Two ad industry icons walk into a party…

June 23, 2011, 5:42 PM UTC

Shelly Lazarus, left, meets Mary Wells for the first time. Credit:

Greetings from France, where I spoke at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival yesterday. Today there’s a certain reverence in the air. That’s because today would be David Ogilvy’s 100th birthday.

One of my favorite Postcards was David Ogilvy’s best advice for business — tips on leading and inspiring that the legendary ad man scrawled on a scrap of paper for me several years before he died in 1999. His advice is timeless and applies to any industry.

Today is a good day to share with you another sliver of Ogilvy lore: Shelly Lazarus, who learned advertising from the master and rose to run the firm that bears his name, recently met Mary Wells for the first time.

If you don’t know who Mary Wells is, you’re young. Wells was sort of a female version of David Ogilvy in the ’60s and ’70s — a game-changing creative pioneer who came up with “plop plop, fizz fizz” and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” for Alka-Setzer. At Wells Rich Greene — the first major firm with a woman’s name on the door — she delivered “I love New York,”and “Flic your Bic” and “Quality is Job One” for Ford .

“She made advertising modern. . .funny, a bit outrageous and totally unforgettable,” Lazarus says. Wells reportedly was the first woman CEO to have a company listed on the NYSE. And of course, she paved the way for women like Lazarus who was CEO of giant Ogilvy Group  for 11 years and is now its chairman.

The two women had plenty to catch up on when Lazarus presented the lifetime achievement award to Wells at the Advertising Education Foundation’s annual  dinner. “She did not disappoint,” says Lazarus. “She is a force of nature.”