Lee Clow usually prefers to let the work speak for itself.
And what a body of work he's produced. Across half a century, almost all of it at what is now TBWA\Chiat\Day, the art director from West Los Angeles has built a reputation as one of industry's towering figures—one of the all-time greats, in the company of Bernbach and Wieden.
His iconic ads for brands like Apple, Adidas, Energizer and Gatorade are some of the most famous work ever made. In particular, his 30-year relationship with Steve Jobs—producing classics like "1984" and "Think Different"—is the stuff of legend. (Jobs once said Clow could see the brand like no one else—more clearly than Apple itself—and called working with Lee "one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.")
Clow is famously reticent about all this. But this year, on the occasion of Chiat/Day's 50th anniversary, he agreed to talk about it all—but just this once.
I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Lee at his Rancho Palos Verdes home for several days in September to chat about his career. Recordings of those conversations—and one more in New York, on stage at Advertising Week—are the basis of a new podcast called "Lee Clow Will Only Say This Once."
The idea was for Lee to field 50 questions from the industry—from friends and colleagues, but also through social media. We mostly stuck to this, though we surely went over 50.
And why not? Lee has plenty of great stories to tell, from his early years at Chiat, including his unconventional campaign to convince then-creative director Hy Yablonka to hire him, through his most classic campaigns all the way to his recent years spearheading TBWA's purpose-driven unit MAL\For Good.
Along the way, he touches on issues big and small, opening up about everything from his creative process, to TBWA's 1995 acquisition of Chiat/Day, to the diversity problem in the ad business, to his favorite social media feeds.
I'd like to say a big thank-you to TBWA—particularly Erica Samadani, Ewan Anderson and Nicole Alexander, as well as everyone else who worked on this project—for recording and producing the podcast. And of course, many thanks to Lee for taking the time to share his wisdom.
And listen up, because he's only going to say this once.