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Lazarus' goal: Push ahead with 'brand insight'

By Published on .

As she takes over as CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Shelly Lazarus says she will focus on branding, global marketing and maintaining current client relationships to continue agency growth.

As expected, Ms. Lazarus last week officially took over CEO duties from Charlotte Beers, 61, who remains O&M Worldwide chairman for now and will continue to chair the executive committee and worldwide board.

Ms. Lazarus, 48, was president-chief operating officer of the WPP Group shop, the world's sixth-largest agency with 1995 billings of $7.6 billion. Her former titles will not be filled.

Executives close to New York-based O&M say Ms. Beers' contract expires in April, when she may take a post at WPP. Ms. Lazarus will then add the title of chairman.

"We have made enormous progress in defining brand development," Ms. Lazarus said in outlining her priorities going forward. "The next chapter is how to apply all of the knowledge to a particular brand. We're just starting to understand how to use the brand insight to touch every piece of communication we do for a brand."

Ms. Lazarus also stressed the importance of global marketing, a concept that has spurred agency, media and marketer consolidation.

"We've had the opportunity to develop advertising for big global brands and the more we do it, the more there is to learn about global advertising," she said. "Each time we do another one, we're smarter than the time before."

GLOBAL EXPANSION

As for O&M's own global expansion, Ms. Lazarus said: "There are a lot of roads in Latin America and Asia. I want to make sure we have lots of resources there to grow."

Ms. Lazarus also said she is going to continue to focus more on existing clients than actively seeking out new business.

"A hallmark of Ogilvy is to focus on current clients," she said. "I think it's almost dishonest to spend time chasing new business. You owe it to your clients to put 99.9% of your efforts to them. I always say nights and weekends are for new business."

Ms. Lazarus strictly enforces loyalty not only to the client but also to the brand.

"You have to be passionate about the brands and passionate about the work," she said. "Clients are too demanding and the work is too consuming to work on a brand you don't believe in."

Along those lines, Ms. Lazarus said she is going to invest heavily in creative talent, noting, "If you don't have that, you've got nothing."

LONG CAREER

Ms. Lazarus' promotion caps a career at O&M that has already spanned 25 years. Before being named president last December, she was president of North American operations. Before that, she was president of O&M's New York office, and during that time--1991 to 1994--billings in the office rose 17% to $829 million.

Ms. Lazarus has a key role in dealing with cornerstone clients American Express Co. and IBM Corp., and is widely credited with snaring IBM's $400 million to $500 million global business in 1994.

She cut her global brand teeth while overseeing the AmEx account, which she took on in 1980 and headed for six years.

AMEX LOSS HURT

"The toughest moment for me was when we lost the card part of American Express," Ms. Lazarus said of O&M's loss in 1991 of the AmEx green-card account. "I was so devoted and committed to it. It didn't affect my career, but it was hard on me as an individual to accept that. The good news is that it came back 10 months later, which is probably the highlight of my career."

Ms. Beers is known as one of the most charismatic and client-minded executives in the industry. She came to O&M in 1992 from Euro RSCG Tatham, Chicago, where she was chairman-CEO and VP of Paris-based parent Euro RSCG.

Under Ms. Beers, O&M added new clients and brands--including Eastman Kodak Co., 7UP, KFC International and Sony--and gained new business from existing clients Unilever, Mattel, Duracell, Kraft Foods and AmEx.

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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