Advertising Titan Carol Williams Offers Solid Career Advice

Advertising Titan Carol Williams Offers Solid Career Advice

(Image: Carol H. Williams Advertising Agency)

Advertising titan Carol H. Williams was recently inducted into the American Advertising Hall of Fame, making history as the first black female executive and creative to be given this top honor. She will also receive the David Bell Award for Industry Service, recognizing her extraordinary and unique contributions and service to the advertising community and industry as a whole.

Black Enterprise caught up with the advertising visionary weeks ago to find out what this honor means to her. As we picked her brain about her secret sauce for success year after year in an ever-changing industry, Williams some dropped gems of wisdom that are applicable to anyone, regardless of industry or job title.

“An industry recognizing all of your hard work and your struggle, looking beyond all the obvious things and saying, ‘Yes, we recognize that you are one of the best of the best,’ is the most unbelievable feeling in the world,” Williams says of the honor, during a phone interview.

In addition, Williams notes how she feels blessed to be among women who are able to open the door for others. However, to her, it’s more than just opening the door. “If women of color don’t come behind me, it means nothing,” she says.

Secret deodorant’s “strong enough for a man, but made for a woman” campaign is just one brainchild of many, in Williams’ extensive portfolio of advertising innovations. She is also the reason why the Pillsbury Doughboy has become ubiquitous in American homes, with her “say hello to poppin’ fresh dough” campaign, further cementing her words and ideas into the American advertising and pop culture cannon.

She founded her namesake agency, Carol H. Williams Advertising, in 1986, after working at Leo Burnett Co. in Chicago, as its first black and female vice president and creative director. Her agency has made the BE 100sBLACK ENTERPRISE‘s list of top, black-owned businesses–many times, ranking at No. 4 on 2016’s Advertising Agencies list, with $30 million in revenue.

Williams’ body of work is a living example of what it means to follow your passion. Join us in celebrating her well-deserved honor with quotes from Carol to consume, stash away, and return to when in need of motivation and inspiration.


On Creativity:


“Creativity is really, in many ways, a learned skill. Creativity is a talent that you have to learn how to take to market and use in the marketplace. Once you have the talent, you have the absolute potential. All of us have the talent–we just have to find out what it is, and how to apply it.”


On Doing What You Love:


“I love doing what I do, and I think when you love doing what you do, you just do it better than anybody else[…] None of this stuff is easy. The only thing that keeps you in the game is [knowing] that you love, care about, and like what you’re doing.”


On Rejection:


“You can’t be afraid of ‘no,’ and hang on it. When you’re climbing the mountain, you’re going to fall. The only thing that [will] make a difference is if you can get back up and try it again.”


On Making It in the Advertising Industry and in Corporate America:


“The ad industry is a problem-solving industry, and those problems appear every day, all day long, in one form or another. So, if you really aren’t challenged by that and in love with that, it’s very tough to make it.”

“Have self-awareness and know the importance of self-management or even social awareness. We have a lot of cultural cues that we have to be really aware of, because some of them are compatible with corporate life, and some of them are not.”

“Another key thing is relationship management. You have to have it between your bosses, your management team, your peers and yourself–even more so than other jobs.”

“Emotional management is key. It’s very, very important to understand what emotional intelligence is. It is even more important than IQ.”


On How She Has Remained a Constant Success in a Changing Industry:


“I am a creative. That makes me innovative. I automatically think differently. If you use your creativity right, you’re ahead of it. I don’t necessarily look at myself as a business person first, although you have to know business. And I don’t look at myself as a suit first. I always followed my creativity, and I don’t necessarily follow the market–the market follows me.”


Read more about Carol Williams’ work in BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s exclusive Q&A  with the advertising visionary here.