Ad industry leaders reacted quickly and passionately today to the passing of Steve Jobs, whom they described in personal terms—almost as if they had lost a friend.
Most, however, had never worked with him. Still, they felt they knew him from the exceptional aesthetics of his products to his peerless ability to defy convention and embrace the power of marketing.
“He has been a mentor to all of us,” said Taxi chairman Paul Lavoie, who dedicated his Advertising Week presentation on doubt this morning to Jobs. “He’s someone who made a dent in all of us. The key thing about him is he thought differently.”
Or “thought different,” as Anomaly’s Carl Johnson put it, with a nod to Apple’s old tagline. “He had vision, ambition, and discipline, and he understood—most importantly—that a great product beats the hell out of a ‘great ad,’” Johnson added.
Ben Palmer, CEO of the Barbarian Group, credited Jobs with inspiring him to “want to find the most truthful answer to every question in advertising.”
Writing on his iPhone, Palmer added that Apple’s co-founder “had the best priorities of any CEO/marketer we have ever seen. This industry spends so much time inventing ideas to make the uninteresting interesting, but Steve has always figured out how to make the product itself so amazing that he just had to show it and you were sold.”
Echoing that theme, Venables Bell & Partners creative director Paul Venables said simply, “He taught ad people that design is king.”
From David Droga’s perspective, Jobs “changed technology forever. His technology changed us forever.” The founder and creative chairman of Droga5 added that Jobs “built my two favorite companies with vision, creativity, taste, and absolutely no compromise,” concluding, “Thomas Edison will be remembered as the Steve Jobs of his era.”
The Martin Agency’s Mike Hughes further described Jobs as “unique in the business world” for his ability to thrive in “technology, music, communications, design, retailing, innovation, salesmanship, marketing, advertising, and consumer insight. He was an impossible-to-duplicate icon in how to run a business, how to make a presentation, how to bring art and science together.”
Acknowledging Jobs’ rougher edges, Hughes added: “He demonstrated a kind of paranoia and tyranny that were tolerable only because he was a genius.” As for advertising, Hughes credited Jobs with reenergizing the craft with a “beauty, style, and voice that would have made Bill Bernbach very proud.”
The Apple leader’s legacy will be that “in the end, it’s not really about technology. It’s about how we use it and what we do with it,” said Young & Rubicam global CEO David Sable. “And that is truly a lesson for our time.”
Lowe global chairman Tony Wright applauded Jobs’ willingness to act decisively and intuitively in a business world increasingly driven by research. “He was the embodiment of vision and passion, not looking in the rear view mirror to find new paths but forging them ourselves,” said Wright.
Picking up on that point, Mercedes-Benz USA vp of marketing Steve Cannon added that “in this world where focus groups have tried to define so much of what we do, it takes a little bit of arrogance in order to get past that. And I mean that in a positive way.”
Cannon also marveled at Jobs’ attention to detail. “He has always been this almost fanatical curator of his brand. And he has always come from this absolute unwillingness to compromise, put out a product until he felt it was 100 percent consumer-friendly.”
JJWT worldwide CEO Bob Jeffrey described the Apple chief—and his advertising—as a personal inspiration, noting that seeing the brand’s legendary “1984” ad made him want to leave DDB and work for Apple agency Chiat/Day.
Apple’s advertising under Jobs was visually-driven, direct and iconic—from “1984” and “Think Different” to the silhouette campaign for the iPod and “Get a Mac” ads featuring John Hodgman and Justin Long. Sometimes, however, TBWA\Chiat\Day—as it’s now known—simply showed an iPhone or iPad in action, which often was enough, given the distinctiveness of the products. As Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s John Hegarty explained, “The task of advertising was to not get in the way of his brilliant innovations, but to simply shine a light on them. So many brands could learn from this example.”
Similarly, Jeffrey noted that Apple’s leader “understood the power that design, creativity and innovation can bring to a brand and how it inspires fearless loyalty and passion.”
Other marketing chiefs marveled at Jobs’ myriad skills.
“Through his inspiration, creativity and foresight, Steve Jobs enabled companies in all sectors to become closer to consumers all around the world,” said Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever. “His inspiration and legacy will be felt by all of us for years to come.”
To Kayak.com CMO Robert Birge, Jobs was simply peerless. “Who could possibly compare as a marketer?” asked Birge.