MAKERS Profile

Shelly Lazarus

CEO, Ogilvy & Mather

In this video

Shelly Lazarus on being the rare woman in room at the start of her career and the evolving portrayal of women in ads.
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 MBA 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 & 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.”

More From Shelly

Better at Balance
Lazarus muses that a new generation of parents, her daughter included, has found a less stressful approach to work/life balance.

Beauty at 70 & Size 14
How many women in the world consider themselves beautiful?  How many girls can see beauty beyond a size zero?

Letting Go of the Little Things
As a busy, working mom, Lazarus had to learn to not sweat the small stuff, down to her kids' worn out shoes.

Working with a Legend
Lazarus describes legendary Ogilvy & Mathers founder, David Ogilvy, and her unique relationship with him.

Loving Your Work
Lazaus explains why finding work you love is key to being a working parent.

Giving up Perfect
Lazarus addresses the issue of women dropping out of the workforce and the stress of trying to be perfect in all areas.

Balancing with Help
Lazarus discusses how she managed her career and three children, thanks to the help of a great nanny, her mom, and her children.

Being Named CEO
Lazarus talks about the very unexpected moment that she was told she was being named Ogilvy CEO.

Floppy Ties & Short Shorts
With no female predecessors at work, Lazarus had to make it all up as she went along, even the silly fashion choices.

Choosing Home or Work
Lazarus takes stock of where we are today with women, and men, having more freedom to choose to work, or stay home, or alternate.

Reflecting Attitudes
Lazarus weighs in on whether advertising can push more progressive ideas about women forward, or hold them back.

Madison Ave's Blatant Brush Off
Lazarus marvels at how blatant sex discrimination in her early days looking for an advertising job, and at her casual acceptance of it.