George Lois, advertising giant whose agency, Papert Koenig Lois, produced a decade of fearless magazine covers for Esquire during the turbulent '60s that are on permanent collection in the MoMA, deserves a homage character in Matthew Weiner's Mad Men so he can silly slap Don Draper. 1962: The fictional Draper is busy seducing secretaries, helping himself to one more drink. In 1962, the real ad king Lois, while on vacation, tried to convince Harold Hayes, the editor of Esquire, to run a cover of the 100th G.I. to be killed in Vietnam, for the December holiday issue. Hayes, convinced as anybody that the minor skirmish would soon be over, nixed the idea. The war went on for twelve more years and within that time Lois produced a black stark cover featuring the bold white text: "Oh, my God - we hit a little girl." It instantly became an iconic statement on the war. (Will we see Draper take on Vietnam?)
It was Lois's job to make people nervous, and to think.
As modern and anti-establishment as Mozart, Lois inspired a generation of artists, from Martin Scorsese who once told Lois he remembers where he was when he saw his Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian cover for the first time, to Robert Redford who originally went to Pratt trying to be him.
It's always something to see a master at work. And thanks to his memorable screen-time in the documentary Art & Copy, Lois is as busy as ever. I got to catch up with him on the set of his commercial for Superfocus, a name he came up with for glasses that mimic the human lens, developed by a pioneer of the word processor. His campaign, which he produced with his son Luke, is rebranding the entire company--now in the process of changing its name from TruFocals to Superfocus.
In this short video on this re-branding case study, Lois shares his thoughts on creativity, common sense, and where God fits into it all:
George Lois's Superfocus from Andrea Chalupa on Vimeo.
To see the end result of the Superfocus commercial, read Barbara Lippert's critique of it here for Ad Week.
For the fist-to-face force of Lois's essay telling off Matthew Weiner in Playboy's Mad Men issue, click here. A preview: "So f*ck you, Mad Men, you phony gray-flannel-suit, male-chauvinist, no-talent, WASP, white-shirted, racist, anti-Semitic Republican SOBs!"