Creative Hall of Fame

Lee Clow

Inducted: 1997

There are only two people I've ever worked with in advertising who can stand in a war room papered with a thousand ideas that run the gamut from awful to promising and, without seeming to think or ponder, point to The One that's right, that will work, that will make the clients rich and the agency famous.

Lee Clow is one of them.
(Don't worry, Phil, you'll get in here one of these days.)

Lee is first, foremost, at some genetic or even sub-atomic level, an Art Director. He reacts viscerally to both ugliness and beauty, and focuses all his considerable powers on bringing the latter out of the former.

A denizen of Chiat once dubbed him "Art Director of the World." He'll redesign buildings while walking down the street, re-route freeways that don't look right, re-concept rental cars at the airport, revise billboards seen from his car window and magazine ads from his plane seat.

He's assaulted by the sheer ugliness of things, as if he sees bad design and bad ideas as the most immediately life-threatening form of pollution, and good advertising and communication as his own personal environmental protection act.

Lee's done some of the most memorable advertising on the planet, from the Apple "1984" commercial-still considered the best commercial ever created-to Nike and the introduction of "Air Jordan," to the Energizer bunny and its current "Spotters" spots, to the recent Nissan "Enjoy the ride" campaign that once again has people hitting the volume instead of the mute buttons on their remotes during commercial breaks.

More than any other single individual, Lee has made Chiat/Day a great agency. He's broadened its style, deepened its talent pool and created a culture that will go on doing great work for generations beyond his time. And, he was the only human on the planet who could reason with Jay.

All of which has required that Lee play a dozen roles in the agency's history, from chief financial officer and stock planner to director of client services to media director to head of personnel. I'll never forget the day he was made president of Chiat/Day and had to make a trip to the bank. What did the bankers think of this bearded guy in shorts and sandals whose signature was going on the paychecks and upon whose tanned, hair-draped shoulders rested a billion or so in media investments?

But Lee is a leader. Even bankers can see that. Clients certainly have, as have the hundreds of people who've worked with and for him at the agency. He's the guy with an internal guidance system that never fails, the guy you want at the helm in a storm. He's easily the most articulate art director on the planet. In fact, he's come up with more great lines than most of the copywriters I know. Like "Good enough isn't good enough," emblazoned now on fifteen generations of Chiat/Day T-shirts. "A mistake is just another way of doing things," which has a Yogi Berra quality to it. And my all time favorite, "The best revenge is a better ad."

Which brings us to how Lee talks. Like most great art-directors, he's not big on long headlines and ten dollar words. And when clients and account people and planners talk to him about the latest paradigm shift of managed chaos or coopetition or any of the other buzzwords that grace the pages of the Harvard Business Review, he will tend to ask, "What does that mean?" So the conversation quickly moves to what's really important and what will really work. This is called intelligence. Because when you work with Lee, the thinking behind the communication has to be as elegant and smart as the work itself.

When Chiat/Day became TBWA Chiat/Day, the Ad World tsk-tsked over its lattes about the end of an era. Omniglob had swallowed another great independent agency. But then a very interesting thing happened. The work got better. Largely because Lee could stop worrying about rent and overhead and credit lines and stock plans and get back to doing the work.

The only bad thing about the merger was that it forced Lee to spend more time in New York. For years I've tried to convince him that Manhattan is really just the world's largest reef of human coral. But he still hates the place and will suffer endless red-eyes to minimize his time here and get back to the beach. So what's his thing about the beach? Well, first of all, it's clean. It's economical. It's perfectly designed. And it embodies the most powerful ideas in the universe: life, force, being and becoming.

One long ago midnight, I was walking down a hall bedecked with more good work than I've ever sees any other advertising agency produce-and this was for a pitch-and he said quietly, "We know how to do this stuff."

Lee, at least, does indeed know how to do this stuff. And what's more impressive than any single accolade or honorific is that he's been doing it for thirty years-he did it yesterday, and, once he gets his funny suit off, he'll be doing it tomorrow.
World Gallery Agency: TBWA Media Arts Lab Client: Apple Category: Poster / Billboard for Advertising / Outdoor Year: 2016
History of Sound Agency: TBWAMedia Arts Lab Client: Apple Category: Craft (Press & Broadcast) / Cinematography Year: 2016
World Gallery Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Category: Consumer - Ambient Media (Indoor & Outdoor) / Billboards or Transit - Campaign Year: 2016
History of Sound Agency: Stink / Los Angeles + TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Music Category: Craft - Direction / Direction Year: 2016
History of Sound Agency: Stink / Los Angeles + TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Music Category: Craft - Cinematography / Cinematography Year: 2016
World Gallery Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Category: Craft - Photography - Single or Series / Photography - Single or Series Year: 2016
Color Bars Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Category: Consumer - Ambient Media (Indoor & Outdoor) / Billboards or Transit - Campaign Year: 2016
World Gallery TV Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Category: Consumer - Television / 20 Second & Under - Campaign Year: 2016
World Gallery Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Category: Consumer - Magazine / Full Page or Spread - Campaign Year: 2016
1.24.14 Agency: TBWA\\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Category: Online / Short Form Year: 2015
30 Years of Mac Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles + Apple / Cupertino + Tool / Santa Monica Client: Apple Category: User Experience Design - Web / Design Craft Year: 2014
Misunderstood Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Category: Consumer Television / Over 60 second - Single Year: 2014
30 Years of Mac Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles + Apple / Cupertino + Tool / Santa Monica Client: Apple Category: User Experience Design - Web / User Experience Year: 2014
Misunderstood Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Category: Video Craft / Direction Year: 2014
Intention Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles Client: Apple Category: Online Films & Video / Short Form - Single Year: 2014
Back Pages Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Culver City Client: Apple Category: Magazine / Full Page or Spread - Campaign Year: 2013

2016 Advertising Gold Cube

TBWA Media Arts Lab

Apple

World Gallery

Poster / Billboard for Advertising / Outdoor

ADC16017G

2016 Advertising Silver Cube

TBWAMedia Arts Lab

Apple

History of Sound

Craft (Press & Broadcast) / Cinematography

ADC16005S

2016 Print & Outdoor Bronze Pencil

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple

World Gallery

Consumer - Ambient Media (Indoor & Outdoor) / Billboards or Transit - Campaign

PO16031B

2016 Film Silver Pencil

Stink / Los Angeles + TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple Music

History of Sound

Craft - Direction / Direction

FI16072S

2016 Film Gold Pencil

Stink / Los Angeles + TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple Music

History of Sound

Craft - Cinematography / Cinematography

FI16080G

2016 Design Merit Award

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple

World Gallery

Craft - Photography - Single or Series / Photography - Single or Series

DE16251M

2016 Print & Outdoor Merit Award

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple

Color Bars

Consumer - Ambient Media (Indoor & Outdoor) / Billboards or Transit - Campaign

PO16159M

2016 Film Merit Award

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple

World Gallery TV

Consumer - Television / 20 Second & Under - Campaign

FI16143M

2016 Print & Outdoor Merit Award

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple

World Gallery

Consumer - Magazine / Full Page or Spread - Campaign

PO16102M

2015 Branded Entertainment Merit Award

TBWA\\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple

1.24.14

Online / Short Form

151084A

2014 Interactive Gold Pencil

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles + Apple / Cupertino + Tool / Santa Monica

Apple

30 Years of Mac

User Experience Design - Web / Design Craft

141192N

2014 Advertising Silver Pencil

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple

Misunderstood

Consumer Television / Over 60 second - Single

141193A

2014 Interactive Silver Pencil

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles + Apple / Cupertino + Tool / Santa Monica

Apple

30 Years of Mac

User Experience Design - Web / User Experience

140078N

2014 Advertising Merit Award

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple

Misunderstood

Video Craft / Direction

141195A

2014 Interactive Merit Award

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Los Angeles

Apple

Intention

Online Films & Video / Short Form - Single

141194N

2013 Advertising Merit Award

TBWA\Media Arts Lab / Culver City

Apple

Back Pages

Magazine / Full Page or Spread - Campaign

13141A

 

 

 

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