NEW YORK – George Lois, an advertising executive and art director who designed provocative magazine images and coined the slogan “I Want My MTV,” died Friday in New York City. He was 91.
Lois’ son, photographer Luke Lois, confirmed the death, which occurred two months after the death of the artist’s wife, Rosemary, The New York Times reported. No cause of death was given. George Lois died at his home in Manhattan, according to his son.
George Lois was nicknamed the “Golden Greek” and “Original Mad Man,” according to The Associated Press. He was among a group of advertisers on Madison Avenue who launched the “Creative Revolution” during the late 1950s and 1960s, the news organization reported.
Lois’ magazine covers for Esquire featured Muhammad Ali posing as the martyr St. Sebastian, Andy Warhol sinking in a sea of Campbell’s tomato soup, Richard Nixon having rouge and lipstick applied during the 1968 presidential campaign, and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey as a dummy sitting on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s lap, the Times reported.
As an advertising executive, Lois helped MTV, an emerging video channel in the 1980s, by suggesting ads featuring rock ‘n’ roll stars like Mick Jagger and others demanding, with feigned petulance, “I Want My MTV!” according to the AP.
For a cover story on “The New American Woman,” Lois featured a naked model folded into a garbage can, the news organization reported. A controversial 1970 cover showed a grinning Lt. William Calley, the serviceman later found guilty of murdering unarmed civilians in the My Lai Massacre, with his arms around a pair of Vietnamese children.
During the mid-1970s, Lois led efforts to help free boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter from prison, the AP reported.
George Harry Lois was born in Manhattan on June 26, 1931, the Times reported. He graduated from the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan in 1949.
Lois began his advertising career in 1956 as an art director with Sudler & Hennessey in New York, according to the Times. Two years later he joined Doyle Dane Bernbach, taking a similar position.
In 1960, Lois formed an advertising agency with Fred Papert and Julian Koenig, the newspaper reported. The company went public in 1962, and by 1967 it was a major company with clients like Xerox and Procter & Gamble.
In 1962, Lois was asked by Esquire editor Harold Hayes how to improve the magazine’s covers, which were designed by an editorial committee, the Times reported.
“Is that what you do when you assign a story to (Gay) Talese or to (Norman) Mailer — you have a group grope?” Lois said, according to the newspaper. “You need to get one guy who understands the culture, who likes comic strips, goes to the ballet, visits the Metropolitan Museum.”
Lois was inducted into several advertising and visual arts halls of fame, and in 2008 his Esquire work was added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the AP reported.
According to the Times, Lois wrote several books, including “Damn Good Advice (for People with Talent!)” (2012), “George Lois on His Creation of the Big Idea” (2008), “$ellebrity: My Angling and Tangling With Famous People” (2003) and “The Art of Advertising: George Lois on Mass Communication” (1977, with Bill Pitts).