Reel Women: Laurel Flatt, President, mcgarrybowen/Chicago

Laurel Flatt

Laurel Flatt

Laurel joined mcgarrybowen in 2009 and currently serves as President of the Chicago office. In addition to her agency responsibilities she continues to lead the Disney Parks and Resorts account.

Prior to mcgarrybowen, she fine-tuned her skills during a ten-year stint at Fallon Minneapolis, working with such clients as EDS, Nikon, and Citi.

Her efforts have helped generate multiple awards including three Effies, Adweek’s “Campaign of the Year,” an Emmy, and a Cannes Lion.

Laurel was named the Chicago Advertising Federation’s “2017 Women of the Year.” She also helped land mcgarrybowen among Chicago Tribune’s “2016 Best Places to Work,” and Ad Age’s “2017 Comeback Agency of the Year,” and a “2018 Agency to Watch.”

One career highlight that she was not entirely prepared for, however, was the immense pride she felt bringing to life Disney’s I Am A Princess campaign.

Finding the work “incredibly inspiring,” Laurel was deeply affected by how the campaign celebrates the strength, bravery, loyalty, and kindness at the heart of every Disney princess, not to mention every little girl everywhere.

Laurel earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from University of Michigan and a Masters of Science in Marketing from Northwestern University. She currently lives outside of Chicago, where she indulges in her favorite activity — spending her free time with her husband and son.



How did you get into the business? I always had my heart set on advertising. We had a family friend who worked in the business and it always seemed it was a much more interesting than any of the other jobs out there. My first job was working on the client side at an in-house advertising department before I made my way to the agency side. I was at Fallon for 10 years and I’ve been at mcgarrybowen for almost that long.

What obstacles have you faced specifically because of your gender? I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked for women and men who always encouraged me to take on more responsibility and provided me with endless opportunities to grow. That said, my experience is not everyone’s experience so I’m very mindful that as a leader of an agency to provide a safe workplace and foster a culture of equality and inclusivity without any barriers to advancement.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are a woman? Receiving the Chicago Ad Fed’s Advertising Woman of the Year was amazing. It was an incredible honor and the fact that my agency submitted my name meant the world to me.

Work you are most proud of? I love the work we did for Disney on the “I Am a Princess” effort. It was inspiring to work on a brand as iconic as Disney to help reinforce their vision for what it meant to be a princess today… a force for strength and kindness. It was developed in partnership with our client, Marty Muller, a strong and kind woman herself, who had a clear point of view and tirelessly championed the project.

How do you describe the most significant #metoo moment of your life? I think the most significant moment was understanding just how prevalent the problem was across industries and how many women were forced to put up with horrible situations for so long. I believe the universality of the issue has driven the incredible response to help stop it.

How have professional attitudes towards women evolved during your career? I like to think people have finally begun to acknowledge that women who have children can be both successful at their jobs and successful parents. This business is tough whether or not you’re a parent and raising a family is tough whether or not you have a job. I’ve very glad to see that people have started to realize one does not need to impact the success of the other.

Trapped on an island what essentials must you have? My family of course. And coffee. A cell phone, decent reception, and a toothbrush would also be helpful.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? Listen more and wear sunscreen.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? For me it would be Anna Wojcicki, the founder of 23andMe. I love everything I read about her. She is brilliant and has such a fighter mentality but she also seems very down to earth. Most importantly, her vision of giving a consumer voice to healthcare is groundbreaking. I want to understand what she sees as the next frontier in this area.

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