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Shirley Polykoff

Shirley Polykoff became one of the top advertising executives of her day by crafting ad campaigns that transformed how Americans saw products from coffee to hair dye. Polykoff got her first job at age eleven selling women’s coats at a department store. At age twelve she entered a contest to write a slogan for Campbell’s Soup—she didn’t win, but the encouraging letter she received sparked a lifelong interest in advertising. At twenty-one she began writing ad copy for a fashion and specialty store in Brooklyn, with lines like “Rhinestones, a girl’s next best friend.” She soon became lead ad writer for major department stores like Bamberger’s. In 1955, while working for Foote, Cone & Belding, she created a Clairol campaign around the phrase “Does she … or doesn’t she?” using photos of mothers with children. At a time when only actresses and “fast” women dyed their hair, Polykoff’s campaign won over housewives. In 1961 she became the agency’s highest-paid employee, then vice president and first female board member. From 1973 until her retirement in 1984 she ran her own advertising agency. In 1980 she became the first living woman elected to the National American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.

Date of Birth
January 18, 1908
Place of Birth
Brooklyn, New York
Date of Death
June 4, 1998

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Shirley Polykoff." (Viewed on November 20, 2018) <>.


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