Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Shirley Polykoff Oral History Interview

Collection ID:
Polykoff, Shirley
Ellsworth, Scott, Dr.
Physical Description:
1 Cassette tape
0.3 Cubic feet
1 document box
Oral history describing her career in advertising, especially the creation of the Clairol advertisement "Does She or Doesn't She?" in the 1950s.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Shirley Polykoff covers both her early days in New York as a careerwoman and her distinguished years at Foote, Cone & Belding, where she was responsible for the Clairol account. She discusses the creative process that goes into successful copywriting, the difficulty of being both a woman and Jewish in the advertising world, and the role her personal experiences played in shaping her professional life. The collection consists of one taped 60-minute interview and an abstract of the interview.

1 series.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Shirley Polykoff was born in Brooklyn in 1908 of Russian Jewish parents. Polykoff joined the well-known New York advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding as a copywriter in 1955. Before her association with Foote, Cone & Belding, Ms. Polykoff had worked in a variety of creative positions for both advertising agencies and corporate advertising departments, as she describes in this interview. Her work on Foote Cone and Belding=s Clairol account produced a string of memorable advertising campaigns, including authorship of the campaign slogans "Does she or doesn't she?" and "Is it true blondes have more fun?" When these campaigns were credited with a phenomenal increase in Clairol sales, Polykoff was promoted to a vice presidency at the agency. She founded her own agency, Shirley Polykoff Advertising in 1974, and became the first woman elected to the Advertising Hall of Fame, in 1983.
Ms. Polykoff was married to lawyer George P. Halperin, who died in1960. At the time of this interview, she was living in New York City, having retired from advertising in 1983. She died in 1998.

Archives Center Staff
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Collection donated by Shirley Polykoff, 1994.
Custodial History
Interview conducted by oral historian Scott Ellsworth for the Center for Advertising History, Archives Center.
Processing Information
Collection processed by NMAH Staff, undated

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Preferred Citation
Shirley Polykoff Oral History Interview, Archives Center, 1990, National Museum of American History.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Clairol (Cosmetics) Title Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women in the advertising industry Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiocassettes Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women in advertising Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Advertising campaigns Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012