When I was at art school in New York, George Lois was one of my heroes.

I didn’t always like his ads.

Half of them seemed a bit crude and corny to me.

But half of them were inspiring.

The sheer energy and power that came off them.

And not just the ads themselves.

But the way he got them made against all objections.

The way he turned any hurdle into another opportunity.

That’s real creativity.

So, although it was a lot of money at the time, I spent fifty quid on George Lois’s book ‘The Art Of Advertising’.

Back in London, while everyone else was poring over D&AD annuals, I was reading every word of that book.

I learned a lot from the stories about how he did the ads.

One particular story was about the NY Herald Tribune.

In the early sixties, newspaper sales were falling.

People got their daily update from the 11pm TV news instead.

So Lois had a really daring idea.

Beat television at its own game.

TV news was immediate, but it wasn’t thorough.

Newspapers are seen as late with the news, because they’re printed the previous day.

Lois decided to turn that to an advantage.

He got the newspaper immediately it was printed at 10pm.

Then he wrote the ads in the cab on the way to the studio.

And shot the ads, and broadcast them immediately before the 11pm News.

The VO said, “These are the stories you’re going to be hearing about in this news programme. But there’s a lot more to these stories than you’ll get on TV. So for the full stories, get tomorrow’s NY Herald Tribune.”

What a great idea.

Many years later we did a pitch for The Daily Express.

We heard the editor thought ad agencies were slow and lazy.

While he could put an entire paper together in a day, it took agencies weeks to do an ad.

We thought we’d show him we could make an ad faster than he could make a newspaper.

The pitch was 9.00 on Monday morning.

So on Sunday night we went and got copies of the next day’s paper.

Then overnight we wrote the ads.

We filmed them, and edited them at 8.00 Monday morning.

Then, in the pitch, on we showed the editor a commercial featuring his newspaper that was just hitting the newsstand.

And we won the pitch.

Thanks to George Lois’s book.

Another lesson I learned from that book was about TV censorship.

When he did the advertising for Xerox photocopiers, his commercial featured a young girl at her dad’s office.

To demonstrate how easy Xerox was to use, Lois had the little girl make some copies for her dad.

The ad was a very successful, but Xerox’s competitors objected.

They said no photocopier could be that simple.

And the US censorship authority made him pull the ads off air.

The story ran in all the papers.

So George Lois offered to prove it was true.

He said he’d reshoot the whole commercial in front of the censors and the papers.

When they showed up to watch, he waited until the cameras started rolling.

Then he sent on a chimpanzee instead of the little girl.

The chimpanzee did a perfect job.

This time the censors couldn’t object and the ad ran with the chimpanzee.

Because of the newspaper stories everyone knew what had happened.

And the new ad generated even more free publicity for days afterwards.

When we had Knirps umbrellas as a client. I followed his example.

We had a commercial where a man demonstrated that no rain storm can break a Knirps umbrella.

To prove it, we wanted to shoot a man using it in a carwash.

The ITCA, the equivalent of Clearcast, wouldn’t believe it was true.

So they turned it down.

Following Lois’s example, we offered to let them come to the shoot to prove it would.

They did. It did. And the commercial ran.

Thanks to George Lois’s book.

Another time a young writer at our agency, Little Jim, had written an anti Third World Debt commercial.

It featured a white English toddler drinking out of a toilet.

Making the comparison with black children lacking sanitation in deprived countries.

Little Jim said he wanted Bob Hoskins to do the voice over.

I said good idea.

Little Jim said, because we had no money, the account men and the producers wouldn’t approach Bob Hoskins’ agent to ask.

So I gave him George Lois’s book.

I said, “Read that Jim, see what George Lois would do.”

Jim took the book home that night and read it.

Next day he came in and found Bob Hoskins’ agent’s number.

He then persuaded the agent to let him talk to Bob Hoskins.

And he talked him into doing the voice over, for free.

That commercial got a D&AD award.

Thanks to George Lois’s book.

And those are just a few of the things I got from that book.

There are many more.

I still read it from time to time.

And I still learn things from it.

In fact it may be the best fifty quid I ever spent.