If you're a Mac fan of a certain age, you no doubt recognize the title of this piece as a play on Apple's famous Think Different campaign that ran from 1997 through 2002 and launched with the classic television spot Crazy Ones. A few of you (especially faithful readers of this sporadic column) may even know that the ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day has been responsible for all of Apple's advertising during the Steve Jobs years. They created the famous 1984 Macintosh introductory spot, were summarily booted when Steve was shown the door, and were asked to return by Steve upon his own triumphant re-assumption of the iCEO throne.
In fact, the main man behind Apple's advertising has been legendary ad man Lee Clow. Lee—an art director who's been honored with more awards, lifetime achievement honors and advertising hall of fame inductions than one could shake an HB pencil at—has been at Chiat for over 40 years and is generally considered one of the grand poobahs of adland. Although he's definitely a surfer dude and not a Don Draper.
Apart from his advertising prowess, Lee is also known for his beard—a feature that, as far as I can tell, has not left his face since he was discharged from the service. Maybe even before then. And one day a few years ago, while pondering what I could do on Twitter that would be worth someone following, I hit upon Lee's beard. Or, rather, I hit upon being Lee's beard. Both literally and figuratively. And so, in May 2009, I began anonymously tweeting, as @leeclowsbeard, one advertising crumb of wisdom a day. A morsel of knowledge that had ostensibly fallen from Lee's mouth and lodged within my follicles.
Well, the gambit worked. In fact, it worked better than I'd ever imagined. The followers came. Not in Bieber or Gaga numbers, of course, but enough people – including some important ad people – to keep plugging away at it. Eventually, the Chief Creative Officer at Chiat, Rob Schwartz, started following. Fearing a cease-and-desist order, I left him alone for a few months. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me and I messaged him asking if Lee knew what his beard was doing behind his back. Rob said he did, that he approved as long as I kept up the quality, and wanted to know who the heck I was.
A few more messages were exchanged, and before I knew it I was on a flight to L.A. to have lunch with Rob and Lee. A very "one of these things is not like the other" moment. Heck, Lee actually left a meeting with Steve Jobs to attend our lunch. How surreal. Even more surreal, the guys decided my tweets should be turned into a book.
And then this iOS app:
The book is set to hit Amazon on June 12 and is available for pre-order now. An iBooks edition will also be offered.
A launch party was held last week at Chiat's L.A. offices, and my wife and I were able to attend. I was also officially and approvingly outed on Fast Company's Create site. You can read more about the launch party madness here and Mashable's tease from a week earlier here.
So, there you go. A pretty nifty experience for an ad- and Mac-geek like myself. I don't know if it'll bring me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it, but I thank you all nonetheless.