Linda Kaplan Thalerthaler kaplan linda 271 414 2

Class of 1972

Inducted 2004

The AFLAC quacking duck, the infectious Toys “R” Us jingle, and Herbal Essences' orgasmic shower experience (“Yes! Yes! Yes!”) are but a few of the memorable and highly successful commercials to have sprung from the mind of Linda Kaplan Thaler, chairwoman of Publicis Kaplan Thaler.

From Heineken's “True Conversations” to Kodak moments, Kaplan Thaler has been a force in the advertising business for over 35 years. In 1997, after starring as creative director at J. Walter Thompson and Wells Rich Greene, she became chief executive officer and chief creative officer of her own company, the Kaplan Thaler Group Ltd. Under her leadership, KTG became one of the fastest-growing agencies in the business, with billings climbing past the half-billion-dollar mark by 2004. Key accounts included Clairol Herbal Essences, AFLAC insurance, Continental Airlines, the American Red Cross, Coldwell Banker, Burger King, Gruner & Jahr and Toys “R” Us. KTG also worked on numerous campaigns for charities (raising money for Rwandan refugees and for United Jewish Appeal, for example) and political campaigns, including the successful presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1992, and the less successful presidential primary bids of Bill Bradley in 2000 and Hilary Clinton in 2008.

thaler linda aflac duck

With the AFLAC duck . . .

In 2013, the Kaplan Thaler Group merged with Publicis New York to form Publicis Kaplan Thaler. Her clients now include P&G, CITI, Nestlé, L’Oreal, Pfizer and Wendy’s.

A native New Yorker who was born in 1951 and grew up in the Bronx, Kaplan Thaler went to the Bronx High School of Science before entering City College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and earned a B.S. in psychology and a master’s degree in music. Prior to founding her own business, she spent 17 years at J. Walter Thompson, where she was a senior vice president, then went to Wells Rich Greene and rose to executive vice president and executive creative director.

Kaplan Thaler has earned an impressive number of professional honors. She was a recipient of the Women in Communications Matrix Award in 2000, is listed among Crain’s 100 Most Influential Women in Business, and was named Advertising Woman of the Year by the Advertising Women of New York in 2001. In 2012, she was recognized by Advertising Age magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Women in Advertising.” She’s also a winner of a Muse Award from the New York Women in Film and Television. She has collected 13 Clio awards, two for best original music and lyrics. CCNY honored her with a Townsend Harris Medal in 2005.

Together with co-author Robin Koval, she has turned out three highly acclaimed books. The first, published in 2003, is the marketing bestseller “BANG! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World.” In 2006, it was “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness,” and three years later, the Kaplan Thaler-Koval team delivered “The Power of Small: Why Little Things Make All the Difference.”

thaler linda martha stewart

. . . and with Martha Stewart

Kaplan Thaler's talents go beyond the ad world. She has acted, done comedy and written and composed for theater and television projects. In 2005, she hosted “Making It Big,” a series on Oxygen television. She has also appeared as a judge on “The Apprentice.”

Once asked who had the biggest influence on her career, she replied, “Woody Allen, for his impeccable ability to find similes between obtuse connections. If you look at something like the AFLAC duck, there doesn’t seem to be a connection between it and an insurance company. It’s a bridge between two dissimilar things. Woody Allen makes observations like, ‘Not only is God unattainable, but try getting a plumber on Sundays.’ It’s making grandiose connections to life’s minutiae.”