A toast to Shelly Lazarus, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy & Mather by Miles Young Worldwide Chairman and CEO, Ogilvy & Mather at The James Burden Mansion in New York on November 9, 2012
Miles Young toasts Shelly Lazarus.
We are all here tonight with one purpose: to pay collective tribute to Shelly Lazarus, an advertising giant, who has helped raise the stature of our industry and who has added lustre to the brand of Ogilvy & Mather.
You know, when I was preparing to make these remarks, I expressed some nervousness to an American friend of mine, since an occasion like this in the United States is a first for me. He said "Oh its simple, just fling in some Longfellow and a quote from Roosevelt and you'll be OK".
But it's not so simple. How can one encapsulate in five minutes over forty years of service to this company, but more than that, of unaffected love for this company?
Shelly Lazarus with Miles Young.
Shelly joined Ogilvy & Mather in September 1971, from a brief spell on the client side, with Clairol, which I think left a mark on her: she has always been able to intuit what clients really want.
She did well.
Rather amazingly, I was able to access last week a performance appraisal she was given in 1972 by her then supervisor, one Peter Heinz. It said "Mrs. Lazarus is a bright, intelligent, energetic woman that ranks with the better account men I have worked with."
How perspicacious was that!
From left to right, former Chairmen Bill Phillips, Ken Roman, Graham Phillips, Shelly Lazarus, Charlotte Beers with current Chairman and CEO, Miles Young.
In the years when Bill Phillips (Chairman 1982 to 1988) was our Chairman, Shelly climbed up the ladder, and proved time and again just how good she was. For Bill, she was what we would call a 'young star'.
Ken Roman (Chairman 1988 - 1989) has an indelible memory of his first significant meeting with Shelly, when she was an Account Manager on American Express. He asked her what shed like for her next assignment and she asked to work at O&M Direct. As Ken says, "nobody made that request, despite David urging copywriters to start there." Jerry Pickholz who was running it thought Ken was trying to off-load an underperformer. How wrong he was. Soon he was saying "Shelly is the best thing that ever happened to me."
Graham Phillips (Chairman 1989 to 1992) had already tipped Shelly for the top as early as 1976—he remembers serving on a taskforce convened by the CEO, Andrew Kershaw, on how the company should grow in the future. These groups were incubators for future leaders, and sure enough 18 years later Shelly became our global CEO.
Charlotte Beers (Chairman 1992 to 1997) recalls her first meeting with Shelly in January 1992. Martin was discussing offering her the Chairmanship. Charlotte had an offer from Saatchi as the CEO, and asked to meet only one Ogilvy person—the head of New York, where the action would be. They met in a hotel roomand as Charlotte says she was so "completely candid, so very smart, fast, charming and witty—that tipped it for me. I thought if I had the backing of someone so impressive and talented as Shelly, how could I fail?"
I first met Shelly in 1994. She moved onto the IBM business, on which I had been placed in Europe, bringing order and relative calm where a global team hurriedly assembled had only felt the exact opposite. In 1995, Charlotte moved me to Asia, and then when she retired in 1997 Shelly became my direct boss. What a wonderful boss she was. There was a huge amount of freedom - of encouraging experiments. There was advice when you needed it. There was never a hint of micromanagement. In fact, I have been trying to recall if there was ever a time she forced me to do something, and I can only recall one. That's when Shelly insisted I removed a quotation of Calvin Coolidge I liked from an Ogilvy document. In the scale of things thats hardly a serious fight.
She was a believer in Asia; and she would do anything you ask. A "State Visit" from Shelly, as we called them, was quite an event. In fact, I remember once when I had dragged her to the Great Hall of the People, the Chairman of the Chinese National People's Congress leant forward and welcomed her as the "Queen of Global Advertising". The sobriquet stuck. She came almost everywhere she was asked, and I have only ever failed once—and that has been to get her to come to Pakistan.
It has been written that:
"Success, real success, does not depend upon the position you hold but upon how you carry yourself in that position".
That, by the way, was the Roosevelt quote, not the Roosevelt my friend had probably intended—but Theodore, the brighter and more interesting of the two.
Shelly's carrying of herself made her something more than just an ordinary Chairman. She was an ambassador for the whole industry. She became Chairman around the time that a belief in brands was resurrecting: there were pot-boilers on branding in every airport book stall, but Shelly made the subject her own in a very special way, and a speech from her on branding, anywhere in the world, had a passionate, evangelical flavor.
But above all, she was devoted to Ogilvy & Mather, to the legacy of David Ogilvy and to the values he held dear. She reverenced and romanced over brand. And she reassembled the house that David had built—for example, the reintegration of Ogilvy PR in the US, and the absorption of 141 to create Ogilvy Action—to create what is arguably still the only true 360° offer in the industry under one roof—just as David believed it should be.
And she did all of that with a sense of humor that made even the most excruciating event bearable. I remember the infamous Board boat trip in Capetown when we were put into a small boat in dangerously rough waters; it soon was plunging up and down wildly. Some were in hysterics, when just before we arrived at the cove of destination, the boarding of our boat by jolly pirates was generally ill received, and I can remember Shelly being put into the first skiff, and then literally dumping into the pounding water which swallowed the skiff and her. That process was aborted, we landed at a dock, and were bused to the restaurant on the beach where Shelly, soaked to the bone, was wrapped in blankets and drinking wine. She did not bat an eyelid. I remember thinking, "what a trooper".
Here I have to mention George who has accompanied Shelly on so many of these trips. George's role in Shelly's Chairmanship cannot be overestimated. I have always thought of him as part of Ogilvy, a hugely successful professional, he played the role of consort so perfectly, with such grace and charm, but also with a point of view of his own that was always refreshing and often pungent.
Shelly's commitment to her family was total. Ted, Samantha and Ben and their spouses are all with us tonight. Whatever the conflict—be it internal, client or WPP—she always put them first. In this way, she helped define for generations of women in our business a sense of the right priorities.
Finally, I am so grateful to our clients for being here in such force. I know how much, for Shelly, it always started and ended with you. She taught all of us who worked for her that. Her legacy to us is, in a very real sense, you.
Shelly, on behalf of all of us here, I thank you for your service. We will work hard to nurture and grow this wonderful brand.
In the words of a poet—and yes, this is Longfellow, from his "Psalm of Life",
"Lives of the great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time".
The footprints you leave us are big ones, challenging to fill. But they lead us forward in a very clear direction. We will not get lost in the sands, I promise you.
Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses. With admiration, gratitude, respect and love, the toast tonight is: Shelly Lazarus.