Carol Williams, one of the few black women running her own ad agency, built her career on the line "Strong enough for a man." Literally.
Williams, who studied biology at Northwestern University, attended an American Association of Advertising Agencies conference and landed a summer job in 1969 at Leo Burnett Co. Thanks to her tag line for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Secret deodorant and one for Pillsbury Co.: "Say hello to poppin' fresh dough," she became the agency's first female creative director vice president.
In January, Williams, president and chief creative officer of Carol H. Williams Advertising, won one of the most coveted and significant black marketing assignments in an era when multicultural marketing has become one of advertising's strong sectors.
In a pitch against some of the nation's leading multicultural shops, her Oakland, Calif., agency was named creative and strategic agency for black advertising for General Motors.
The assignment brings annual revenues of $3 million and estimated billings of $20 million to $30 million.
"She is one of the most creative strategic thinkers in the ad business," not just for black marketing but for general marketing solutions as well, said Michael Jackson, general manager of the Western region for GM.
Williams believes advertising that truly reaches a black audience is based on strategy, not simply placing ads on general marketing programming black people are likely to watch, such as National Basketball Association games.
"You reach them, but you don't touch them," she says. "You've got to touch them inside, where they live."