"Mary just gets it," says her current boss, Steve Dworin, vice chairman, Euro RSCG Worldwide. "She has an innate sense of advertising, and she's got great instincts for this business."
At Tatham during the 1980s, Ms. Baglivo worked under one of the industry's all-time women to watch: Charlotte Beers, now chairman of Ogilvy & Mather. And Ms. Baglivo watched closely.
"Charlotte has had more impact on my career than any other individual," says Ms. Baglivo, 39. "From her I learned what it takes to be really successful in this business. You have to have a very strong point of view, and you have to dazzle."
Following in Ms. Beers' footsteps became a career goal a long time ago. In her early days at the agency, Ms. Baglivo was asked what job looked appealing. Her half-joking-but also half-serious-response: "Charlotte's."
She's not all the way there yet. Ms. Beers' successor, Ralph Rydholm, remains CEO at Tatham, and Robert Welke serves as chairman-chief creative officer. Both men have creative backgrounds, which leaves Ms. Baglivo as the agency's highest-ranking executive from the account side. She runs the agency's biggest account, Procter & Gamble Co., on which she has worked since joining the shop as an assistant account exec in 1981.
In climbing to the top, Ms. Baglivo has twice had the courage to step off the ladder to put family first. When each of her two children was born, she took a year off work to be a full-time mom.
"Among all the people I have seen and worked with, she does a remarkable job of keeping a big job at work and having a family with small kids at home," Mr. Dworin says.