Mr. Lawner, 52, got sold on advertising in the late 1960s when a professor at Adelphi University invited a copywriter and an art director to address his advertising class.
"A light went off," Mr. Lawner said. "I'd never written anything in my life, but these guys were wearing T-shirts and jeans, and were doing something that sounded cool and were earning a pretty decent living."
Mr. Lawner graduated in 1970, majoring in marketing, but found getting a job wasn't easy. He paid the bills by driving a taxi and free-lancing while he shopped his sample portfolio around Manhattan.
At 27, Mr. Lawner landed his first agency job at Schneider-Parker, Boston. He was fired six months later -- his boss said he couldn't write.
Mr. Lawner returned to free-lancing, then went crosstown to Ingalls Associates for four years. He then migrated to Humphrey Browning MacDougall, where he first worked with Mr. Eskandarian, and started on his first national account: Keds.
Several acquisitions later, the agency was bought by Euro RSCG, now owned by Havas.
The agency's name was later changed to Lawner Reingold Britton, and Mr. Lawner took the title chairman-chief creative officer. In 1992, that shop was sold to Arnold, and he became chief creative officer.
In 1995, Arnold snagged Volkswagen of America, and Mr. Lawner's "Drivers wanted" tag was launched. He also dreamed up "Talbots: It's a classic" for the women's retailer and "EMC: It's where technology lives" for the data storage company.