Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Wear a Badge: Mary Wells Lawrence, Kappa Alpha Theta

Photo provided by Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity
The theme for Women’s History Month in 2017 is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Business and Labor.” Throughout March, we’ll be sharing the stories of sorority women who made history in business and labor. The efforts of these sorority women advance the cause of all women, and we are grateful for their efforts.

Advertising trailblazer Mary Wells Lawrence was born May 25, 1928, in Youngstown, Ohio. Lawrence became a member of Kappa Alpha Theta at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Penn., where she studied for two years.

The start of Lawrence’s advertising career came in 1951, when she worked as a copywriter for McKelvey’s department store in her hometown. After relocating to New York City the following year, she became Macy’s fashion advertising manager. Lawrence then worked as a copywriter and copy group head at the advertising agency McCann Erickson.

In 1957 she took a job at Doyle Dane Bernbach as a copywriter, and eventually served as the vice president-associate chief copy editor there. The smaller agency was shaking up the advertising world with its creative campaigns. Then, she was enticed to leave DDB with a jump in salary and a leadership role by Jack Tinker & Partners. There she garnered notoriety in the advertising world with her campaign for Braniff International Airways, “The End of the Plain Plane."

When the agency denied promoting her to president in 1966 because she was a woman , she left and became the founder and president of her own advertising agency, Wells Rich Greene, making her the first woman president of an advertising agency. Well-known clients of Wells Rich Greene included: American Motors, IBM, RC Cola and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. Her agency was responsible for many notable campaigns such as “Plop plop, fizz fizz” for Alka-Seltzer and “I Love New York” to promote tourism in New York City. In 1990 she stepped down as CEO and sold her firm to Boulet Dru Dupuy Petit.

Her accolades in the advertising world include working on campaigns that received Clio awards, being the youngest writer at age 40 to enter the Copywriting Hall of Fame and being inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame by the American Advertising Federation in 1999. In addition, President Ford asked her to serve on the President’s Council on Inflation and to be the business representative at the first international economic summit held in Washington, D.C. A memoir entitled “A Big Life (in Advertising)” commemorating her life and career was published in 2002.

  • Advertising Hall of Fame. (1999). Mary Wells Lawrence. Retrieved from
  • Advertising Age. (2003). Lawrence, Mary Wells. Retrieved from
  • Wells Lawrence, M. (2002). The lady was an adman. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from