George Lois Gets CLIO Lifetime Achievement Award

Brash ad legend reflects on an epic career

George Lois can add one more line to his long list of honors—the 2013 CLIO Lifetime Achievement Award. 

"When you get an award, they're all exciting as hell, and CLIO is also exciting…I'm 81 now so I'm the old man in the sea, but getting an award like that is thrilling," Lois said. "I love the idea. It helps make young people learn about the history of design and advertising and…get them to dig in and really read and study my work and rethink what they do."

A prominent figure in the creative revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, Lois has been widely recognized for a legacy of campaigns that include brands like Xerox, as well as for the stark and striking magazine covers he designed for Esquire in the 1960s. He has been the recipient of various top honors in the advertising and graphic design industries, having already secured places in trade groups like The Art Directors Hall of Fame and The One Club Hall of Fame, among others.

He's also still working. "I've been up all night, editing," Lois said Monday evening. Current projects include OMGFast, a Cablevision-backed service he says he branded. "It's like the Hand of God." Also among his current clients: Travalo, a refillable travel-size perfume spray bottle.

The CLIO Awards are owned by Adweek parent company Guggenheim Digital Media. 

"George Lois is a legend among the pantheon of advertising greats and there is no one more worthy of this," said Nicole Purcell, executive director of the CLIO Awards. "He is the genuine living, breathing example of what the CLIO Awards strive to recognize: groundbreaking work, limitless creativity and the courage to always be asking, ‘What’s next?’"

Lois will be honored on May 15th at the 54th annual Clio Awards ceremony at the Museum of Natural History in New York. He joins such CLIO Lifetime Achievement Award recipients as Lee Clow, chairman of TBWA\Worldwide, Sir John Hegarty, co-founder of BBH, Dan Wieden, co-founder of Wieden + Kennedy, and Bob Greenberg, founder, chairman and CEO of R\GA. 

Early in his career, Lois worked at Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1959, before leaving to form Papert Koenig Lois, the first agency he co-founded. Among the shop's early work was a 1960 Xerox spot featuring a little girl—and then a second spot the same year featuring a chimpanzee—each demonstrating the ease of using an early Xerox machine

Lois also says he helped put brands like MTV, USA Today, Tommy Hilfiger, and ESPN on the map. "I've dragged a dozen people into becoming billionaires," said Lois.

Lois has also said he tricked Aunt Jemima into making syrup. His famous collection of Esquire covers feature images like Muhammad Ali posing as Christian martyr St. Sebastian during the boxer's prosecution as a draft dodger, as well as Andy Warhol drowning in a can of Campbell's tomato soup.

Lois has been accused by his former partners of taking credit for work he did not create, which Lois denies. 

Besides his ad work, Lois is also a prolific author. His most recent title, 2012's "Damn Good Advice (for people with talent)." Such as? "Most ideas should be seemingly outrageous," said Lois. "You can be cautious and you can be creative but there is no such thing as a cautious creative."

"You have to have the courage to fight your ass off to protect [your idea] whether you work at a big agency and you have creative directors all over you or you have clients all over you."

As for whether there are any current or recent campaign's that made him jealous or he'd wished he created, Lois demurred. "Never, nothing…You're talking to George Lois, come on."

He did allow that sometimes a campaign catches his eye. "I kind of like some of the Geico stuff," Lois said.


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