This video of George Lois was shot by GQ’s Design Director Fred Woodward for the 2004 SPD awards. George conceived and designed all those iconic Esquire covers from the 60’s (cover archive here).

From a story on Lois and the hit show Mad Men over on Fast Company (here):

So what happened to the great advertising of the sixties? It continued into the seventies but slowly got taken over by the Saatchis and guys who were buying up agencies. Before you knew it, all the creative agencies were bought. Most advertising today is group grope. The marketing people decide what a point of view should be, then they go out and test it and they come back with all kinds of opinions about strategy. That’s fed down to the copywriter and art director who are stuck with that whole approach. It’s an art but they’ve made it a science. Every businessperson today has gone to marketing school, business school or communication classes. How are you going to teach advertising? With the way I worked, a client can give me everything they know about something and then I go away and come back with advertising that knocks them out of their chair. They finally understand what kind of a company they are.

…mostly today, I could name you brands that spent a half a billion or a billion a year on advertising and I could say to you, “Okay, give me what they say in their advertising–give me the words or the visual of what their message is, and you couldn’t tell me what the fuck they do. I could name every car in America and I couldn’t tell you what the fuck their advertising is. Every beer brand, you would confuse every commercial for every other.

Thanks, BoSacks.

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  1. im reading this interesting book now
    “ad land” the global history of advertising by mark tungate
    check it out


  2. Sorry for the rant you’re about to read, but you caught me on a good day:

    I came to magazine publishing from a career in advertising as an art director. And, for the most part, advertising is sorely missing guys like Lois. I was lucky enough to get into the business right before computers became such an integral part of the creative process – I’m old enough to have cut my teeth on hand-built mechanicals, but the fully digital production process took over pretty quickly.

    But my point is this: I can watch just about any TV commercial or look at a print ad and be able to tell you if: 1) there was an actual creative team behind it and 2) if the ad started out on a layout pad with a marker or a monitor screen. It’s embarrassing what’s being passed and paid for as good advertising these days. Now THAT makes me sound old. And if it makes me sound like Lois, well, then I’m flattered. Really.

    How does this all relate to photography? A great idea, or “the big idea” as Donny Deutsch has so blatantly taken from us and fouled, has the ability to make the art of a great image an accessible and memorable one. Great advertising allows photographers to make career-defining images that are seen in the most common of venues for the average joe on the street. And done right, that image is connected to a memorable and impactful idea that’s easily recalled.

    There’s a difference between a designer and an advertising art director: the designer solves problems graphically and the art director solves problems with an idea. The great designers and ADs can do both, but claim one. Photographers can benefit from both, but a great shooter knows the difference between the two and understands what’s really behind the assignment when it finally gets to him/her – I just wish the agency life was still as exciting as it was in Lois’ heyday…

  3. Amazing!!!! I wonder if concept covers will ever return, to mainstream?

  4. George’s authentic approach is the reason I have one of his quotes as the signature of all my emails. They all end with:

    “Creativity can solve almost any problem.
    The creative act, the defeat of habit by
    originality, overcomes everything”
    – George Lois

  5. I was very familiar with his work before this video and now I understand it better. You can see how this huge personality is communicated through his art direction. Thanks!

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