A Big-Life: A Mary-ology

Published on .

May 25, 1928-Mary Wells Lawrence is born in Youngstown, Ohio

1952-Ms. Wells Lawrence leaves her first advertising job, at McKelvey's Department Store in Youngstown, moves to New York.

1953-Mary Wells Lawrence joins McCann-Erickson after a stint writing copy for Macy's.

1957-She is hired by Doyle Dane Bernbach.

1964-Ms. Wells Lawrence leaves to join Interpublic's think tank Jack Tinker & Partners for eye-popping salary of $60,000. There, Ms. Wells and Tinker associates Dick Rich and Stewart Greene remake Braniff with the "End of the Plain Plane" campaign, complete with colorful airplanes and Pucci-clad stewardesses.

1966-In April, Ms. Wells Lawrence and Messrs. Greene and Rich leave Tinker to form their own shop based in the Gotham Hotel on Fifth Ave. The $6.5 million Braniff Airways account soon follows. Within nine months, the agency bills $9.8 million.

1967-In June, American Motors Corp. leaves Geyer Morey Ballard after 28 years, shifting its $12 million account to WRG. The losing shop posts a sign in its window: "Hello Mary. The Now car has the Now agency. Congratulations." In November, she weds second husband Harding Lawrence, president of Braniff. Not long after, the agency parts with Braniff and takes on the $14.6 million TWA account.

1968-In October, WRG goes public. Later, WRG moves onto the New York Stock Exchange and Ms. Wells Lawrence claims title of first female CEO of a company traded on the NYSE.

1969-Mary Wells Lawrence inducted into the Copywriters Hall of Fame.

1971-WRG billings reach $100 million, including clients Philip Morris USA, Procter & Gamble Co. and Bristol-Myers Co. WRG loses AMC account.

1974-WRG begins planning to once again go private, a process completed in 1977. Ms. Wells Lawrence said going public was "a big waste of time." WRG's talks to buy Doyle Dane Bernbach are scuttled.

1976-Ms. Wells Lawrence is billed as "the highest paid woman in advertising" with a salary of $300,000.

April 1990-Ms. Wells Lawrence relinquishes control to Ken Olshan, naming him CEO. WRG enters into stock swap with Paris' BDDP. The agency is renamed Wells Rich Greene BDDP.

1995-Ken Olshan, with 2 1/2 years left on his contract, is fired by WRG BDDP while at home on Rosh Hashana. He is replaced by former Bates New York President-CEO Frank Assumma.

1996-In September, London's GGT Group acquires BDDP Group.

1997-Wells Rich Greene BDDP changes name to Wells BDDP. Shop loses $100 million Bristol-Myers Squibb, $50 million Hertz Corp., $30 million Georgia-Pacific Corp., $26 million Toys `R' Us and $125 million P&G business. Omnicom Group buys parent GGT Group for $234 million.

1998-On May 13,Wells BDDP shuts its doors after 32 years.

1999-Mary Wells Lawrence inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Hall of Fame.

In this article:
Most Popular