Clow became part of the Chiat\Day force in 1971.
“The frst day I walked in it was thehighest o highs. I’d reached thePromised Land. They oered mesomething I had never experiencedbeore: the opportunity to be as goodas I could be. Then I wondered i I waseven good enough to do the job.”
Throughout the 70s Clow soaked in theChiat\Day vibe, one that eschewed standardpractices and allowed him to create his ownunique brand of advertising. The agency nailedclients including Viviane Woodard Cosmetics,made quirky ads for KNBC and shaped a seriesof breakthrough ads for Honda. By the mid-70sClow was promoted to associate creative directorof Chiat\Day’s LA oce.Then, quite inexplicably, Honda suddenly leftfor a bigger agency. Responsible for three-quartersof Chiat\Day’s income, it was a huge loss. Withit came rumours insinuating that the company’ssuccess had bred arrogance. Clow admits to thearrogance, but also states that after you turn outsuperlative work clients can often go elsewhereto nd an agency to supply in-depth service.“It’s a very tough business because you alwaysend up being a vendor,” he explains on losingclients in general.
“You are easily dismissed andreplaced, especially when a newmarketing jerk signs on and decides toshake things up. Even i you’ve builtequities or the brand and told storiesthat have made it amous, you can stillbe out on the street the very next day.”
Clow responded to the debacle by makinga name for the agency with Yamaha motorcycles.That account led to others, including SuntoryRoyal Whiskey's Midori Melon Liqueur, AlaskaAirlines and the Olympia Brewing Company.By 1980 Chiat\Day was established enoughto open an oce in New York and purchase anagency in San Francisco, one that delivered aclient that would revolutionise technology andusher in a new era of advertising.
It was when Jay Chiat acquired Regis McKennaAdvertising that a new account was nabbed, alittle-known technology company called AppleComputer Inc.Clow did not immediately take on the account.He was brought in later to help handle itsdicult-to-please owner, Steve Jobs. “There hewas, just a kid, maybe 25 years old, but he was anincredibly stimulating and exciting guy,” recallsClow on his rst meeting with Jobs. He continues:
“I was totally motivated by [Jobs'] energy and passion, and he came totrust in me. We both cared about thesame things. That relationship endedup being one o the most memorableevents o my whole career. Hechanged my lie dramatically.”
Clow also changed the face of advertisingwith
, a dark Orwellian tale that unveiledthe mighty Macintosh computer to the world.The idea, taken from an abandoned print ad, hadmuch potential. Ridley Scott was set to direct –but still Clow had his doubts over the product:
“I didn’t think I was working on thecoolest brand in the world. I didn’teven know i we could make sense o what a personal computer was, butSteve kept saying how it wouldchange the world, how everybodywas going to use one.”
When nally released, 1984 made advertisinga truly cultural phenomenon. It swept up a bountyof awards that year, winning the Grand Ee, aCannes gold, a Belding Sweepstakes and a Clio.In the wake of its success Chiat\Day secured afresh bunch of tasty accounts including Nike,Porsche, and Pizza Hut.
Awards have gured deeply in the Clowexperience over the years, and have also helpedhim formulate his creative likes and dislikes.“I taught myself the business from awardannuals,” he admits. “I studied them like textbooks. There weren’t a bunch of ad schools whenI started out, and I couldn’t aord to go to ArtCenter [College of Design, Pasadena] where mosttalented ad people went. Those annuals becamebibles to me. I still have them all over my house.”As for the variety of award shows attendedover the years he recalls Cannes back in the 80s.
“Cannes, or me, was probably themost glamorous – but the leastarticulate – show because decisionsseemed to be made on a verygeopolitical basis rather than acreative one.”
Clow feels the best award shows are thosededicated to the work and less to the glamour,“but even the Clios tried to become the Oscarsof advertising. Plus, sometimes, award shows endup being judged by CDs or ACDs who arecompletely full of themselves. But, at the end ofthe day, we have to try and recognise what’s goodin our industry, even if it’s jaundiced. The onlything I can say is that if you do something trulyamazing it will become highly recognised.”Ego is also a big part of the award showdynamic, and as much as one may bemoan thepolitics and the lack of talent judging the work,Clow admits that, hey, you still want to win:
“You always want to win, but i youdon’t it ends up being a motivator –even i you rationalise why you didn’tget an award. Ultimately awardshows do matter because creative people need recognition. They desireto be acknowledged or how talentedthey are.”
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