Last week we lost another pioneer of technology with the passing of Andy Grove.
I can’t say I knew Andy well. I can only speak of him anecdotally, as I was part of his ad agency creative team for four years-plus in the early 2000s.
At that time, Andy was more of a spiritual adviser than a day-to-day leader. He was chairman, and Craig Barrett was CEO. Together, the two would sit in judgment at our creative presentations.
I was a bit star-struck when I first met Andy. Though I was always a Mac person (yes, even when I was making Intel ads), it was hard to look at Andy without marveling at the industry he helped spawn.
I had come to this job directly from my time at Apple’s agency in the Think different days, and I was in shock over how differently the two companies worked.
Steve Jobs was intimately involved with campaign development. We had regular meetings and almost daily emails and phone calls. In contrast, meetings with Andy and Craig were arranged by the marketing team, and even then only when a campaign was deemed worthy of the bosses’ time. There was no initial briefing from them, no checkpoints along the way, no contact at all until the final presentation.
Intel’s huge leap in marketing came with the “Intel Inside” campaign. Though it’s grown incredibly tired today, this campaign does hold a place of honor in technology marketing history. It was by advertising the processor inside the PC as a consumer product that Intel became the global powerhouse it is today. It was a huge, bold leap.
Intel’s then-marketing chief, Dennis Carter, has always received credit for the birth of this campaign. But Fortune has a very nice article about Andy Grove (recommended reading), and they report that it was Andy who put his weight behind the campaign when others objected. That’s certainly a feather in his marketing cap.
In my limited experience with Andy, I got a sense of his leadership style. In every meeting, he seemed duty-bound to deliver the one zinger that would make people question what they were doing. He was also capable of rejecting work with gusto.
By all reports, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs had deep respect for one another. One of the great stories out there is the one about Steve calling Andy for advice when he was thinking about returning to Apple in 1997. Reportedly, the conversation went like this:
While Steve was running through his pros and cons, Grove stopped him and bluntly said, “Steve, I don’t give a s**t about Apple.”
“I was stunned. It was then that I realized that I do give a s**t about Apple. That was when I decided to go back,” Jobs said of the life-changing exchange.
So I suppose we can thank Andy for helping Steve see the light.
I can’t offer a ton of detail about their relationship. But two experiences—one with each—have stuck with me all these years.
When I was working with Steve on Apple’s advertising, long before Apple moved to Intel processors, I got wind of a rumor that Steve was going to be speaking at an internal Intel marketing event. I was stunned. We had just done a series of ads mocking Intel processors, and Intel was not at all happy about it.
During my next conversation with Steve, I asked if the rumor could possibly be true. I remember his answer word for word: “I think the world of Andy Grove, and I would do anything he asks me to do.”
That surprised me. Yet another facet of Steve’s personality revealed.
Fast forward a few years to the day Steve unveiled the iMac G3 (the cool snow-white lampshade model). By this time, I was working on the Intel business but Steve was still inviting me to attend the big product unveilings.
The timing was perfect because I could see the show at Moscone Center in San Francisco, then drive south to attend an afternoon meeting we’d set up with Andy Grove at Intel.
When I arrived at Intel, I was taken to the meeting room. Andy was already seated and he was reading the Internet coverage of the new iMac G3. Those were the good old days when secrets could actually be kept, and the world had no idea what Steve was going to announce that day. As Steve planned, that secrecy ensured that the buzz would be in overdrive afterward.
But Andy wasn’t in the mood to admire. In fact, he was pretty sour about it. It was the topic of conversation for those in the room at that point, and Andy was clearly agitated. That’s when he delivered an excellent line, which I also remember vividly: “Steve Jobs,” he scowled. “10% of the market and 90% of the PR.”
This seemed out of character for the man Steve had pledged to help any way he could. One would think that after all these years, Andy would have accepted “Steve being Steve.” But hey, maybe he was just having a bad day.
Now if I could only remember if he liked our work that day…
Tags: andy grove