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An Ad Man Who Hates "Mad Men"

Question: How did you get into advertising?

George\r\n Lois: Well, I started in advertising, after the High School of \r\nMusic and Art, that was all, that was basically my graphic arts \r\ntraining, as far as I'm concerned, it was, you know, it was four \r\nincredible years.  I then went to Pratt Institute and I met my future \r\nwife that first day of school, and I was nuts about her. And I realized \r\nafter one or two, after a week of Pratt that they weren't anywhere near \r\nas the High School of Music and Art, but I stuck it out, because I \r\nwasn't about to leave her.  And I went through the first year and then \r\nthe second year, I didn't quite know what to do, and I knew the school \r\nwas so awful.  But I went to my first classes at the second year, and \r\nagain, I ran into another great mentor, a teacher by the name of \r\nHerschel Levit, and he looked at my, and he saw what I did for him and \r\nhe said, "George, why are you, why are you in school?"  And I said, "I'm\r\n trying to make a living, you know?"  And he said, "No, no, get out of \r\nhere, you're not going to learn any more here," and he gave me a piece \r\nof paper with a woman's name—a woman art director, which was very unique\r\n back then—who had an art studio, and she sent me to him the next, and I\r\n went there the next morning and I left school in the, in my second, \r\nbefore my, actually my second year started.  And she did promotion and \r\nadvertising, et cetera, it was a great, great first job because she was a\r\n superb designer. What happened was I lost my exemption in the army, it \r\nwas during the Korean War, and I got drafted and wound up going to \r\nKorea, came back alive... and she wanted me to be a partner with her, \r\nand I didn't want to.  And she said, "What do you want to do?"  "I \r\nreally want to work at CBS Television," because it was a really dynamic \r\ntime in corporate imagery and corporate design with the great Bill \r\nGolden at the head of it, they had just done the CBS eye, et cetera.  So\r\n I went in at CBS and it was incredible atelier of design and \r\nadvertising.  But somehow, it wasn't the big, it wasn't the big time \r\nadvertising, you know, worked on products, et cetera.

And from \r\nthere, and so I left there, you know, and Bill Golden said to me in '53 \r\nor '54, whatever it was, '54, "George, you can't go out there, it's a \r\nworld of, the ad world is terrible, they're all Philistines, they're all\r\n hacks."  And he was right, you know, he said, "You're not going to be \r\nhappy there, they're not going to appreciate your talent."  And I said, \r\n"Well, I," well, somehow, something drove me to do it, and ... the job I\r\n went to was pretty awful, and a lot of stories... seemingly apocryphal \r\nbut actually true... when I kind of acted up in my first agency and \r\noverturned a desk, etc., did some kind of crazy stuff.

After that\r\n I went, and I worked with some of the great, other great pioneers in \r\nadvertising, and advertising designer, Herb Lubalin and I worked, then I\r\n went to Doyle Dane Bernbach and worked for Bill Bernbach and Bob Gage. \r\n And again, I did something insane: I left Doyle Dane, I went to Bill \r\nBernbach and I told him I was leaving to start the second creative \r\nagency in the world, because Bill Bernbach had started the only creative\r\n agency in the world.  And the reason he started it, it was based on the\r\n fact that he had worked with Paul Rand early in his career and somehow \r\nhe understood that if you worked with good, terrific graphic designer, \r\nespecially one who was prolific and could write like Paul Rand, that you\r\n could do better advertising if you worked, if the art director could \r\nwork, could conceive advertising with the writer... up to that time, \r\nbasically all advertising was, the art director sat in his room with his\r\n thumb up his ass and waited for the creative director, for the \r\ncopywriter to come in and throw him a piece of paper and say, "Make a \r\nlayout."  You know, "Lay this out," and the layouts were, you know, \r\nthese typical, awful, you know, unambitious layouts.

So I left \r\nDoyle Dane Bernbach and when I left Doyle Dane Bernbach, Bill Bernbach \r\nsaid to me, "George, you don't know what's out there."  You know, the \r\nthey could, and he literally said that Doyle Dane Bernbach was basically\r\n a creative freak, that somehow they were miraculous, a group of people \r\nthat somehow together could forget a great advertising, and it couldn't \r\nhappen again, not in this Philistine world.  But I started an agency \r\ncalled Papert, Koenig, Lois, with two writers actually, and we were \r\nsuccessful almost immediately, almost immediately.  And then after a \r\ncouple, one, two, or three years, coming out of my agency were two other\r\n agencies, you know, Carl Ally and a guy named [...] and then another \r\nguy left my agency and started, went into business with Mary Wells and \r\nstarted, Wells Rich Greene, and before you knew it, by the mid '60's, \r\nyou know, I realized that I had triggered, with starting that second \r\ncreative agency, I had triggered something called the creative \r\nrevolution in advertising.  And it became the golden age of advertising,\r\n I mean, the '60's and '70's, basically was the golden age of \r\nadvertising, in advertising.

Question:  How true is the\r\n show "Mad Men" to the atmosphere back then?


George Lois:\r\n The producers of "Mad Men," you know, think I hate their show, which is\r\n true.  You know, when they first started the show, before it premiered,\r\n I got a call from one of the producers and he said, "You know, we're \r\nlooking at, we're shooting, we're doing little spots with the people who\r\n were the original 'mad men,'" he said, "Of the period.  And, you know, \r\nwe're shooting it," and he named four, five, or six people. I had never \r\nheard of a couple of them.  "And whoever we talk to mentions your \r\nname."  I said, "Time out.  You're doing a show on the advertising of \r\nthe '60's and you never heard my name?"  He said, "Oh, no, we've heard \r\nyour name."  I said, "Bullshit, you never heard my name."  "Well, \r\nokay."  I said, "If you want to know what happened in the '60's, if you \r\nwant a real understanding of what happened in the '60's, I did a book in\r\n 1972 called 'George Be Careful.'" Which is basically, you know, my \r\nstory about growing up in New York and, you know, growing up in the New \r\nYork School of Design, I became one of the wunderkinds of the New York \r\nSchool of Design, and how I started, you know, the second creative \r\nagency in the world and how that became the creative... it's all about \r\nthe '60's, etc."  And I called it "George Be Careful" because when I was\r\n a kid, you know, I remember the hand of God coming into my bedroom, you\r\n know, it was Michelangelo’s hand, and it said, "George, be careful," \r\nand my mother, my mother told me, that George, all my life, my mother \r\ntold me "Be careful." My father, my sisters, my coaches in sports, you \r\nknow, my, when I went into the army they're telling me to be careful.  \r\nAnd then when you go into advertising, that's when everybody tells you \r\nto be careful, you know?  Anything, you know, anything unusual, anything\r\n over the top, anything edgy, you can't do that.  So "George, Be \r\nCareful" was my anti-slogan.  "And if you wanted to know anything about \r\nthe advertising of the '60's and the advertising world of the '60's, \r\nread that book.  Goodbye."  You know, and was saying fuck you... and he \r\ncalled me back a couple days later, I had told him to go get the book at\r\n Amazon because it was out of print.  He called me up a couple days \r\nlater and he says, "Oh, Jesus, wow, we could have done the show on \r\nthat!"  I said, "No, shit," you know, because that was the '60's, \r\nanybody who knows anything about the media world, anything, you know, \r\nanything about it, when you mention the '60's and you mention \r\nadvertising in the '60's, they don't think, now they think of "Mad Men,"\r\n of that dumb show.  Before that they thought of it as a heroic age, of \r\nreally, of the age that I was talking about, about... leaving Doyle Dane\r\n Bernbach was a giant part of it obviously, and then with another three \r\nor four agencies after that kind of came out of my agency, that was the \r\nmost heroic age in media communications since the twelve apostles.

Recorded April 5, 2010.

The '60s "was the most heroic age in media communications since the twelve apostles," but the AMC show doesn't really get it.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Japanese researchers discovered that the whale shark has "tiny teeth"—dermal denticles—protecting its eyes from abrasion.
  • They also found the shark is able to retract its eyeball into the eye socket.
  • Their research confirms that this giant fish relies on vision more than previously believed.
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NASA releases first sounds ever captured on Mars

On Friday, NASA's InSight Mars lander captured and transmitted historic audio from the red planet.

NASA
Surprising Science
  • The audio captured by the lander is of Martian winds blowing at an estimated 10 to 15 mph.
  • It was taken by the InSight Mars lander, which is designed to help scientists learn more about the formation of rocky planets, and possibly discover liquid water on Mars.
  • Microphones are essentially an "extra sense" that scientists can use during experiments on other planets.
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A massive star has mysteriously vanished, confusing astronomers

A gigantic star makes off during an eight-year gap in observations.

Image source: ESO/L. Calçada
Surprising Science
  • The massive star in the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy seems to have disappeared between 2011 and 2019.
  • It's likely that it erupted, but could it have collapsed into a black hole without a supernova?
  • Maybe it's still there, but much less luminous and/or covered by dust.

A "very massive star" in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy caught the attention of astronomers in the early years of the 2000s: It seemed to be reaching a late-ish chapter in its life story and offered a rare chance to observe the death of a large star in a region low in metallicity. However, by the time scientists had the chance to turn the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile back around to it in 2019 — it's not a slow-turner, just an in-demand device — it was utterly gone without a trace. But how?

The two leading theories about what happened are that either it's still there, still erupting its way through its death throes, with less luminosity and perhaps obscured by dust, or it just up and collapsed into a black hole without going through a supernova stage. "If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner," says Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, leader of the observation team whose study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

So, em...

Between astronomers' last look in 2011 and 2019 is a large enough interval of time for something to happen. Not that 2001 (when it was first observed) or 2019 have much meaning, since we're always watching the past out there and the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy is 75 million light years away. We often think of cosmic events as slow-moving phenomena because so often their follow-on effects are massive and unfold to us over time. But things happen just as fast big as small. The number of things that happened in the first 10 millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, for example, is insane.

In any event, the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is far way, too far for astronomers to directly observe its stars. Their presence can be inferred from spectroscopic signatures — specifically, PHL 293B between 2001 and 2011 consistently featured strong signatures of hydrogen that indicated the presence of a massive "luminous blue variable" (LBV) star about 2.5 times more brilliant than our Sun. Astronomers suspect that some very large stars may spend their final years as LBVs.

Though LBVs are known to experience radical shifts in spectra and brightness, they reliably leave specific traces that help confirm their ongoing presence. In 2019 the hydrogen signatures, and such traces, were gone. Allan says, "It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion."

The Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is one of the most metal-poor galaxies known. Explosive, massive, Wolf-Rayet stars are seldom seen in such environments — NASA refers to such stars as those that "live fast, die hard." Red supergiants are also rare to low Z environments. The now-missing star was looked to as a rare opportunity to observe a massive star's late stages in such an environment.

Celestial sleuthing

In August 2019, the team pointed the four eight-meter telescopes of ESO's ESPRESSO array simultaneously toward the LBV's former location: nothing. They also gave the VLT's X-shooter instrument a shot a few months later: also nothing.

Still pursuing the missing star, the scientists acquired access to older data for comparison to what they already felt they knew. "The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009," says Andrea Mehner, an ESO staff member who worked on the study. "The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO's newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view."

Examination of this data suggested that the LBV may have indeed been winding up to a grand final sometime after 2011.

Team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College, says "We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night. Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, their unique instrumentation, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO."

Combining the 2019 data with contemporaneous Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imagery leaves the authors of the reports with the sense that "the LBV was in an eruptive state at least between 2001 and 2011, which then ended, and may have been followed by a collapse into a massive BH without the production of an SN. This scenario is consistent with the available HST and ground-based photometry."

Or...

A star collapsing into a black hole without a supernova would be a rare event, and that argues against the idea. The paper also notes that we may simply have missed the star's supernova during the eight-year observation gap.

LBVs are known to be highly unstable, so the star dropping to a state of less luminosity or producing a dust cover would be much more in the realm of expected behavior.

Says the paper: "A combination of a slightly reduced luminosity and a thick dusty shell could result in the star being obscured. While the lack of variability between the 2009 and 2019 near-infrared continuum from our X-shooter spectra eliminates the possibility of formation of hot dust (⪆1500 K), mid-infrared observations are necessary to rule out a slowly expanding cooler dust shell."

The authors of the report are pretty confident the star experienced a dramatic eruption after 2011. Beyond that, though:

"Based on our observations and models, we suggest that PHL 293B hosted an LBV with an eruption that ended sometime after 2011. This could have been followed by
(1) a surviving star or
(2) a collapse of the LBV to a BH [black hole] without the production of a bright SN, but possibly with a weak transient."

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