital age. She has overseen advertising campaigns for American Express, Coca-Cola, IBM, Dove and Nestlé, among others. Her numerous accolades and honors include being the first woman to receive Columbia Business School’s Distinguished Leader in Business award and being consistently ranked amongst Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women in Business.”