Creatives 2009: Lee Clow

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Lee Clow
Lee Clow
To be in this business today, you have to have some of the classic art and copy and visual storytelling skills plus a deep interest in the way brands and their stories resonate in today's media culture. Everything is media, so creative people today have to be interested in all expressions of the brand. I have been around for a few more years than most people in our company but I never stop coming in to the office being excited about the possibilities. I believe as opposed to our business becoming too complicated and less creative, we're moving into the next golden age of creativity and I want to be a part of making that happen.

I don't call what we do advertising any more. I call what we do Media Arts. I believe everything a brand does is media and the art of telling stories using everything from the internet to painting a message on a wall is the broad definition of our future. Back when there were only three TV stations and no internet it may have been simpler, but at the same time, advertising has always been about ideas. Now there is a greater complexity of media with which to express those ideas. I think the options make it more exciting.

There are two big challenges ahead for agencies: 1) Transforming ourselves into total media communications agencies, and 2) Educating clients on the real possibilities of the new media world that we live in. I've seen recessions before and the only advice I can give is stay on the offense, not on the defense. It'll be over sooner that way.

What I've learned about leading creative people is that if you are passionate, you can get that same passion back from any good creative person. In our business, you lead by example. For more years than I can count, I've come in early and stayed late. I'm learning everyday from the young people that work for us. Everyday I learn that there's another medium to be explored and understood. People come in early, stay late and care as much as I do.

I've always been a glass-half-full person. I don't get down and I don't get depressed. I don't see things that didn't work as failing, because I learn from everything I do. As Jeff Goodby once said, "If you don't fuck up, what you're trying to do isn't hard enough."

I think I've become really good at nurturing people and helping them maximize what they are able to accomplish. I had a good teacher in Jay Chiat and am proud that I have been given the opportunity to continue the Chiat legacy of allowing people to be as good as they want to be and, sometimes, better than they thought they could be. I am bad at sitting in long, boring, stupid meetings. I'd rather go make something.

All things visual inspire me. From fine art to film, from architecture to a beautiful sunset. Hey, I'm an art director. I believe a picture is worth a thousand words. I'm really a boring person. I have a simple life. I have dogs and a boat. I've had the same job for 40 years, the same wife for 40 years. And I love my wife and I love my job. How boring is that? Maybe if I started over I'd be an architect, but now I remember I hated drafting. I'd probably go into advertising.

My bulldog makes me laugh.
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