'After 30 years, this is really special'

Ahead of his honour at Cannes, Campaign talks to adland icon Lee Clow about Apple, Steve Jobs and the state of creativity.

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Delegates at this year’s Cannes International Festival of Creativity will be reminded that to "think different" never loses its power when Lee Clow, the man behind much of Apple’s best advertising, becomes the third recipient of the prestigious Lion of St Mark award.

Clow, the chairman of TBWA\Media Arts Lab and director of Media Arts at TBWA\Worldwide, follows Sir John Hegarty and Dan Wieden in receiving the honour.

The award recognises Clow’s 40-plus years working on ideas for brands since joining Chiat\Day in Los Angeles. His standout work includes the Energizer bunny and the "impossible is nothing" activity for Adidas.

But Clow is most renowned for his work on Apple, including the "1984" spot, and for his close relationship with Steve Jobs that resulted in Apple’s "think different" relaunch in 1997.

Campaign spoke to Clow ahead of Cannes about his career and his hopes for the next "creative revolution".

Congratulations on the Lion of St Mark award. What does it mean to you?
I’ve been going to Cannes since 1984 so, after 30 years, this is really special. To be honoured with the same award as two of my heroes – Dan Wieden and John Hegarty – could not make me prouder.

What else are you looking forward to this year at Cannes?
We are going to celebrate all week long. I’m going to enjoy the friendships and partnerships that I’ve made over the years with talented people from generations of TBWA\Chiat\Day and other great friends.

You are most famous for your work with Steve Jobs and Apple. What was it like working alongside him?
To have the privilege to express the passion and the genius of the man and the Apple brand was, of course, the "e-ticket" ride of my career. No other client loved telling the story of his brand more than Steve. He loved the advertising part almost as much as he loved the inventing part.

Are there things that other clients could learn from him?
If more chief executives loved their brands as much as Steve, wanted to lead the brand-building, and understood that everything a brand does is an ad, there would be more smart, powerful, interesting brands in the world.

What are your impressions of the current state of creativity?
We are still in a confused transition that could become the next "creative revolution" if we get it right.

We must learn how all media elements (old and new) can, and should, work together to do what the job has always been – to invite people to meet, know, trust and, hopefully, love your brand; not just for what you make, but for why you make it.

Too many elements of most brands are fragmented and working at cross purposes. The brands to admire are the ones who know who they are and stay true to themselves in every expression.

And how are things at TBWA\Worldwide?
We have great resilience and still have passion for the work we do. There’s an amazing next generation that I see around the world which is inventing what’s next. They’re going to "get it right"!

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