Currently worldwide creative director and chairman for TBWA\Chiat\Day, Lee Clow’s dynamism and staying power has never been in doubt. Teaming up with Jay Chiat back in the 70s, he went on to create some of advertising’s most innovative and memorable campaigns – such as 1984 for Macintosh. His work has changed the very nature of the industry and pushed creativity into the limelight where it had always belonged….
It was a few years after Chiat\Day opened for business that Lee Clow came knocking at its door. An art director at NW Ayers at the time, Clow was tired of the creative restraint and narrow thinking that surrounded him. As a result, Clow was drawn to Chiat\Day’s unique and riveting forms of advertising.
It was also one of the first agencies to open and have its headquarters based in Los Angeles. It was 1968 and Jay Chiat had recently formed the agency with Guy Day. They were an unconventional pair who snubbed traditional advertising with a certain amount of glee.
Clow recalls: “Agencies were very much in the New York Mad Men mould back then. The account guys were in charge and the creative teams were second class citizens. When Chiat\Day opened it was like no other agency out there. It was the only place that seemed receptive to creative thinking.”
Chiat\Day prided itself on its non-conformist attitude, constantly tinkering with advertising’s expectations. Jay Chiat even pulled a masterful stunt landing Western Harness Racing as a client when he first opened the agency. He bet its president that he would raise attendance by 15 per cent if they gave him their business. Needless to say, Chiat kept the client.
Clow himself related to the agency’s attitude. A sunburned and stoked surfer at the time, he admits that, “Surfers were more like pirates compared to the jocks on the football team. It was the exact same non-conformist attitude with Chiat\Day. Surfing is an individual sport where you have to develop your own creative skills and work with this beautiful, natural force. Surfing shaped my creativity, my individuality.”
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