Polykoff, Shirley

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POLYKOFF, SHIRLEY (1908–1998), innovative advertising executive. Born the middle daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, Polykoff began selling coats in a department store at the age of 11 and wrote her first advertising copy as a teenager while working at Harper's Bazaar. By 1929 she was earning money as a copywriter for a women's specialty shop and soon began writing catchy ads for other products, including "Chock Full O'Nuts, the heavenly coffee." Her most famous ad was written in 1955 for Clairol hair products. "Does she … or doesn't she? Hair color so natural only her hairdresser knows for sure," was tremendously successful and enriched both Clairol and Foote, Cone & Belding, the agency where Polykoff was employed. The Clairol ad budget grew from $400,000 to $33 million in one year. Polykoff, who colored her hair, credited her mother-in-law with the phrase. Polykoff continued with catchy ads such as "Is it true blondes have more fun?" and "If I've only one life, let me live it as a blonde!" During her marriage she had the agency hold her salary at $25,000, so as not to make more money than her lawyer husband, George Halperin. After his death in 1961, the agency increased her salary tremendously, in part as a result of her promotions within the agency. In 1968 she became the chairman of the creative board of Foote, Cone & Belding and a vice president. She went on to head her own advertising firm, Shirley Polykoff Advertising, Inc., one of the few women to do so. Polykoff was named Advertising Woman of the Year in 1967 by the American Advertising Federation, an award she considered her greatest honor; she received some 16 other awards, including a Matrix award for professional achievement in the media. Polykoff, who had two daughters and three grandchildren, wrote about her career in her book, Does She … or Doesn't She? And How She Did It (1975).

[Sara Alpern (2nd ed.)]