Shirley Polykoff was an advertising creator extraordinaire and a pioneering role model for professional women.
Polykoff began her career in advertising as a teenager working for Harper’s Bazaar. After working as a retail advertiser for such department stores as Bamberger’s and Kresge, she moved on to Foote, Cone & Belding, where in 1955 she took over the Clairol account for Bristol-Myers. Polykoff’s "Does she...or doesn’t she?" campaign for Clairol earned millions as the number of women coloring their hair increased from just 7 percent to nearly half of the female population in the United States. The sale of dyes, tints and rinses increased from $25 million to more than $200 million, with Clairol accounting for more than half of the total earnings.
Polykoff rapidly rose through the ranks of Foote, Cone & Belding until she reached the position of executive vice president and creative director. She left FCB to found her own advertising agency, which quickly became a multi-million-dollar company with international significance.
Throughout her distinguished career, Polykoff won many awards and honors. In 1967 the Advertising Women of New York nominated her for the national Advertising Woman of the Year award.
Polykoff was active in the cultural life of New York and the nation, a generous contributor of both talent and financial support to philanthropic causes and the arts. She consistently honored the advertising business by making it the centerpiece of her life.