Pioneering Ad Woman Mary Wells Lawrence Dies At 95


Mary Wells Lawrence, the trailblazing Mad Men-era creative icon and agency owner, died on Saturday in London at the age of 95. 

An obituary in The New York Times reported that Lawrence’s daughter Katy Bryan confirmed her death.  



For a time, Wells Lawrence was the highest-paid woman executive on Madison Ave. She is said to have been the inspiration for the Elizabeth Moss character on the AMC TV series "Mad Men" about 1960s-era Madison Avenue that ran from 2007-2015.  

When she was passed over for the presidency of ad agency Tinker & Partners, part of Interpublic, she left the agency in 1966 to form her own shop. Two colleagues who worked closely with her at the agency -- Dick Rich and Stewart Greene -- also quit. They formed Wells Rich Greene. 

At Tinker, the trio was instrumental in creating the transcendent “Alka-Seltzer On The Rocks” campaign with the enduring jingle “Plop-plop, fizz-fizz, oh, what a relief it is!”

They are also credited with orchestrating a comprehensive brand makeover for Braniff Airlines that included redesigning flight attendant uniforms and adding bright colors to its drab looking fleet of commercial jets.  

At Wells Rich Greene (with Braniff as its first client), Wells Lawrence became the first female CEO of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, according to the Times obit. The agency went public in 1968.  

One of the agency’s best-known campaigns was “I Love New York,” which began in 1977, at a time when the city was at a low point with rampant crime and teetering on the brink of financial collapse.  

At its height, the agency managed $885 million in billings for clients such as IBM, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Hertz, and others. 

See the Times obituary here.  

3 comments about "Pioneering Ad Woman Mary Wells Lawrence Dies At 95".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 12, 2024 at 5:58 p.m.

    R.I.P. Mary.

  2. Marcelo Salup from Iffective LLC, May 13, 2024 at 10:58 a.m.

    Once we get past the obvious (what? She was still alive?) Mary Wells was truly an unsung hero of whatever movement you choose. Whether as a female trailblazer, or as an original entrepreneur (oh yeah, you're not giving me the job, screw you, I'm leaving and forming my own company) she definitely had balls. 

  3. George Parker from Parker Consultants, May 13, 2024 at 12:53 p.m.

    Had the pleasure of working with Mary at Tinker. Shecertainly had balls and produced great workat DDB, Tinker, and WRG. Also worked with her first husband Bert at B&B. Smheers/all and rapidly shrinking world. 

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