Steve Jobs may have never created an ad, but marketing was never far from his mind. Just ask TBWA’s Lee Clow, whom Jobs called on weekends and in the middle of the night to say, “I don’t think that copy is good enough” or “I don’t love that picture.”
Clow, speaking Tuesday night during a heartfelt tribute to Jobs at The One Club’s Creative Hall of Fame dinner, drew a picture of a tough, demanding, difficult-to-please client. Ultimately, however, Apple—and its longtime ad agency—benefitted from such exacting standards.
To illustrate that point, Clow recalled the making of “The Crazy Ones,” the 1997 TV ad that marked Jobs’ return to the company he co-founded and Apple’s reunion with TBWA.
At the time, Apple was struggling as a business and didn’t have new products to show. So, on a mundane level, the ad simply bought the company some time. The final execution, however, turned into something much bigger: a manifesto for what Jobs hoped Apple would become.
The ad paid homage to a series of iconic figures, including Muhammad Ali, Gandhi, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein and Picasso, categorizing them as “the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels” who dared to “think different” and, in the process, changed the world.
“The biggest compliment I ever got from Steve was when we created this notion of ‘think different,’” said Clow, who described the ad as his favorite commercial. That says a lot coming from the co-creator of Apple’s “1984,” one of the most famous ads of all time.
Classically, Jobs handpicked the version of “Crazy Ones” that ultimately ran. After a late-night editing session, the agency completed two versions of the commercial—one with actor Richard Dreyfuss providing the voiceover, the other with the voice of Jobs. After shipping both edits to ABC—for airing during the network premiere of Pixar’s Toy Story—TBWA awaited a call from Jobs.
Around 4 a.m. that morning, Jobs reached Clow at a production studio in Los Angeles. “Run the version with Richard Dreyfuss because this is about the future of Apple and people can't think it's about me,” Jobs told Clow. Clow, who preferred Jobs’ version, remained silent for about 10 seconds before concluding, “Fuck it. He’s right again.”
Jobs’ version also shined, however. So, Clow played it at the end of his speech accepting the Apple leader’s induction into The One Club’s Creative Hall of Fame—thereby becoming the first client to enter the hall. (Also honored were director Joe Pytka, creative director Paula Green and ad professor Rob Lawton, whose recognition marked the opening of an educator’s hall.)
“By the way,” Clow quipped before the ad began, “The One Club gave this commercial a bronze.”