Mary G. Berg

From Ohio History Central

Mary Georgene Berg was born on May 25, 1928, in Youngstown, Ohio. Initially, Berg hoped to become an actress, but she suffered from shyness. Her mother enrolled Berg in dance and acting classes. In 1945, at her mother's insistence, Berg enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City. After only a year in New York, Berg enrolled in the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she studied advertising and copywriting. While at Carnegie, Berg married Bert Wells, an industrial design student. Upon graduating, the couple moved to Youngstown, where Ms. Wells accepted a position as an advertising writer with McKelvey's department store.

In 1952, the Wells family returned to New York City. Mary first found employment as a fashion advertiser with Macy's. She quickly became known for her skills and joined several prominent advertising firms. In 1957, she accepted a position with Doyle Dane Bernbach, and Wells quickly became a vice president of the firm. She remained at this company for seven years, earning forty thousand dollars per year. The average income for men in the United States was only ten thousand dollars per year.

In 1964, Wells joined the Interpublic Agency, earning sixty thousand dollars per year. She helped construct advertising campaigns for Alka-Seltzer and Braniff International, an airline company. Due to her success with these two campaigns, in 1967, Interpublic offered Wells a lengthy contract with an eighty-thousand-dollars-per-year contract. Wells refused, and immediately opened her own agency, Wells, Rich, Greene Inc. Braniff International immediately employed Wells's new firm, although after Harding Lawrence, head of Braniff International, married Wells, her company no longer represented the airline because of a conflict of interest.

Wells, Rich, Greene Inc. quickly became one of the most important advertising agencies in the world. The company had contracts totaling more than thirty million dollars by the end of 1967, its first year in business. Wells, now Lawrence, earned $225,000 per year and was the highest paid woman in American business in 1967. By 1971, the company had more than 100 million dollars in contracts. Due to Lawrence's success in advertising, in 1969, she became the youngest person ever inducted into the Copywriter's Hall of Fame. In 1971, the American Advertising Federation named Lawrence the Advertising Executive of the Year. Her firm represented such notable clients as Alka-Seltzer, Procter & Gamble, Benson and Hedges, and Philip Morris, among others.

Lawrence eventually retired to France.

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