How President & CEO of The Ad Council Makes Measurable Difference in Society

Headshot of Nadine Dietz

Lisa Sherman. Need I say more? Probably not, but I will! Lisa is one of the most respected leaders in our industry today, for professional, personal and social impact. Lisa has spearheaded a plethora of important world initiatives including LGBTQ acceptance, Suicide Prevention, Fatherhood Involvement, Confronting Sexual Harassment, Gun Safety and more. As President and CEO of The Ad Council, her overall objective is to “identify a select number of significant public issues and stimulate action on those issues through communications programs that make a measurable difference in our society.” Have a look at Lisa’s story, her life lessons and her courage to push us forward.

Tell us about what you are doing now.

I have the best job on the planet. As President & CEO of the Ad Council, I get to see the very best of the communications industry—coming together and using the power of communications to tackle the country’s toughest issues—from gun safety, to diversity and inclusion, to the opioid epidemic. We work with a passionate network of partners across media and tech, marketing and advertising, government and the nonprofit world, who volunteer their time, resources and talents to tackle these critical issues.

It’s incredibly rewarding to experience what happens when you bring together the talent and goodwill of today’s biggest players, to move this country forward. The Ad Council is truly the place where causes and creativity converge. Every day. 

How did you get to where you are today?

“I believe that you rarely get to your ultimate destination if you travel in a straight line.”

My path has certainly been nonlinear, but I believe that you rarely get to your ultimate destination if you travel in a straight line. I spent the first 17 years of my career at Verizon (formerly Bell Atlantic). But after nearly two decades in telecommunications, I itched for something new and for a chance to combine some of my personal interests with my professional experience.

So, I took a leap of faith and started my own company, The Women Sport’s Network (WSN), a marketing agency connecting brands to women and girls through sports. It was an opportunity to build excitement for women’s sports and, ultimately, to provide girls and women with inspiration and opportunities to shine. Every day was electrifying, I felt there was purpose in my work.

From there I went to Hill Holiday and then to Viacom where I helped launch LogoTV. In addition to a strong business proposition, we had an equally strong mission-driven culture to give the LGBTQ community a home base on television, to break stereotypes and expand the imaginations of millions of people. We knew in doing so that, we would play a part in creating broader acceptance for LGBTQ people across America.

It was after Logo that I got the call about the Ad Council—as I said, it’s the best job on the planet. It’s been a winding journey but it’s easy to connect the dots retrospectively on how each experience laddered up and prepared me for the next.

What pivotal moments did you face along the way?

One the scariest moments of my professional journey also turned into one of my most pivotal. During the first 17 years of my career, I was living in the corporate closet, never telling others that I was gay for fear of committing career suicide. On my last day at Verizon, I could be silent no more. I decided to come out to our CEO, explaining that I had never felt safe being my out self at the company.

“Once I turned that corner, I never looked back. I no longer felt like I had to hide.”

Once I turned that corner, I never looked back. I no longer felt like I had to hide. It was an enlightening moment because it wasn’t the career killer I thought it would be. In fact, the opposite happened. I started to do my best work and realized how much power there was in being my full self in every aspect of my life. That was a huge inflection point in my career.

What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today and what advice can you give them? Nadine Dietz is chief community officer at Adweek and host of the CMO Moves podcast.