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MAD MEN: Forget Don Draper — the real-life drama between warring ad men George Lois and Julian Koenig looks like it will never fade to black. Sunday’s “This American Life” rebroadcast of a segment about their feud should only keep the feud alive. Produced and narrated by Koenig’s daughter Sarah, the piece claims Lois took credit for groundbreaking campaigns for Xerox and the New York Herald Tribune, among others, as well as Esquire covers, where credit was not due. Julian Koenig said of his former business partner, “His talent is only exceeded by his omnivorous ego.”
Asked for comment Monday, Lois sounded off via e-mail about “the nut-job piece about Julian Koenig,” whom he said has been making charges that Lois stole his work since 1972. Lois continued, “37 years after publication of [a rollicking autobiography] ‘George, Be Careful,’ he continues to bitch and moan, claiming he has been wronged. C’ la vie [sic]. Meanwhile, since 1964, the last time I did any ads with Julian Koenig, I’ve done 10,000 ads and 2,000 television commercials, all terrific I might add. Koenig probably has done a grand total of a dozen since then.”
Lois also took to task Carl Fischer, the lensman behind his memorable Esquire cover of Muhammad Ali posing as St. Sebastian, for dissing him on air. “No photographer could ever, or has ever, given me an idea, or was capable of giving me an idea, for a George Lois cover,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Sarah Koenig doesn’t expect her 88-year-old father and Lois to ever come to terms about their dispute. But “the record is getting straightened out” now that authors and reporters are interviewing him, she said. Aside from being credited with the “Think Small” Volkswagen campaign and coining “Earth Day” (it first fell on his birthday, hence the name), the elder Koenig insisted he invented thumb wrestling in 1936 and popularized shrimp in America by yelling “shrimp” up and down Broadway, two claims that even made his daughter laugh on air. But his legacy in advertising was not something she cared to leave to chance. “At least my Dad’s side of things is being told though it is a very self-selected group of people interested in the history of advertising who would care,” she said Monday. — Rosemary Feitelberg