Chiat/Day (TBWA/Chiat/Day)

Published on .

Most Popular
Chiat/Day formed by merger of Jay Chiat & Associates and Faust/Day Advertising, 1968; merged with Hoefer, Dieterich & Brown to form Chiat/Day/Hoefer, 1980; name changed back to Chiat/Day, 1981; purchased Mojo MDA Group to form Chiat/Day/Mojo Advertising, 1989; sold Mojo MDA Group, 1992; merged with TBWA International to form TBWA Chiat/Day (later TBWA/Chiat/Day) and subsequently acquired by Omnicom Group, 1995.


Chiat/Day was created in 1968 by the merger of Jay Chiat & Associates, a Los Angeles shop founded by Jay Chiat in 1962, and California agency Faust/Day, under partner Guy Day. Mr. Day served as president of the merged agency for most of the next two decades, leaving in 1988.

Each of the parent agencies was small and focused on technical advertising for the computer industry. The combined agency numbered about 50 employees and won its first major account, Equitable Savings Bank, within a month. In 1970, the agency's ads for the community youth organization Direction Sports, featuring the provocative slogan "My hero, the pimp," won it attention. Among Chiat/Day's notable campaigns are 20-page magazine ads for Yamaha motorcycles (an unprecedented length for print ads) and the agency's Honda ads from the early 1970s, which won a host of awards. Mr. Chiat credited the agency's success in part to its Japan-based clients, such as Honda.

Chiat/Day did some of its best-regarded work in the 1980s. In 1983, it launched the first of its ads for sportswear manufacturer Nike, which initially wanted an upbeat, humorous campaign. Chiat/Day's campaign, however, featured sweaty, hard-working athletes wearing Nike attire and bearing the tagline, "We haven't forgotten why they're called sweats."

Apple's "1984"

But it was Chiat/Day's work in the 1980s for Apple Computer that made advertising history. In 1984, the agency created a controversial spot for Apple's then-new Macintosh computer. Called "1984," it was directed by British filmmaker Ridley Scott and aired only once, on that year's Super Bowl broadcast. The commercial offered a stark Orwellian vision of a future ruled by Big Brother. Zombie-like workers chanted before the authority figure preaching to them from a huge TV screen. Then the spot showed a young female athlete running into the room and throwing a hammer through the screen, a symbolic challenge by upstart Apple to IBM Corp.'s dominance in the computer market.

The spot won a Grand Effie, a Gold Lion, a Belding bowl and a Clio. Advertising Age named the spot its commercial of the decade and awarded it the No. 12 spot on its list of the best advertising of the 20th century.

The spot's success is credited with turning the Super Bowl into the premiere U.S. showcase for new commercials. Chiat/Day also picked up several new accounts as a result of the Apple spot, including Bristol-Myers Co., 3M Corp. and Pizza Hut.

But the agency misfired in 1985 with "Lemmings," another Apple spot that debuted on the Super Bowl that year. As the name suggested, "Lemmings" showed a line of business executives dressed in monotonously similar dark suits snaking their way single-file through a desolate countryside to a sound track with a dirgelike rendition of "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work We Go" from the 1937 animated film "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs." Reaching a cliff, the blindfolded businessmen one by one plunge off the cliff until a rebel, pausing at the cliff's edge and lifting his blindfold, turns aside. The spot's dark tone, however, won the marketer few fans.

In 1987, Chiat/Day won the $90 million Nissan Motors account, which put it among the nation's top shops with annual billings of more than $500 million.

Also in the late 1980s, Chiat/Day introduced a campaign for Eveready Battery Co. that featured an unstoppable, drum-banging pink toy bunny powered by Eveready's dependable Energizer batteries. The bunny and the familiar "Energizer batteries. They keep going and going and going . . . " slogan were still in use at the end of the 20th century.

In 1989, in an attempt to better serve large accounts in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, Chiat/Day merged with the Australia-based Mojo MDA Group. But the 1990s proved hard years, with an economic downturn and major account losses such as American Express and Shearson Lehman. Chiat/Day sold its San Francisco office in 1990, and Thomas McElligott, a founder of Fallon McElligott Rice, was hired and lost within a period of nine months. In 1992, Chiat/Day sold the Mojo network to Foote, Cone & Belding Communications.

Along with a move to a new facility in Venice, Calif., came a much-ballyhooed move to a "virtual office" concept in which staff members no longer worked at assigned desks but instead kept their supplies in lockers and carried laptop computers. Videoconferencing, working from home and the use of extensive e-mails were touted as the wave of the future, but eventually Chiat/Day was forced to discontinue the experiment when it proved unfeasible. On balance, however, Chiat/Day's forward-looking attitude served it well when it became the first U.S. agency to import account planning and account planners from the U.K. and the new discipline began to spread to other U.S. shops.

Merger with TBWA

Still on the lookout for international support, Chiat/Day in 1995 merged with TBWA, a traditional Madison Avenue agency best known for its Absolut vodka ads, to form TBWA Chiat/Day. TBWA was strong in overseas markets, having offices in more than 30 countries, but it had only a weak presence on the West Coast, where Chiat/Day was strong. The merger created an ad agency with more than $2 billion in annual billings but led to the departure of Jay Chiat in 1996, a year after TBWA Chiat/Day became a unit of Omnicom Group. He died in 2002.

Mr. Chiat also employed a number of creative stars, including Lee Clow, hired in 1972 and now chairman-worldwide creative director at TBWA/Chiat/Day, as well as Bob Kuperman, Rick Boyko and Steve Hayden.

In 1999, TBWA Chiat/Day moved into an architecturally innovative office complex in Playa del Rey, Calif., and subsequently restyled its name as TBWA/Chiat/Day.

In 2003, TBWA/Chiat/Day's three U.S. offices made up the U.S. brand of TBWA Worldwide. TBWA Worldwide had U.S. revenues that year were $125.6 million, up 10.2% from 2002 figures, according to Advertising Age.

In this article: