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Lee Clow: Simplicity, Bravery and Trust

On Lee Clow’s retirement, we’re reminded of the importance of trust and our commitment to finding simple, bold ideas.


Sue Kruskopf, CEO

Sue Kruskopf, CEO

There was big news in the advertising community on Feb 14th. Lee Clow was retiring from his job as Chairman at TBWA Worldwide. Some of you may not know who he is, but you will know his work. The most memorable were his TV spots for Apple: “1984” which launched the first Macintosh, and “The Crazy Ones” which relaunched Apple with the tagline “Think Different” and became the ethos of the brand during it’s legendary rise.

Lee’s was the kind of work that made me want to get into advertising.

Yes, at age 75, he is ancient by today’s ad agency standard, but he was a friend of Steve Jobs for thirty years. That partnership between two visionaries is a big part of why Apple is the brand it is today. “He was always demanding that [Apple’s advertising] be better, always demanding that it be breakthrough, different—’Ah, that looks like shit like everybody else does,'” Clow recalled Jobs saying. “And for whatever reason, he and I built a long trust that I wanted to do what he wanted to do. He believed that in your heart, you cared about the same stuff that he cared about.”

So much trust. So much wisdom. So much creativity. And so much simplicity.

We understand that the true value of a simple idea goes beyond any spreadsheet or metric. But these ideas are becoming much harder to come by in today’s environment. “What’s throwing our industry for a loop is the complexity of putting messages out there in the world with all these new tools and all this new technology. The tools and technology are overwhelming,” Lee says. “I think a search for simplicity and pure ideas is the only route back to making it more fun again,” he continues. “More than ever, finding brave, different ideas has to be the goal.”

Words of wisdom. I’d add that those simple, brave ideas can really only ever exist on a foundation of trust. And this is what we strive for every day.