CLOW'S REACH EXPANDS AT TBWA CHIAT/DAY: AGENCY CREATIVE ENTERS SPOTLIGHT VIA ONE CLUB HONOR, GLOBAL STATURE AT SHOP

By Published on .

After decades as the inner creative heart and soul of TBWA Chiat/Day, one of the nation's most successful agency brands, Lee Clow finally is stepping into the spotlight.

Mr. Clow, 53, an adman who refused to give up his shorts and thongs and to ever work more than 10 miles from his beloved West Coast beaches, today will be inducted into New York's One Club Creative Hall of Fame, along with Jim Durfee, partner at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG.

SPIRITUAL LEADER

That's not all. Mr. Clow is moving into the role of a kind of worldwide spiritual leader at TBWA Chiat/Day. He keeps the title of chairman-chief creative officer for North America, but will leverage his creative power to all corners of the TBWA Chiat/Day empire.

Mr. Clow has been creative director on some of the industry's most memorable ads, from Apple Computer's "1984" to today's "Enjoy the ride" campaign for Nissan Motor Corp. USA. Yet, for most of his career, Mr. Clow was overshadowed by publicity magnet CEO Jay Chiat.

And despite numerous debates at Chiat/Day board meetings, Mr. Clow's name has stayed off the agency's door.

RESHAPING AGENCY'S BRAND

Now, with Omnicom Group's acquisition of Chiat/Day and the completion of its merger into TBWA International, Mr. Clow is standing center stage and starting to reshape the agency's brand according to his own vision.

"Who I am and what I do can be a very powerful signal to the total company," Mr. Clow said. "It won't turn into, though, flying around on planes and kind of going and 'laying on of hands.'*"

Instead, Mr. Clow said, he needs to lead by example, placing his hands on the creative where he can anywhere at TBWA Chiat/ Day and sparking an environment where aspiring creative greats will want to work.

For TBWA Chiat/Day, Mr. Clow is now in charge of raising the creative bar for his understudies, just at he acknowledged Mr. Chiat did for him all those years.

"Jay is not here, and I've got to raise the bar myself," he said.

For Mr. Clow, the communication arts revolution centered on the West Coast changes the notion of consumers being the target of advertising. Instead, entertainment is a key consideration, and agencies must try to gain the applause of audiences to create strong brands.

On the physical side, Mr. Clow plans by yearend to move TBWA Chiat/Day out of its "virtual" space inside the landmark Venice, Calif., "binocular" building and into a large warehouse near a site planned for the new studios of DreamWorks SKG.

Bob Kuperman-expanding his duties by moving from president-CEO for the West to the same title for North America-said the new office will eliminate some aspects of Mr. Chiat's virtual setup, where employees had no set offices and went from place to place with laptop computers and portable phones. The reason is a recognition that media buyers and planners may require a different environment from creatives.

"In the end, I've always said [the merged shop] won't wind up being TBWA or it won't wind up being Chiat/Day but the best of both agencies, a brand name that stands for creativity," Mr. Kuperman said.

Soon, the agency may pick up a San Francisco office, depending on how Ketchum Advertising's northern California shop fares with the Bank of America review. Ketchum also is owned by Omnicom.

ALLURE OF INT'L ARENA

Perhaps the most alluring aspect of the merged TBWA Chiat/Day is Mr. Clow's ability to take his brand of creative into the international arena.

In the pitch for the $35 million U.S. and international Samsonite Corp. account, Mr. Clow brought in a team of creatives from Amsterdam. He also went to Australia and London as part of the company's pitch for the $70 million Gateway 2000 account.

In that pitch, part of the agency's aggressive new-business posture, Mr. Clow talked his way back into the running after the client had eliminated the shop.

The aggressive approach almost worked on TBWA Chiat/Day's ill-fated attempt to capture the entire United Airlines account, which the airline wanted to split between TBWA Chiat/Day and Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis.

But Mr. Clow rejected the idea, saying two strong agencies could not work together on a brand.

In this article:
Most Popular