Recently appointed COO of Ogilvy North America, Carina De Blois proves a people-first approach produces an inclusive work environment and great creativity for client success.
Can you tell us a bit about your role and your journey to arriving there?
I started out wanting to work in fashion and growing up in New York, the place to go was FIT. My 2nd year in I was curious about taking courses from other programs and took an ad comms course as an elective. I loved it so much that I switched my major, did an internship at McCann and fast forward 23 years later, been in the industry ever since.
I've been fortunate to spend the last 10 years at Ogilvy holding many different roles that have kept me learning, growing, and inspired. I’ve worked with some of the world’s most iconic companies — IBM, IKEA, and Samsung to name a few — helping them solve business challenges through brand experiences that truly engage customers. I first joined Ogilvy to lead the global IBM business where I helped modernize their brand with the first-of-its-kind marketing with Watson and AI. For the last two years I was President of Ogilvy’s flagship New York office. It was an invaluable experience leading the business and our NY team through the pandemic. We emerged stronger than ever, a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of our teams and our clients. In my new role of COO of Ogilvy North America, I’m excited to point all my experience to deliver excellence for our clients, bringing them the best of Ogilvy from across the region.
What barriers do women still face in our industry and how can we challenge them?
While our industry still has a lot to do to make it more representative of the world we live in today, I think there’s been palpable progress. Just take as an example the fact that four of Ogilvy’s top global C-suite leadership positions (CEO, CCO, CPO, and CFO) are held by women. That is astounding progress and gives me hope. We need to do things to build a robust pipeline of female leaders. Ogilvy launched a global program called 30For30 a few years ago, aimed at nurturing high potential female talent within the agency. I have been both a sponsee and sponsor.
For me, the way to challenge barriers is to find a place where you feel you belong, where you are valued for your contributions, where you feel you can make an impact and that includes being who you are as your authentic self. Most of the achievements I’ve experienced in my career have been because I always asked for bigger and better assignments. Most of the time whoever is asking is willing to support and give you the opportunity. This type of thinking is built into Ogilvy’s culture, so much so that there’s a push toward giving big opportunities and big roles to those based on merit.
How do you use your position to build equitable teams that are diverse and balanced?
We need teams that are comprised of people from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, schools of thought, and career journeys to creatively solve for client problems that will only continue to increase in complexity. Clients understand this; they know the way to get to the best, the most creative thinking is to have teams that are made up of diverse talent. Many are requiring teams that work on their business be as diverse as their customers. So, it’s not just about doing the right thing, it’s also about doing what’s good for the business. On every client team I’ve led, I’ve put this into action. I always practiced on recruiting so we could be constantly on the lookout for the best, most diverse talent in the industry for our clients. Now as COO of North America, I’m relishing the opportunity to scale that across the region. I’m excited to partner with our NA leadership team to make real progress across the board, from retention to recruitment to partnerships to procurement; because that is how we will produce the best, most innovative product for our clients.
Who are your female advertising icons/role models and why?
One of the top female icons in the industry is Shelly Lazarus and how fortunate are we that she's spent her entire career at Ogilvy. I had the opportunity to learn from her directly, hear stories of her success, get her guidance, and learn about her time working with David Ogilvy himself. Shelly is still active with us today and bringing her smarts, inspiration, and energy to the generation of Ogilvy today.
My very own manager, Devika Bulchandani, is another industry icon. I have learned the most from her in the 2 years we've been together about putting the creative work first, relentlessly pushing for the big ideas that will make an impact and doing it with so much heart for her teams and the clients.
Liz Taylor our CCO is my mentor. As a creative leader she sees the importance of spending time with business leads since we all have the responsibility of getting to the best creative work. My day was made seeing her be the first woman to rank #1 in the Drum’s Top 100 CCOs list.
While not an ad woman in the traditional sense, Gloria Steinman is also role model for creating the women’s movement and is still actively pushing today. We are partnering with her and ERA coalition to create awareness for women’s rights and created work that will help change policy of a very urgent and important issue in the US.