George Lois Talks CLIOs, Ads, And Industry A–holes

At this year’s CLIO Awards, legendary adman George Lois will be the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Awards. AdPulp had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his work and the state of the industry today. The man certainly tells it like he sees it.


After all the accolades and awards you’ve gotten, is it still exciting to get an award like the CLIO Lifetime Achievement Award?
Absolutely. Young designers and ad people are as excited by my work as previous generations – and today’s generation needs the inspiration from a cultural provocateur like never before. Helping young talent is as important to me as ever, and the Clio Lifetime Achievement Award, as prestigious as any of the accolades and awards I’ve received, as well as the impact of my latest book, DAMN GOOD ADVICE, not only can be a life changer for them, but adds to my legacy as the world’s most influential creative thinker in the graphic arts. 


Is there anything that can help sustain print advertising & design these days – and can print still have an impact like the Esquire covers and ads you did?
Print advertising and editorial design is in an even deeper hole these days than television advertising. And the only way magazine covers could have the impact my Esquire covers had in today’s culture was if there was a Harold Hayes out there with the guts to give young talent carte blanche to design monthly covers the way that great editor did. People have always said it took some pair of balls to create my covers, but of course, the heroic Harold Hayes was the guy with the balls. He was the one who had to contend with all the nay-sayers in Esquire’s hierarchy and advertising department who were shocked at messages conveyed by my covers. Meanwhile, their circulation increased issue after issue. 
Looking back, were there any ideas or ads that you did that make you think, “Wow, that was really crappy?”
Of course not. I never did an ad, tv or radio spot, logo, promotion piece, anything…that I wouldn’t be proud of, as I am now, 60 years later. I have never allowed a client, ever, to screw up my work. Never. Sounds like a ridiculous claim, but I can back it up. 
You’re still creating ads and other work. Where do you get your inspiration from these days?
Same way I’ve always done it: A continuous, passionate involvement in the history of art, reading, writing, movies, plays, and continuing to fight racial injustice and government that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor and powerless, protesting America’s needless and endless wars (and still playing basketball with men half my age).  
When you meet young people today who want careers in advertising, do you encourage them to go into advertising or do you tell them to do something else?

In ten books and hundreds of lectures, I continually speak and attempt to inspire the need for a new creative revolution in advertising. There is a desperate need for a new generation to unleash their creative potential. The world is theirs for the taking.  I tell (the most talented of them) to go into advertising, and forge that new advertising creative revolution. My book, DAMN GOOD ADVICE, tells them how. 
Who is the biggest asshole you’ve worked with, or for, and why is advertising littered with so many big egos and little pricks?
I’ve had the great fortune to work for, and had great friendships with, the greats of the design and advertising world. Reba Sochis, Bill Golden, Lou Dorfsman, Herb Lubalin, Paul Rand, Bill Bernbach, Bob Gage. Listing them, and so many others, breaks my heart. But I’ve always understood that dying isn’t the most important thing in life – it’s what you do before you die that’s important. I’ve loved their accomplishments and warm humanity to ever give a damn about the “assholes…big egos…and little pricks.” However, I must admit, whenever I spot an obit of someone on my shit-list, I hold up the New York Times to show my wife and snarl, “I told you I’d get the son-of-a-bitch.” 
What is your favorite ad campaign of the 21st century?
My campaign for Superfocus, custom made, adjustable focus, prescription eyeglasses that allow the wearer to move a tiny slider on the bridge, so you can focus on a page of a book, a computer screen, a movie screen or a distant mountain – miraculously restoring the eyesight of your youth. Can’t beat that!

Previously on AdPulp: George Lois Wants You Digital Kids To Get Off His Lawn



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.