Lee Clow (pictured), TBWA’s global director of media arts, and chairman and founder of TBWAMedia Arts Lab, is retiring. He will move into an advisory role as chairman emeritus of TBWAMedia Arts Lab, an agency which he founded in 2006 to serve Apple and to embody his vision of an agency that impacts culture, rather than just “make ads”.
Clow’s career, that started at ChiatDay in LA, spans five decades. It tells a story of “doing the brave thing,” with disruptive campaigns that epitomised “California cool”. He took ChiatDay’s “creatively audacious” style of advertising global when he helped lead the successful merger with TBWA, crystallising the agency’s reputation as the destination for creative professionals who want to do groundbreaking, iconic work.
During his time at TBWA, Clow partnered with Apple for over 30 years, from the launch of Macintosh in 1984 to the now-famous “Think Different (Here’s to the Crazy Ones)” campaign that launched the rebirth of Apple in 1997. During the past two decades he helped orchestrate Apple’s moves, into music with iPod and iTunes with the celebrated “Silhouettes” campaign, into phones with the category-redefining iPhone.
He also created the “campaign of the decade,” “Get a Mac (Mac versus PC).” Then, he helped Apple forge a whole new category with iPad. Most recently, Clow led the creative teams that launched Apple Music into the world, and worked on the introduction of Apple Watch. TBWAMedia Arts Lab will continue to serve Apple worldwide, led by global president Katrien De Bauw and global chief creative officer Brent Anderson.
Among the list of other iconic advertising campaigns Clow was responsible for include Taco Bell’s “Yo quiero Taco Bell”, Pedigree’s “Dogs Rule” and adidas’ “Impossible Is Nothing”.
He will remain involved in the agency’s social impact group, For Good, based in Los Angeles, where he will advise on select projects for clients who share his commitment to the planet, the people and animals that inhabit it. His decision to formally share the news with the industry on Valentine’s Day is a nod to Jay Chiat’s unconventional custom of sending Valentine’s Day cards to staff, colleagues and clients, instead of the expected, “Season’s Greetings,” typically dispatched during December holidays.
“The years I spent doing this thing called ‘advertising’ have been fun: challenging, rewarding, maddening—sometimes painful—but mostly, joyful. And I wouldn’t trade a day of it.” Clow said in his “Love Note to Advertising”.
Clow continues to work on a personal film project that tells the story behind some of the most famous and culture-altering advertising in history, recalling his 50 years at ChiatDay—the people, the work—and retelling how they did it.
“Clow will always be our creative conscience. He has given so much to our company and to our industry. His challenge to us, to do the brave thing, to disrupt, will continue to be our North Star. We all love you, Clow,” Troy Ruhanen, president and CEO, TBWAWorldwide said.
“Clow is one of the most talented and visionary leaders in our industry. Over the past five decades, he has built a foundation of creative excellence for the TBWA network that has distinguished the agency among its peers. On behalf of the Omnicom family, I would like to thank Clow for his invaluable leadership and significant contributions to our group,” chairman and CEO of Omnicom Group, John Wren, said.
“During his long partnership with Jobs and Apple, Clow told powerful visual stories that elevated new technologies with the passion, creativity and ingenuity that define our own humanity,” Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said. Cook added that Clow helped Apple carry itself through times of challenge, and his work inspired audiences to look beyond the horizon as an exciting future came into view.
“Clow’s body of work over five decades hums with cleverness, warmth and enthusiasm—and there is no doubt that it will inspire and motivate generations of ‘Crazy Ones’ still to come,” Cook said.