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A Big Life in Advertising At first, Mary Wells Lawrence's memoir, A Big Life in Advertising (Knopf, $26), seems a mess--the chronology jumps all around, few firm dates are...A Big Life in AdvertisingNonfiction At first, Mary Wells Lawrence's memoir, A Big Life in Advertising (Knopf, $26), seems a mess--the chronology jumps all around, few firm dates are...2002-05-24Knopf

A Big Life in Advertising

Genre: Nonfiction; Author: Mary Wells Lawrence; Publisher: Knopf

At first, Mary Wells Lawrence’s memoir, A Big Life in Advertising (Knopf, $26), seems a mess–the chronology jumps all around, few firm dates are cited, the prose is florid and absurdly self-glorifying: The cofounder of Wells Rich Greene ad agency describes herself as “brave and blond” and her eyes as “limpid, sexy brown.” But you keep reading because, you realize, this woman who helped create hugely successful ad campaigns from the ’60s onward (from Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz” ads to the “I Love [heart symbol] New York” campaign) is selling herself, and she writes like the shrewd, cajoling copywriter she is. The book takes off: Her unguarded emotions, whether it’s her passion for pulling all-nighters to come up with a slogan or her pique at being called a corporate “Uncle Tom” by no less than Gloria Steinem, give her autobiography the sort of energy and passion few books about business ever achieve. A- –KT