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Fay Ferguson

Advertising chief executive Fay Ferguson graduated magna cum laude with her B.A. degree in English, speech, and drama from Concordia College in Minnesota in 1973. She then received her M.B.A. degree from Indiana University in 1978

After graduation, from 1974 to 1976, Ferguson taught eighth grade English for two years in Michigan City, Indiana. She began her advertising career in 1978 at the Leo Burnett Company and progressed from an account management trainee to account executive. While there, Ferguson coordinated marketing and advertising campaigns for several Pillsbury Company products, including the refrigerated dinner rolls, the sweet rolls, the turnovers, and the slice’n bake cookies. Ferguson then served as senior account executive at Bozell & Jacobs, Inc. where she managed the Alberto Culver account and oversaw the national rollout of their premier line, Mrs. Dash and Alberto Mousse. In March of 1984, Ferguson joined Burrell Communications Group as an account supervisor. She was promoted to vice president in 1986 and became an account director in 1988. After being promoted to management supervisor in 1992, Ferguson was named client service director in 1993 and managed the company’s accounts with the Procter & Gamble Company and the McDonalds Corporation. In addition, she served as co-chair of the new business committee for Burrell Communications Group. In November of 1997, Ferguson became the managing partner of account management and operations. Later, Ferguson was appointed as co-CEO of Burrell Communications Group.

Ferguson has been active on several boards, including the Perspectives Charter School, the Chicago Advertising Federation, The Chicago Network, the North Shore Chapter of the Links, Inc., the American Association of Advertising Agencies – Purple Forum, and the Economic Club of Chicago. She was appointed to the advisory board at Turner Patterson, LLC. In addition, she co-chaired the advertising book benefit for the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

Ferguson has received numerous awards, including the “Advertising Working Mother of the Year, Trailblazer Mom” award from Working Mother magazine, and the Target Market News “Advertising Executive of the Year MAAX” award. She was also recognized the “Most Influential Woman” award from the Women’s Leadership Federation; the “Outstanding Women in Marketing Communications” award from Ebony magazine; and the “Advertising Woman of the Year Award” from The Women’s Advertising Club of Chicago and the Chicago Advertising Federation.

Fay Ferguson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 27, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.247

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/27/2013

Last Name

Ferguson

Maker Category
Schools

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Grade School

Central Junior High School

La Porte High School

Concordia College

Indiana University

First Name

Fay

Birth City, State, Country

La Porte

HM ID

FER04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, California

Favorite Quote

If You Don't Have Anything Positive To Say, Keep Quiet.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/6/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Cake (Chocolate)

Short Description

Advertising chief executive Fay Ferguson (1951 - ) served as an account executive with the Leo Burnett Company and went on to become co-chief executive officer of Burrell Communications Group.

Employment

Burrell Communications Group

Lee King & Partners/Bozell & Jacobs

Leo Burnett Company, Inc.

Michigan City Elston Junior High School

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Fay Ferguson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Fay Ferguson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Fay Ferguson describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Fay Ferguson talks about her maternal grandfather's adoption

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Fay Ferguson describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Fay Ferguson describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Fay Ferguson remembers St. John's Lutheran School in La Porte, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Fay Ferguson recalls her experiences at the majority-white St. John's Lutheran School

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Fay Ferguson lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Fay Ferguson talks about her early interest in athletics

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Fay Ferguson talks about her parents' divorce

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Fay Ferguson talks about the role of religion in her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Fay Ferguson remembers Sunday afternoons after church

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Fay Ferguson describes her community in La Porte, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Fay Ferguson recalls her transition to public schooling

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Fay Ferguson remembers LaPorte High School in La Porte, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Fay Ferguson remembers enrolling at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Fay Ferguson talks about the development of her racial identity

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Fay Ferguson remembers teaching at Elston Middle School in Michigan City, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Fay Ferguson talks about her experiences as a teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Fay Ferguson recalls the Indiana University School of Business in Bloomington, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Fay Ferguson recalls her transition to the marketing industry

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Fay Ferguson remembers joining the Leo Burnett Company Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Fay Ferguson describes her responsibilities at the Leo Burnett Company Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Fay Ferguson remembers her first marketing presentation

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Fay Ferguson talks about the advertising industry

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Fay Ferguson remembers her transition to Bozell and Jacobs, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Fay Ferguson describes the account executive's role at an advertising shoot

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Fay Ferguson recalls being recruited by Thomas J. Burrell

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Fay Ferguson remembers Thomas J. Burrell

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Fay Ferguson talks about marketing to the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Fay Ferguson remembers her clients at the Burrell Communications Group

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Fay Ferguson talks about the growth of the Burrell Communications Group

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Fay Ferguson describes her role as the director of client services at the Burrell Communications Group

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Fay Ferguson talks about the work environment at the Burrell Communications Group

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Fay Ferguson remembers Thomas J. Burrell's retirement from the Burrell Communications Group

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Fay Ferguson recalls becoming co-CEO of the Burrell Communications Group

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Fay Ferguson talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Fay Ferguson talks about marketing to the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Fay Ferguson talks about black women in executive positions

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Fay Ferguson talks about the downfall of prominent advertising agencies

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Fay Ferguson talks about digital marketing

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Fay Ferguson describes the structure of the Burrell Communications Group

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Fay Ferguson reflects upon the marketing industry

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Fay Ferguson reflects on her legacy at the Burrell Communications Group

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Fay Ferguson reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Fay Ferguson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Fay Ferguson talks about the importance of healthy living

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Fay Ferguson recalls her transition to the marketing industry
Fay Ferguson describes her role as the director of client services at the Burrell Communications Group
Transcript
Well, you know, let's kind of touch, touch base a little bit on Xerox [Xerox Corporation]. Off camera you just mentioned the environment and I think you mentioned something about it being a--$$It was an all male environment as far as the professional careers and there were female secretaries, but in terms of any managers they were all white men and Xerox was a household name and so I was very gratified to be able to get an internship with them and to be able to I thought, contribute, who knows what interns are actually are able to do, but they gave me real world assignments as opposed to just make work, so that, that was really great. I had my own little apartment. It was, it was, it was wonderful.$$How as Rochester [New York] overall?$$Rochester, nothing to it (laughter).$$But it was nice to have your own place, have enough cash?$$Yes and could, could walk to work so it, it was, it was all very good.$$That was a summer internship?$$Yes.$$Okay, thank you, so let's go to Leo Burnett [Leo Burnett Company Inc.]. What was the woman's name again, Judy--?$$Carol Singer.$$Carol Singer, I'm sorry, I don't know where Judy came from, Carol Singer. How did you end up getting a position with Leo Burnett, I mean she came recruited, how, how did you get the job?$$And so then once Carol went back to the headquarters in Chicago [Illinois] at Burnett, obviously they get together and talk about all the different candidates that they've seen and then you're invited up for an interview and so I came up to Chicago to interview with a number of individuals and then I was invited back again for another follow up interview and then made a job offer.$$Okay, and time wise, this is when about, late '70s [1970s] or so?$$Yes, '78 [1978].$$Thanks and you got an offer to, to join Leo Burnett as, in what capacity? What was your position?$$Trainee (laughter). Back in those days we lovingly called the entrance level position as working in the pit, and that's because you went, when you went to work it was dark, when you left work it was dark and you were amongst your peers learning the ropes. You, you were put into different positions, whether it was research, spot buying, writing so that you learned a little bit about every discipline within advertising, which was really quite great because many companies don't do that now because they've become specialists, but I, I was able to be exposed to virtually every position and that's helped me as I worked my way up the ladder so to speak. My first assignment was on Kelloggs [Kellogg Company] and after I left the pit (laughter) and there I had ninety spot TV markets that I analyzed and purchased media for and then after that I went into account management on the Pillsbury account [Pillsbury Company, LLC] where you get into more of the strategic arm, of, of marketing.$Before we get to the 2000s, so you're, you're, you're moving up the, the ladder very nicely, senior vice president in the early 1990s, executive vice president. What was your role within the agency [Burrell Communications Group, Chicago, Illinois] and with the clients at those kinds of levels? What was that like?$$I was actually the director of client services, so I was over all of the accounts in the agency, but being a small agency--so I've gone from large to midsize to small, my job was not--I didn't, I had direct accounts that I worked on, but then I had accounts that I may not be directly involved with, but I was also charged with mentoring and nurturing the account directors to help them grow in their roles and also took on more of a role in terms of financial accountability and profitably for the agency, again the numbers are important on the agency side as well (laughter).$$Absolutely, absolutely, and you had some major clients, beside McDonald's [McDonald's Corporation] you had Exxon Mobil [Exxon Mobil Corporation], Sears [Sears, Roebuck and Co.], Kellogg [Kellogg Company], Coca-Cola [The Coca-Cola Company], Nation- Nationwide Insurance group [Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company], P and G [Procter and Gamble Company], did you, were you accountable with client services that if something is going awry you, you have to step in?$$Yes, yes, yes and in fact--$$Not that it ever did.$$(Laughter) No we all have our challenges.$$You have your challenges, thank you.$$So in fact, there was a point and time when the McDonald's account was going through a number of issues and I was not working day to day on the account at the time and so Tom [HistoryMaker Thomas J. Burrell] tapped me on my shoulder and said, "Hey, we need you over here." (Laughter) And I was like, "Oh god, no." (Laughter) Because it was interesting that the McDonald's folks were always busy, they're always running around, it was--I said, "I don't get that. What's going on?" (Laughter) I soon found out, it's a retail account, so it was one of the agency's busiest accounts because we were literally doing every month what it took most of the other accounts six months to a year to do, so we were in production every month of the year, which, and we were at client meetings all the time, so it was a totally different environment and it was, it was fascinating in a very different way. I never thought that I could go from a slow, steady, steady pace on a packaged goods client, like a Procter or a General Mills [General Mills Inc.] to a McDonald's, but once I was there it took about, you know, a little bit, six months before I accepted it (laughter), but once I was there I was like wow, this is really what it's about and I, I don't know that I could ever go back, that, that pace, that energy, that excitement, it's, there's, there's exhilaration, there's nothing like it.