After a legendary advertising career full of firsts, Mary Wells Lawrence will be the first woman to be honored with the Lion of St. Mark—the Cannes Lions’ prestigious lifetime achievement award—since it was instituted in 2011.
When she founded New York agency Wells Rich Greene in 1966, Wells Lawrence became the first woman to found, own and run a major ad agency. Two years later when the agency went public, she became the first woman CEO of a company traded through the New York Stock Exchange.
Wells Lawrence’s work resulted in some of the most recognizable ad jingles of the era with hits such as “Trust the Midas touch,” “I love New York” and Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop plop, fizz fizz.”
“Cannes Lions campaigns for creativity as a force for business but Mary was ahead of the game—she already knew this 50 years ago,” said Cannes Lions chairman Philip Thomas in a statement. “Her ability to inject entertainment and creativity into her advertising saw her transform the reputations and revenues of many a struggling brand.” That earned her “huge respect and admiration” within the industry.
Wells Lawrence was named Advertising Woman of the Year by the American Advertising Federation in 1971, and was inducted into the American Advertising Hall of Fame in 1999. She also published an autobiography, A Big Life (in Advertising), in 2002.
“I think my particular strength is my belief in passion,” said Wells Lawrence in a statement. She said the key to advertising for her has always been building an emotional connection to the importance of the product she’s selling.
“I want to leave you feeling about it—nervous if you are doing something else. Like falling in love,” Wells Lawrence said.
The award will be presented to Wells Lawrence on June 26, the last day of the festival’s four-day virtual event, Lions Live. The in-person festival was canceled this year due to the coronavirus.