Integrity. Innovation. Impact.

Laura Desmond

Laura Desmond


BBA 1987 (Marketing)


Global CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group

Laura Desmond, BBA87, has worked for the same advertising and marketing employer she worked for fresh out of college, but she never let herself get comfortable. She has followed her own advice and has become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

In the last 20 years, Laura has served in five or six different roles, steadily climbing upward on the company career ladder. Until recently, she managed 2,000 employees in Canada, the United States, and Latin America. She was named Global CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group while her predecessor, Renetta McCann, is on a one-year sabbatical from the CEO position. Now Laura oversees 6,000 employees and operations around the world for one of the largest brand communications groups in the world.

"I was not expecting to fill the global CEO role at this point in my career," she said in a Starcom MediaVest Group statement announcing her promotion. "But the fact that I am prepared to do is a testament to Renetta McCann, to the remarkable talent that populates this network, and to the forward-thinking clients that have challenged and inspired me to constantly ‘up my game.' I havetremendously large shoes to fill without a doubt, but I also have powerful momentum to build on."

Laura put that momentum into motion while on the campus of The University of Iowa.

Her first marketing experience was with the UI Sports Marketing department where she held internships during her junior and senior years. "I knew I really wanted to work in advertising and marketing, but I felt I needed an edge to enter the job market," she says.

She had her sights set on working at the Leo Burnett advertising agency in her hometown of Chicago, and was thrilled when company representatives came to the UI campus to recruit. "I was working as a lifeguard at Halsey Hall on the east side at the time, and they were recruiting on the west side of campus. Interviews were set up on a first-come, first-served basis, and by the time I got over there, I was too late. I had missed my chance," she recalls.

She may have missed her chance that day, but she wasn't comfortable with giving up. Laura decided to create her "edge" by using the resources she had available. She describes her proactive approach as an interweaving of connectedness, access, and a little ingenuity.

While working in UI Sports Marketing, she met Iowa football player Rob Houghtlin (1985-87 starting kicker), whose father was employed at the Leo Burnett advertising agency. She wrote to him and sparked the attention of Mr. Houghtlin, and the result was a job interview. That led to an offer working for Starcom, formerly the media department for Leo Burnett. Her initiative and creative approach as a college senior was the beginning of a successful career in marketing and advertising.

Laura has come a long way since her days as a student in Iowa City. Today she is ranked by Forbes as one of the world's 100 Most Powerful Women, but she still utilizes her Tippie College of Business education and campus experiences daily on the job. "While I was studying at The University of Iowa, I learned to work hard. I think that is an underappreciated lesson, but a very important skill in life. This is the place where I learned how to multitask and how to increase my productivity. The school presents tremendous opportunities to its students every day. I know that everyone in the College did what they possibly could do to best position me for what lay ahead as I walked out the University's doors."