Timeless Advice from an Iconic Mad Man

“The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”

George Lois

On NPR’s Morning Edition this morning, Renee Montagne interviewed George Lois – one of the iconic, real-life “mad men” who spearheaded advertising’s creative revolution in the early 1960s. For folks in my generation (Cuspers – born on the cusp between the Baby Boomers and Generation X) his best-known work is probably MTV’s immortal slogan from the 80s, “I want my MTV.”

Great research ensures the effectiveness of the creative aspects of an ad, brand or Website.

The interview covered how he created some of his most famous work, and in the course of the discussion, he revealed his opinion that creatives should “always start with the words,” in order to craft a great marriage of message and image. Then he told a story about how he pretty much invented Aunt Jemima pancake syrup, based on some solid market research.

Overall it’s a great piece, but what jumped out at us here at Phases, was how closely his process resembled our own. We take the research and concept development elements of our method very seriously, and that ends up making the creative aspects hit that much harder and more effectively. In spite of some sort of dated-looking layouts, long, loooong copy, and former celebrities we didn’t recognize, Lois could have been describing how we put together a branding concept or a Website today: do your research, then let creativity transform it into a great concept and ultimately, a great brand.

Creativity and craft never go out of style.

It was a nice reminder that 50-odd years later, working in a medium that those guys could probably not have even imagined, a lot of the basic skills necessary to produce classic print ads and television commercials are still the building blocks of great Websites or social media marketing campaigns.

Lois’ new book is called Damn Good Advice (for People with Talent).


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