A colorful mix of historical narrative, revealing personal memoir, and sassy industry tell-all, A Big Life in Advertising
offers up Mary Wells Lawrence's bubbling take on life, love, and plugging products. Well, spills it into your lap, actually. Spanning four decades in the world of advertising and the life of one of its star players, A Big Life
oozes with juicy details and insider revelations.
After an inspiring stint as one of the infamous Bill Bernbach's protégés, Lawrence really began her career at Jack Tinker & Partners, revolutionizing the images of such brands as Alka-Seltzer and Braniff Airways. But when denied the title of president, Lawrence "let loose the bear," as she puts it, and with the creative team of Stewart Greene and Dick Rich, set up shop as Wells Rich Greene. Over the course of the next quarter century, Lawrence and her cast of characters "made theatre out of the advertising business," giving brands like Benson & Hedges, American Motors, TWA, Midas, and Procter & Gamble's Gleem toothpaste their turn on the stage of stardom. While Lawrence's story is less about her agency's creative work and more about her impressions of and interactions with virtually everyone who was anyone in the advertising world of the '70s and '80s, she does include glimpses into her own childhood, life as a mother, and battles with cancer, adding a touch of reality to an otherwise glittering world. Some readers may feel Lawrence's opinion of her own beauty and charm plays too prominent a role in her reminiscing, but she was, after all, an adventurous queen bee in a glamorous world. Her chatty style of writing, and her ebullient enthusiasm for all she has experienced and accomplished, make this book read more like a novel than a memoir. It's an entertaining, fast-paced tale of a big star's big life. --S. Ketchum
From Publishers Weekly
When an autobiography's first sentence pays tribute to a memory of little black dance dresses that showed off the author's Norwegian legs, you know you're in for something grand. Lawrence doesn't disappoint, with this memoir about her rise in the advertising world of the 1960s, when a Volkswagen ad that cried "Think Small" was considered revolutionary. She writes first about working with the legendary Bill Bernbach at his agency, where she crafted well-regarded, theatrical Betty Crocker ads to sell the first instant casserole mixes, then describes starting her own agency with her mother as receptionist. One of the visionaries of 20th-century advertising, Lawrence was also a woman in a man's business world, and a youngster pitching bold ideas to fusty older corporate types. But her robust approach got noticed, and taglines like "I can't believe I ate the whole thing," "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz: oh, what a relief it is!" and especially "I love New York" still loom large in the public's memory. Her candor in describing her agency's failures and her own problems during the heady, mostly successful run of the company give the book weight and humanity, imparting some cautionary tales for those in the biz. However, it's Lawrence's generally upbeat tone that lingers past the last page. She delivers a beguiling look inside 30 years of the zippy, fast-moving ad culture and does so with the kind of witty, charming self-deprecation often seen in the ads she created. Photos.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.