Sunday, February 19, 2012

"George, be careful."

          We don't hear much about him on "Mad Men", but the most vocal art director of the day was George Lois.

           "If you're not a bad boy, if you're not a big pain in the ass, then what you are is some mush, in this business", George said. He had very low regard for mush.

           George Lois started his career at CBS, where graphic design was king. He moved from there to the advertising agency that started the Creative Revolution, Doyle Dane Bernbach. He worked on the Volkswagen "bus" account and did remarkable work stressing its practicality. George created ads that compared it to a shoebox.

            From DDB, he carried the torch of Bill Bernbach's ideas to three ad agencies of his own. His clients included MTV, Maypo, Naugahyde, Tommy Hilfiger, Harvey Probber furniture, and a number of airlines and cosmetics. He's the one who did a pantyhose commercial with Joe Namath. George was also hired by Esquire magazine to create its covers each month, which he did for two years. He approached the project as "ads for the articles inside"; very provocative, they're on permanent exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

            Here's what George wrote in 1991: "Advertising, an art, is constantly besieged and compromised by logicians and technocrats, the scientists of our profession who wildly miss the main point about everything we do---that the product of advertising, after all, is advertising."

            Another quote from Mr. Lois: "Advertising has no rules. What it always needs more than 'rules' is unconstipated thinking."

            You can see him and actually get to appreciate him even more in the documentary film, "Art and Copy."

            When George first went into advertising, his dad cautioned him to be careful. Today he's one of the reasons every ordinary art director better be careful and get out of the way of those who want to make great advertising.


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