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When You Ad It All Up . . .

The life and times of an ad industry legend

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This story appears in the August 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Mary Wells Lawrence would be remarkable even if her only accomplishment was being the first female CEO on the New York Stock Exchange. But even people who have never heard of the NYSE can rattle off the advertising slogans created over a quarter-century by Wells Rich Greene, the agency she co-founded in 1966. Have you ever seen an "I Love New York" T-shirt? Know the product plugged by "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz"? If so, you are among the millions touched by Lawrence's memorable campaigns.

A Big Life (in Advertising) (Knopf, $26) doesn't preach, but it provides clear lessons all the same, most revolving around the need to understand what clients want and then give it to them. To lure the Alka-Seltzer account away from a competitor, for instance, Wells skipped the glib slogans and designed a media plan based on 30-second rather than 60-second commercials, saving the budget-conscious company millions in advertising costs. When Philip Morris Cos. Inc. unexpectedly yanked its Benson & Hedges account, Wells swallowed her pride to listen at length to her ex-client's angry complaints, then asked for 24 hours to correct every problem. The company gave her the chance, and she worked through the night to assemble a new team and won back the account.

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