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Advertising Chief Shares Insights on Branding and Leadership

February 08, 2011
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Business students and alumni share an intimate question
and answer session with Shelly Lazarus.

The chairman and CEO of the billion dollar advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather says firms still have a lot to learn about how to best use the Internet and social media in their marketing strategies. The insight from Shelly Lazarus came during a presentation to students and alumni as a part of the School’s Business Leadership Lecture Series in January.

Lazarus said the role of social media and the Internet in advertising is one of the most significant developments in the industry, but noted that it is not yet fully understood by advertisers.

“Social media is vital to the way young people communicate,” said Lazarus. “Everything we do is to try to simulate one on one conversation with the consumer.  The Internet comes along, and now we can have a real-time, one on one conversation with the consumer who has even expressed interest in what we are advertising.  Having said that, I think we are in the early stages of learning how to use the Internet as an advertising medium, and I would multiply that times ten with regards to social media.”

Lazarus said that nothing is more essential to a company’s success than its brand name and stressed branding as one of the key components of any marketing strategy.  She also noted that brand names are extremely difficult to establish and even more difficult to change.

“Brands are probably the most complex things that anyone has to deal with [because] companies don’t own brands; they reside in the hearts and minds of those who consume them.  The most successful brands are the ones where you don’t just think something when you hear the name, but feel something.”

Lazarus suggested that with all of the marketing tools available to companies today, the most effective companies utilize a mix of all of them rather than relying specifically on one or another.

 “Always keep trying new things and keep trying new combinations, and eventually you’ll find the right pieces that work for your brand,” she said.

In addition to her advice about marketing and advertising, Lazarus offered general leadership advice.   She said that while there is no secret to leadership success, there are some common characteristics shared by most effective leaders.

““There is not just one way to lead. Every leader who is effective finds his or her own way that is authentic to them,” she said.  “Generally, though, leaders are inherently optimistic because if the leader doesn’t believe that they are going to get where they are going, then why would anybody else?  Most leaders are inherently generous as well.  They share the problems, they share the strategies, they communicate every day, and, most importantly, they share the credit.”

Above all else, Lazarus encouraged the School’s students and alumni to be themselves and not to forego their values in order to please a superior or a company.  She also encouraged the audience pay attention to work-life balance.

“I think the real trick to balance is knowing what your priorities are and being unafraid to live by these priorities.  The truth is you just have to live by your own values and not be afraid to put your family and yourself over your work life at times.”

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