Nov 09

A big hand for Lee Clow


He's been behind the most amazing work for decades

Lee Clow is stepping down as the leader of the Media Arts Lab at Chiat, which is the group devoted to Apple’s advertising. He will, of course, remain the global creative chief of Chiat and in that capacity will still be involved with Apple.

So let us not speak of Lee in the past tense. But absolutely, let’s take a moment to give him the huge credit he deserves for his devotion to Apple and undying love of great creative. He played a huge role in making Apple what it is today, and for setting what many companies see as the gold standard in advertising.

It was a dark time in 1997. So dark, Apple stock was more like kryptonite than the platinum it’s become. Every day, there were more takeover rumors. Steve Jobs had just returned from exile and regained control of the company. First order of business on the marketing side was to blow up the agency review process that his predecessor had started. No time for that. Life signs were dangerously faint. Steve narrowed the choices to Chiat  in LA (his old agency when Macintosh was born) and Arnold in Boston (VW’s old agency, who had wowed Steve with a very cool video). Chiat won.

It would be folly to suggest that Lee didn’t see this as a great business opportunity. But if ever there was a moment of pure passion in the ad biz, this was it. Lee was driven by his love of Apple, his respect for Steve and the opportunity to re-create the magic of the birth of the Mac.

Lee’s talent, as it has been for decades, is to create defining moments for a variety of clients, including Nike and Nissan. That’s exactly what he’s done with Apple. It’s Lee who enlists and discovers the most amazing people, and let’s them do what they’re capable of. Once or twice you might say it’s a fluke. Year after year, for over 30 years, not so much.

So let all Apple enthusiasts appreciate what this man has done. From Apple II to Macintosh to iMac, iPod and iPhone, Lee’s been there every step of the way. And now he’s stepping back. Duncan Milner is officially taking over the day-to-day executive creative duties at Media Arts. Knowing him well, I can assure you that this jewel of advertising is in very good hands. Thanks Lee, and godspeed Duncan.

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  • as this business seems to be going through a dark metamorphosis, people like Lee will be, of course, missed, but even sadder, there are fewer cut from the same cloth to replenish the herd… that stock seems to be dwindling as this sea-change alters the once-familiar shoreline…

    thanks Lee, for all the great work, and godspeed indeed, Duncan…

  • first ive got to say that your blog has provided me with some of the most refreshing advertisement commentary i have ever read. Though of course i am only 18 and my knowledge of the entire market is somewhat scarce; i still love your wit and enthusiasm for a good ad and passion or distaste at a bad one! i feel i share it and am constantly raging at a badly thought up ad and praising a tactful, witty and clever advertisement that makes me second guess (not sure that that is the right frase) for example i had the exact same reaction to the black berry ads with the Beatles song in it. there is something really nice about an ad that hits home its like an ice cream on a hot day or finishing a literature exam that is worth 40% of your overall year 12 mark, it is exciting when good writing awesome photography feet taping music and a brilliant product come together in a piece de resistaunce ( again spelling is not a talent of mine) they make you want to go out and buy said product. i must again commend you for your blog as it has been my occupation for the last two an a half hours and i hope to revisit at some stage or other as i simply just had to read all of your posts i look forward to future ones

    p.s. this was my first post on a blog probably requiring exclamations of yay and woop but im to cool for that . . . right

    p.p.s. wow that was a long comment of no relevance to the topic sorry

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  • Don

    What can I say, but thanks Lee. Job well done!

  • ken segall

    @jack crosby:
    This is excellent. A fresh young mind to corrupt. Thanks for visiting! Hopefully you’ll get something out of your time here, not just from me but from the insightful people that leave their comments. If the creative part of advertising gets you that excited, you should definitely look into trying it out as an occupation. It’s a good way to surround yourself with smart, creative people that stretch your thinking. Good luck,

  • twobyte

    The clearest marketing message ever:

    On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984”.