It's a Crazy Time, so Let's Get Crazy

Taking Inspiration From Jay Chiat

By Published on .

Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
I watched Apple's old "Think Different" commercial online the other day and TBWA's spot still gives me goose bumps.

It gives me goose bumps every time I watch it, because it should be the mantra of our industry.

Here's to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They're not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them. Disagree with them.
Glorify, or vilify them.
About the only think you can't do, is ignore them.
Because, they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to change the world,
Are the ones who do.
Read the script again slowly and carefully. Meditate on each sentence. Do you live by each one when it comes to your work? I think if you did there would be no doubt in your client's mind that they are getting more than their money's worth.

A piece about Crispin's Andrew Keller in the latest issue of Creativity magazine quoted him as stating the secret to staying relevant in advertising is twofold: mess with culture and help make companies successful.

Notice the order of his secret to relevancy.
1. Mess with culture (be a rebel, change things).
2. Help make companies successful (push forward).

The first step leads to accomplishing the second.

Not long after reading Keller's interview, I was cleaning out my files and I found a copy of Tom Hayden's eulogy to Jay Chiat's passing that ran in Creativity magazine in 2002. At the top of the photocopy was my hand scrawled admonition to my staff in bright red marker: "What makes an agency great? Read on."

I hoped they would see that the answer to my question, according to Hayden, is to emulate the man Hayden called "The Master of Zig." Here are the first words of the article:

The night before we presented the storyboard for '1984' Jay was on a tear. He didn't think anything we had in the room -- including '1984' -- was good enough, new enough, smart enough, beautiful enough. He was upset. He was brutal. He wanted to cancel the meeting.
Can you believe that Jay Chiat thought the immortal, the revolutionary "1984" spot wasn't good enough to present? OK, he was wrong. But Chiat's attitude was a big reason for work like "1984." His passion for the work was not influenced by what was going on in the world around him. He wasn't going to do mediocre work because there was a recession going on. In his mind, it was every ad maker's duty to serve the client by breaking the mold. To fail was inexcusable.

Hayden went on to write that Chiat would trash anything that seemed like the absolutely right thing to do. He embraced the wrongheaded and crazy with firm assurance that the work was not following, but leading the way to more effective work.

Jay Chiat is a man that we could use today because there is a lot of fear in our industry. Fear breeds mediocrity and careers of such men as Jay Chiat prove that there is no excuse for mediocrity.

I can't help but believe that those who wrote "Think Different" were thinking of Mr. Chiat. So, read the words of the "Think Different" campaign and take them to heart.

Then, make them true.

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