I Read A Book In Less Than A Day. Yes, It Has Pictures.

I picked up the book $ELLEBRITY by George Lois on sale for $10. I knew a little bit about the man, very little really, just that he’s been a big time ad exec since the 1950’s. I figured, what the hell!  I was on vacation, I had time and it was only 10 bucks! Plus, Muhammad Ali is on the cover and I’ve always found him to be a fascinating person.

What I didn’t expect was that I was unable to put this book down. Now, I read a lot. And I read quickly. And it’s not unusual for me to become totally engrossed in a book and read it in just a few sittings. But with this book, I really was unable to put it down. I read every single word, looked at every single picture, with complete fascination and the desire to literally absorb every single detail.

Today’s marketing buzzwords are all about the Internet, e-marketing, going “viral”, e-mail blitzes, social networks, social media, blogs, websites. What was so fascinating to me about this book was Lois’ creativity with print media. Remember when people still read magazines? In the 60’s, Lois began designing some of the most creative, memorable covers for Esquire magazine. Does Andy Warhol drowning in a giant can of Campbell’s Soup ring any bells?

Some of Lois’ best known ad works were for Cutty Sark, No nonsense pantyhose, Jiffy Lube, Revlon, Tommy Hilfiger, the New York Post, ESPN and MTV. He also worked on Senate campaigns for Bobby Kennedy and Warren Magnuson,  and even though he was a registered Democrat, he worked on Hugh Scott’s campaign after Scott convinced him with this argument: “The only thing that separated Richard Nixon from Fascism…was Hugh Scott.”

Lois also campaigned to have Rubin “Hurricane” Carter released from prison with ads in The New York Times and calling on celebrities nation-wide to rally for Carter. Amongst those celebs, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, Ed Koch, Ellen Burstyn, Dyan Cannon, Johnny Cash and, of course, Bob Dylan.

Lois goes over some of his very best “Big Ideas” in a readable, interesting and often funny way to tell the stories behind the ads. He’s an outrageous, intelligent and cocky (critics will say arrogant) man. Personally, I like those traits in a person.  Let’s put it this way, after he wrote his first book in 1972, The New York Times said “George Lois may be nearly as great a genius of mass communications as he acclaims himself to be”. And that character shines throughout this book. To boot, he’s Greek!

Love him or hate him, you have to admire the talent. His awards and accolades are numerous and include being the youngest inductee in the Art Directors Hall of Fame. There were 3 things that impressed me more than his awards, though:

  1. He had developed an ad showing a cowboy shooting off a gun and saying “Anyone who doesn’t want to go to Dallas got to be plumb loco” scheduled to air the day JFK was shot. He pulled the ad. The idiot in charge fired him for it.
  2. In 1959, he refused to be part of the team hired to come up with a campaign for Volkswagen because of Hitler’s involvement in creating the “People’s Automobile”.
  3. He met former bootlegger, Samuel Bronfman, (arguably the most famous Montrealer ever) of Seagram’s and laughed hysterically when Sam called his company a “pig-fucking agency”! He won over Sam and the Seagram’s account.

All in all, 10$ well spent!

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  • never heard of him…but have always been fascinated with advertisement. it’s funny how some ad campaigns stick with us forever and others are forgotten as soon as you turn the page, move on to the next billboard or return to watching the movie that was interrupted by 30 seconds of pure junk. might just have to check him out. thanks for the tip!

  • I don’t know who he is, but the fact that you couldn’t put the book down is compelling. I love it when that happens, especially with a biographical/nonfiction read.

  • Mikewj

    Yes, I remember when people read magazines–including some of the ones I wrote–and this book sounds so interesting now I want to read it. I don’t think people fully understand how much people like Lois shape our society. They wield huge influence, leading us to like this or that, or dislike this or that, and are, in effect, extraordinary power brokers who may be more important than the products or people they helped promote. Their gift is being able to communicate ideas quickly and in ways that lead you to a conclusion. They are thought-shapers.rnrnGlad you had something fun to read while you were on hols.

  • What mags did you write for? I’d love to read some of your non-blog works! rnYou’ve expressed perfectly what I found so riveting about this book. Lois was a huge risk taker and made people THINK! He had a huge impact on society. In 1963, he put Sonny Liston wearing a Santa hat on the cover of Esquire! They lost advertisers, received hate mail and he got publicly dressed down for it. But readership of the magazine leapt from half a million to almost two million! Talk about impact! I could go on and on, this book is full of stories like this. I won’t though, in case you do pick it up. 🙂

  • It is awesome when that happens. You know, there have been books that I couldn’t WAIT to get my hands on because I’d heard great things about them, or really liked the author or, in the case of biographies, was really interested in the person but this was just an impulse buy and I totally lucked out!

  • I never even realized how many of his ads I had seen until I read the book! I mean “I want my MTV” even inspired a song! If you do like good ad campaigns, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. And you are very welcome 🙂

  • Mikewj

    Penthouse Forum, mostly. It paid very well, but it was a little dirty and I kept embarrassing all those women I’d been with.rnrnI’m going to pick up Lois’ book. It truly sounds interesting.

  • I’m going to pick up some Penthouse Forum. It truly sounds interesting. :-)rnrnSeriously, man!

  • Wow. Now I want to read the book on George Lois. He sounds incredibly fascinating!

  • He really is. I hope you enjoy it!

  • Thanks Nicky!

  • I’ll take a look for this book. It sounds fascinating! Nice write up, Darling Nicky!

  • I’ll take a look for this book. It sounds fascinating! Nice write up, Darling Nicky!

  • Mikewj

    It’s always the same thing: rnrn”Dear Penthouse, I never thought this would happen to me, but the other night I was looking out my window when I noticed the woman in 4B was dancing around her living room naked. One thing led to another, and I fell out of my window onto a group of sorority sisters returning from a pillow fight….”rnrnTo be honest, it’s been roughly 30 years since I’ve seen a Penthouse magazine. But I’m guessing it hasn’t changed much. Things pretty much look the same now as they did then.rnrnI wrote for a bunch of magazines, including, incredibly, Advertising Age, Vegetarian Times, Barron’s, and, of course, The Natural Foods Merchandiser and Organic Times. I even wrote a little book that you can still buy on for about a penny. There were more, but they were even less interesting.rnrnWow, now I’m a little depressed.rn

  • Thank you sweetheart!

  • I read AdAge, and I used to subscribe to Vegetarian Times (until the lure of sizzling bacon grew too strong to resist). I don’t think I’ve ever read Barron’s or TNFM&OT. rnrnYou underestimate your talents, my friend. The little book starts at $1.10. Unsigned by the author, of course. :-)rnrn

  • Good books can come from surprising places. It’s actually not surprising that an advertiser would have interesting things to say. It soundslike a good book.

  • Sounds like a great book. I’d never heard of him but now I want to know more.

  • Well, there are some advertisers I would never want to hear from, based on the ridiculous ads they came up with but, lucky for me, not in this case!

  • You should check it out…maybe it might inspire you since you’ve lost your mojo. It certainly got my creative juices flowing…now if only I could find some more hours in my day to actually put them to use!

  • Do magazines count? I read at least one a day when I take my morning, ahhh, bathroom break, after morning coffee. OK OK What do you want from a guy?

  • Hahahaha! Glenn, you kill me! I guess it doesn’t matter what you read, or when, or where….as long as you read something!


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