PLAYER PROFILE: Arnold's Lawner moves up to chairman of the agency

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At arnold worldwide's corporate meeting earlier this month, the agency bigwigs got all suited up -- or at least donned sports coats. All, that is, except the new chairman, Ron Lawner -- a tagline titan who looks more like he fixes Volkswagens for a living than marketing them.

But the low-key Mr. Lawner, a chief creative officer who wears jeans, tennis shoes and a leather jacket, is behind some memorable advertising, as well as Arnold's bulging trophy case, which includes a Cannes Grand Prix, Kellys, Grandies, Effies and Obies. It's Mr. Lawner's way with a slogan and eye for detail that have driven some of the country's biggest marketers to track him down to work for them.

"Great work makes your clients rich and successful. It also can make you famous," Mr. Lawner said.

Managing partner at the Boston-based agency for eight years, Mr. Lawner said little would change under his chairmanship, especially since he and Fran Kelly III, who was promoted to president from chief marketing officer, have helped run the company since the mid-1990s.

Their promotions coincided with Arnold Communications' transition to Arnold Worldwide, flagship of Havas Advertising's second network, now named Arnold Worldwide Group. "Ron made us a creative force," said Ed Eskandarian, agency CEO as well as chairman-CEO of the Arnold Worldwide Partners Network.

A CAREER DECISION

Mr. Lawner, 52, got sold on advertising in the late 1960s when a professor at Adelphi University invited a copywriter and an art director to address his advertising class.

"A light went off," Mr. Lawner said. "I'd never written anything in my life, but these guys were wearing T-shirts and jeans, and were doing something that sounded cool and were earning a pretty decent living."

Mr. Lawner graduated in 1970, majoring in marketing, but found getting a job wasn't easy. He paid the bills by driving a taxi and free-lancing while he shopped his sample portfolio around Manhattan.

At 27, Mr. Lawner landed his first agency job at Schneider-Parker, Boston. He was fired six months later -- his boss said he couldn't write.

Mr. Lawner returned to free-lancing, then went crosstown to Ingalls Associates for four years. He then migrated to Humphrey Browning MacDougall, where he first worked with Mr. Eskandarian, and started on his first national account: Keds.

Several acquisitions later, the agency was bought by Euro RSCG, now owned by Havas.

The agency's name was later changed to Lawner Reingold Britton, and Mr. Lawner took the title chairman-chief creative officer. In 1992, that shop was sold to Arnold, and he became chief creative officer.

In 1995, Arnold snagged Volkswagen of America, and Mr. Lawner's "Drivers wanted" tag was launched. He also dreamed up "Talbots: It's a classic" for the women's retailer and "EMC: It's where technology lives" for the data storage company.

Before the Arnold years, Mr. Lawner came up with "What is sexy?" for Jovan Musk.

"Ron could be the best tagline writer on the planet," Mr. Kelly said. "He can turn anything into two or three words."

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