OLDEST LIVING CREATIVE TELLS ALL

By Sg Published on .

OK, maybe he is not the most senior in years, but George Lois has been a force in advertising so long, he's been written up and analyzed in textbooks spanning decades. Of course, he's also authored four tomes himself -- including George, Be Careful (1972) and The Art of Advertising (1977). A pioneer of the creative revolution of the '60s (and formerly with Doyle Dane Bernbach and Lois Holland & Calloway), he blew the image of 'the man in the gray flannel suit' to smithereens. Lois, now 66, did bold, thought-provoking ads for everyone from The New York Herald-Tribune to Xerox to MTV. Lois' professional credo: "Advertising should stun momentarily. It should seem to be outrageous. In that swift interval between the initial shock and the realization that what you are showing is not as outrageous as it seems, you capture the audience."

Retiring? He wouldn't dream of it. "Retirement would be death for me," says Lois, although he knows full well that most of the big names in advertising "made their money and fled before they turned 60." Lois, by contrast, is still very much holding on with Lois/USA, a creative shop that services clients like Alberto-Culver and Cooper tires. He sees the influx and influence of creatives in their 20s and 30s as a mixed blessing. It's an improvement compared to three, four decades ago, when "this was a hack business. Clients had no understanding of creativity or American culture, so talented people stayed away." Then again, Lois has little faith in Generation Next. "A young, sharp person who's great is an oxymoron," he asserts. "They're trained not to use their heads but computers, and what they come up with is uncommunicative and ugly. Like unless you 'get' what's in the message, you're not hip."

Doing great ads, Lois believes, is not about age, but about "whether you can come up with a seemingly outrageous idea that perfectly nails the product to its greatest benefit. Advertising is an art, rather than a science, and it requires an instinctive, latent grasp of what's going on." That grasp, and the command of

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