Once upon a time, art director George Lois and copywriter Julian Koenig were partners at DDB. That was in the 60s. Some 40+ years later, Koenig still has an axe to grind with Lois, who the writer says surreptitiously lay claim to work that wasn’t actually Lois’ — such as “Think Small.”
The clip above is part 1 of 3 in a “This American Life” series on the matter. The men have taken divergent paths since their years in the biz — Lois ending up as the legend, Koenig comparatively a footnote. Remember “Timex: Takes a licking but keeps on ticking”? Koenig. He also named Earth Day, Earth Day? Why, it’s his birthday. Koenig (cane — ig) is even mentioned on the best show of all time, Mad Men.
“In my instance, the greatest predator of my work was my one time partner George Lois,” bemoans Koenig in the interview. By the way, the storyteller here is This American Life co-conspirer Sarah Koenig, Julian’s daughter. Nonetheless, the whole thing is very interesting — in a way that only TAL could be. Each segment is about 9 minutes long. Part 1 is above but you’ll have to jump over to Addict to hear the rest. Afterall, they’re responsible for putting the words to the images, which was helpful.
If there’s one thing we can take away from this story is that the ego we all talk about in today’s ad world spawned two generations ago with Mad Men like Koenig and Lois. Who else but an ad man could hold a grudge for 40 years?
A couple quotes from Koenig: “George is a talented storyteller with a vivid imagination. The only thing that could exceed it would be the truth.”
“Advertising is is built on puffery, on, at heart deception. And I don’t think anybody can go proudly into the next world with a career built on deception, no matter how well they do it.”
“You’re not necessarily proud that you had a career in the field of advertising, and that’s your legacy, but you are proud that you were the best in the business at the thing you chose to do,” asks daughter Sarah Koenig. “I couldn’t have said it better myself,” her father replied, laughing.
Click play to find out which campaign Koenig is referring to.
Btw Mad Men’s third season airs August 16th. Click here for the remaining segments.