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A Big Life In Advertising [Anglais] [Broché]

Mary Lawrence

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Chapter One

I was working at McCann Erickson for the money, for little black dance dresses that showed off my Norwegian legs, for my baby daughters' smocked dresses from Saks and for an apartment larger than I could afford -- but then I met Bill Bernbach and he made a serious woman out of me. In the fifties in New York if you talked about "Bill" you meant Bill Bernbach. He was the talk of the town because he was creating a revolution in the advertising business, which was a glamorous business at the time. He challenged all the big advertising agencies that had become important since World War II, saying they had killed advertising, ads had become dishonest, boring, insulting, even insane. Worse, they didn't sell anything to anybody. The big agencies defended themselves; they said they made advertising scientifically, with sophisticated research. But Bill said either they were liars or they were stupid; their pitiful research reduced advertising to, basically, one poor tired ad that was repeated over and over again. When he really got going he would say things like, "The big agencies are turning their creative people into mimeograph machines!" and all the frustrated creative people in town would stamp their feet and cheer, "Yea, Bill!"

The advertising business, like America itself after the war, had built up the fiction of safety with its hierarchies and armylike respect for the boss. In the big agencies the boss was a group of executives called the Creative Review Board. Their research told them that America hungered for happiness and peace, so they produced advertising that was happy and peaceful. Children were always clean and smiling. Dogs were clean and smiling. Firemen, police, farmers and coal miners were clean and smiling. Everybody waved to each other in the ads. Beautiful women stretched out on the roofs of cars in their gowns and jewels and furs to make the cars look prettier. Bottles of whiskey wore crowns and stood proudly on red velvet columns pretending they were the Duke of Windsor. Bill was right; advertising was the land of the insane. There was never any direct personal communication, never any tension or drama or interesting information in them, but those ads, based on spurious research, had been touted so long as scientific that Bill was seditious criticizing them.

He had galloped out of the Grey agency to set advertising free with a little gold mine of people: Ned Doyle, Mac Dane, Bob Gage and Phyllis Robinson. They opened an agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach, and set about changing the way advertising looked, what it said, how it sounded; they even felt free to change the product or the company that made the product if that was what it took to have a success. Bill gave lectures to the press. Radiating moral gravity, he would tell them that the big agencies had it all wrong: "Advertising is not a science, it is persuasion, and persuasion is an art, it is intuition that leads to discovery, to inspiration, it is the artist who is capable of making the consumer feel desire."

He utterly bewildered the big agencies. They asked each other, "Why is this guy making a ruckus and disturbing the peace? Who is this Bill Bernbach?" Pretty soon everybody knew who Bill was. It was as if he had cordoned off Madison Avenue and set up a stage where he called for advertising to be honest and candid, smarter and more interesting. He demanded bolder language, humor, wit and stylish design. He said, "All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize society or we can help lift it to a higher level." When Doyle Dane Bernbach's first ads began to appear, they were as effective as Bill promised they would be, and after that, in the advertising business, there was no turning back and Bill was the star.

Phyllis Robinson was his copy chief and when I went to my interview for a job with her I was not optimistic. I knew how the work I had done at the large, traditional McCann Erickson agency would look to Doyle Dane Bernbach. I was dying to work there, partly because everybody was dying to work there, it was the hot spot, the place to be, but also, although my mind was still a young and silly place, because I thought Bill's revolution was the most important event of my life. If he had been John the Baptist I could not have been more enraptured. I spent days creating pretend ads to suggest that I was more talented than what my portfolio of real samples had to show. I arrived much too early. When Phyllis finally came out to the waiting room to collect me I had become frail, I could have fallen to my knees. She, on the other hand, was like the lead angel in an opera, tall, handsome, strong, brimming with energy and humor and purpose, an honest-to-goodness adult, she swept me into her office and turned her intelligence on me like a beam from outer space. Seeing how overimpressed I was, she eased down into the role of a friend and did all she could to help me with the interview. "Oh, this is interesting," she said, "yes, mmmm, good, tell me all about this," and I melted into adoration.

Copyright © 2002 by Mary L. Book Corp.

Revue de presse

Stuart Elliott The New York Times Book Review Evocative and compelling...frank and forthright...You don't have to be in advertising to appreciate a big life in advertising.

The New Yorker [I]nsouciant, ebullient and, above all, stylish...the result is that most unusual of books -- an entertaining business memoir.

Alan Pell Crawford The Washington Post Book World [A] first-rate look at a special moment in the history of American advertising and American business.

Richard Stengel Time As engaging, effervescent and brave as the ads she created.

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I was working at McCann Erickson for the money, for little black dance dresses that showed off my Norwegian legs, for my baby daughter's smocked dresses from Saks and for an apartment larger than I could afford-but then I met Bill Bernbach and he made a serious woman out of me. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.6 étoiles sur 5  22 commentaires
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Should appeal to a wide range of readers. 22 octobre 2004
Par frumiousb - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I was not expecting a lot from this book. It was recommended to me, and I picked it up in a half-hearted way. I thought it was something that I would breeze through and forget about. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. I found it a book that I both enjoyed reading and would recommend. At least, I would recommend it with some reservations.

The good sides of the book appear in her instructive stories about the advertising business. Lawrence brings the message across very clearly that advertising is relationship driven. A successful agency must focus on relationships both with the client and with the intended audience. Lawrence gives an example of success achieved by taking that focus to its limits.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect (and one that should appeal to students of business history) is advertising reception at a time that was much less marketing saturated than we are today. She had an opportunity to be a giant with emerging technology and in an emerging field. It makes for terrific reading.

My reservation about the book has to do with the writing quality. Her tone is extremely chatty. At the beginning, I tripped over the awkwardness of the prose. The organisational principle of the book was vague. Timeframes shift without warning or explanation. Finally, while the mix of personal and business anecdotes was entertaining, there were times that it moved far too swiftly from one to another. Still, she gets points for writing this book on her own and not with a ghost writer. I have the feeling that the reader was better off with its flaws than with a more inauthentic voice.

I am not in the advertising field, and I really enjoyed the book. People interested in one of the following areas should find something here: media, advertising, entrepeneurship, women in industry, business history, or pop culture. It also has a great can-do view of the world, inspiring to anyone who needs a push towards success.
15 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 BIG - but still a secret from the rest of us! 22 mai 2002
Par middlemoo - Publié sur
This is a worthwhile book for anyone interested in business in general, and advertising specifically. Mary Wells Lawrence relates the "facts" of her professional life story well, and even delves a little bit into her personal life. The keys/reminders of how the best business relationships are forged are peppered among tales of how she WON the business, almost LOST clients and then miraculously redeemed the situation, and this adds drama and sometimes makes for compelling reading. She never goes beneath the surface, however, and ultimately this wasn't as satisfying a read as I'd hoped for. She might have revealed some of her worst FLUBS, as well - disasters tend to be even more revealing than successes, and we certainly learn more from failure! She also rarely tells her own emotional "take" on the events of her life - After reading this, I have no doubt that she's had A BIG LIFE - but she's holding back so much, the reader is never "clued in" as to what REALLY matters in this BIG LIFE of hers!?
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Less than Meets the Eye 26 octobre 2002
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Narcissism never had it so good. The personal pronoun is overdone even though this is an autobiography. This book lacks context in almost every instance. Years from now, many readers will remember that Mary Wells and Harding Lawrence had a grand time living on the French Riviera and the Caribbean. They won't have more than a clue how the couple worked together on Braniff (which went bankrupt), or how Mary came to claim and reclaim the Continental Airlines account (bankrupt a couple of times) or felt about a client with little chances for long-term success, American Motors (bought-out before it could go bankrupt). (See the pattern here?) The writing is sometimes a twisted jumble -- one can almost envision the author speaking into a tape recorder as she "wrote" this book. If you're inclined to get this volume, a used paperback will suffice.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A "Big" Life Indeed 30 mai 2002
Par Robert Morris - Publié sur
I was especially interested in reading this memoir after having recently read Byron's study of Martha Stewart, curious to learn what Lawrence and Stewart seem to share in common (both professionally and personally) and to learn, also, to what extent they differ. Predictably, "that depends" at which point in time correlations are drawn Both have exceptional intelligence and energy, a flare for drama, uncommon business acumen, and a passion to succeed...especially in a business world (then and now) dominated by men. It is important to keep in mind, however, that this book is a memoir from Lawrence's perspective whereas Byron's book (which apparently has infuriated Stewart) offers his perspective (not hers) on arguably the world's most successful businesswoman. Presumably at some point, Stewart will tell her own story just as others such as Bob Knight, Vernon Jordan, Jack Welch, and Sumner Redstone have in their own recently published memoirs.
Lawrence did indeed have a :"big life in advertising," founding and then heading her own firm (Wells Rich Greene) for more than 30 years. Of special interest to me is what she has to say about the corporate leadership and management principles which guided and informed her during her three decades as a CEO. I agree with Ruth Shalit's characterization of that style as being "the CEO as It Girl, a jingle-writing, brand-building, Holly Golightly" but as Shalit then observes, "Ms. Wells Lawrence's blend of female emotionalism and careerist cunning is unlikely to delight management theorists or university synmposiasts." In this instance, Lawrence really does seem to be "one of a kind," as is Herb Kelleher, but surely there is much more to their success (in two of the most ferociously competitive marketplaces) than having a powerful personality. Lawrence will charm most of her readers, just as she must have charmed most of those with whom she was associated during the Wells Rich Greene period. Her agency is deservedly renowned for memorable campaigns to promote products such as Alka-Selzer, Pringles, and Bic lighters. Lawrence had a flair which characterized her agency and its work for such clients. She also had uncommon courage which she demanded of others: "I wanted a heroic agency. I dared everybody to be bold, to be thrilling, and I dared our clients to be bold and thrilling." (Her courage later proved to be a decisive factor during her battle with cancer.) Over time, the terms of engagement and criteria for measuring success in the advertising world changed. Calling herself "an old fashioned girl," Lawrence decided to sell her agency.
In certain respects, her account of the agency's final years under her leadership reminds me of the major changes which occurred as film studios were absorbed by multi-media international conglomerates. There was no longer any appropriate role for the "characters" who once ruled those studios, notably Goldwyn, Mayer, Zanuck, Cohn, and Selznick. As did they, Lawrence lived a "big life" in her own industry for as along as possible and then moved on. Unlike most of the displaced moguls, however, she indicates no bitterness and few regrets. She now seeks what she once referred to as a "pink beach." In this memoir, she allows her readers to accompany her on the journey thus far. To those of us who encounter frustration during our own quest for happiness, she would probably recommend "Plop plop, fizz fizz...."
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Entertaining, but muddled. Where were the copy editors? 25 septembre 2007
Par Dr. Judith Frith - Publié sur
I love 1960s and 1970s advertising, so I enjoyed Mary Wells Lawrence's account of some of the best TV ads were created. YouTube proved great way to see some of the classics I had missed or wanted to see again.

Nevertheless, this book is so messy it's hard to believe it came from a major publisher. It seems not to have had an editor's hand at all. Wells starts the book with her first major job in advertising, which is fine, but then suddenly jumps back to her childhood on page 166. We then get her early life until page 193, when we leap back into the advertising world we left on page 165. What?

And, as another reviewer mentioned, the book is an absolute torrent of names: at some points, it feels like Wells has dumped the Manhattan phone book into her text. Most of these people you never get to know and they are never referred to again. Others just disappear: Wells' famous agency is called Wells Rich Greene, but I'm unable to find any mention of Rich or Greene after page 124 (the book is 300 pages long) and I'm not sure what happened to either one of them. Did they die? quit? change their names? In fact, after slogging through all those other people I met just once in this book, I had to check the index to remind myself what Rich and Greene's first names were. (Dick and Stew, for the record.)

Finally, one of the other reviewers mentioned Gloria Steinem's assertion that Wells "tommed her way to the top." You could argue about that, since Wells seems to have done excellent work in a male-dominated profession. But some of Wells' work featuring women stinks. She still thinks the "Braniff Strip" commercial, in which flight attendants were shown to take off various items of clothing as they served you drinks, was a jewel of an idea. Check that one out on YouTube and prepare to be offended.

All in all, I enjoyed this book, but it reads like something from a vanity press. Wells needed an editor with a strong hand. Doesn't Simon and Schuster employ those people any more?
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