Mary Wells Lawrence (1928–2024), iconic advertising executive

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Mary Wells Lawrence began her illustrious advertising career in her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, working as an in-house copywriter for McKelvey’s department store. She later moved to New York City, where she held similar roles at Macy’s before transitioning to advertising agencies. Notable among these were Doyle Dane Bernback, now known as DDB Worldwide, and Jack Tinker and Partners.

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During her time at Tinker, Wells Lawrence orchestrated one of her most renowned campaigns for Braniff International Airways. Tasked with devising a groundbreaking idea to elevate Braniff’s brand recognition, she was struck by the airline’s lackluster terminal ambiance. Proposing a revolutionary transformation, she suggested painting the planes in vibrant colors and dressing stewardesses in Emilio Pucci designs, unveiling layers of attire during flights. The accompanying campaign, dubbed “The End of the Plain Plane,” was a resounding success.

Despite her achievements, Wells Lawrence encountered gender bias when she sought a promotion to the presidency at Tinker. Denied the opportunity due to her gender, she boldly departed with Braniff, co-founding her own agency, Wells Rich Greene, with two partners. The agency flourished under her leadership, producing numerous iconic campaigns and slogans.

Her impact on advertising history is undeniable, with slogans like “I ♥ NY” and “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is” becoming enduring classics. Notably, the latter jingle significantly boosted sales for Alka-Seltzer, prompting consumers to adopt the depicted usage pattern.

Wells Lawrence’s involvement extended to memorable slogans such as “Flick your Bic,” “Trust the Midas touch,” “Raise your hand if you’re Sure,” and “At Ford, quality is job one.” These campaigns solidified her reputation as one of the industry’s luminaries.

Her groundbreaking achievements culminated in her becoming the first female CEO of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Throughout her career, she epitomized the transformative power of advertising, encapsulated in her belief that the best campaigns should compel consumers to reconsider their purchasing decisions.

Re-reported the article originally published in Legacy.com

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