George Lois on emojis, Cannes and the advertising industry today

We had a chance to sit down with legendary art director George Lois, who is known for not mincing words. He is, in fact, a wizard with them. Images, too. Lois was the creative mind behind the “I want my MTV” campaign, which helped turn the fledgling cable channel into a cultural sensation. He’s also famous for creating more than 90 Esquire magazine covers that satirized pop culture and politics — like the cover of Richard Nixon getting make-up applied, a dig referencing his first debate against John F. Kennedy. Lois’ other Esquire covers astutely (and often controversially) observed contemporary society. In one, a woman shaving her face with a razor with the tag line “The Masculinization of the American woman.”

With such a storied career, we jumped at the opportunity to ask Lois about the latest cultural obsession: emojis.  The 84-year-old had strong opinions, “I hate them. I hate everything about them.”

He didn’t have many kind words for the current state of the advertising industry, either. “Ninety-nine percent of advertising today is zero. It’s terrible, terrible advertising that literally doesn’t brand who they are.”

He even suggested that people should turn their backs on the biggest event in the advertising world: Cannes Lions.

But in true grumpy old man fashion, Lois saved his harshest words for presidential candidate Donald Trump, who used to be one of his clients. It didn’t end well, to put it mildly.
Digiday Top Stories