Lee Clow remembers Jay Chiat

By Published on .

On Building Chiat/Day: Jay was a high-energy, passionate New York guy in a California culture. As we started to grow, he was always trying to find the next best way to do stuff: How do you hire people better ... how do you respect people better, and at the same time, how do you demand 120% of them?

I would have been satisfied if we ended up just being a great California agency. But Jay was too restless. When we had both feet on the ground in L.A., he decided we had to go to New York. Jay would've loved to have built his own worldwide network.

On Jay, the person: Whenever anyone would meet him, immediately he took the offense and you ended up being on the defense. To some people it's very intimidating and crushing, but good people get challenged and it brought out the best in people.

We've had some real high highs in the agency, and that was always the time Jay would be the most angry and the most demanding. Jay was very much full of contradictions. He could be very intense and inflict a lot of human pain, and then he could be the most loving, most thoughtful person on the planet. That was kind of the other side of Jay that most people didn't see.

On Apple's "1984": Jay was a fan of supporting Steve Jobs' belief in big ideas. He instantly said the "1984" idea should be shot like a movie.

We had a very big presentation of which "1984" was a piece. Jay always was very critical before you went into a presentation. "This doesn't hang together. You don't have one single idea." I was the only one who could say, "Jay, calm down. Relax. This is what we've got. We will present it. If you have anything constructive to say, say it. But don't do one of your `what's wrong with everything."'

On cult culture: Jay didn't have employees. It was much more like having disciples. People embraced his idea and his religion very deeply. His demands-that we not be satisfied with our work-have remained a part of our culture, and I think it's even having the ability to infiltrate the TBWA culture. I think it's because I was his biggest disciple and I'm still there. A lot of his belief system is there. Every day somebody says, "You know what Jay would have said."... It's not like, he's gone, move on, next generation.

In this article:
Most Popular