I am Lee Clow’s Beard

by May 18, 2012

Yes, it’s true. After three years of ill-kept secrecy, I can reveal to a smattering of cheers, boos and mehs that I am the author of the @leeclowsbeard Twitter account. On June 12, a book of just over 300 of the nearly 800 LCB tweets goes on sale at Amazon, other online retailers, and at least one brick-and-mortar shop. The book will be joined by an iBooks version, and an accompanying iOS app featuring Lee himself is available now. A Projeqt-based chronicle can be found at leeclowsbeard.com. All the pieces were produced under the watchful gaze of folks at TBWAChiatDay’s new content creation offshoot, Let There Be Dragons, including chief creative mensch Rob Schwartz, designer and photographer par excellence Bill Hornstein, producer extraordinaire Jennifer Golub, PR maven/Director of Brand Communications Marianne Stefanowicz, content wrangler Senna Chen, and computer design wizard Laurel Burden, along with countless others whose names have yet to be revealed to me. And, of course, the man himself, Lee Clow. The book is published through Random House imprint powerHouse Books.

Instead of rehashing the story of how this all came to be, I’ll reprint my intro from the book along with a shot of Lee’s foreword. Cheers.

When I first logged on to Twitter in April 2009 with the purpose of satirizing the ad industry and deflating the guru-centric world of social media, my intended nom de tweet was not @leeclowsbeard. However, circumstances and squatters’ rights soon shifted my attention to Lee – a man I had, like many in our industry, long admired, never met and knew little about. As a lack of knowledge had yet to hinder any ad man, I forged on.

After a few tentative, mostly hobo-related jokes about being an anthropomorphized beard, I realized any hopes for longevity – and followers – demanded a new tack. Zagging from the snark oozing through 99.99% of the internet, I decided to be as wise as my user name implied. Or at least fake it as well as I could. And so began the tweet-a-day offering of advertising-related crumbs I had theoretically accumulated through the years while keeping Lee’s chin warm and his soup on instant replay.

Slowly the followers came, including Rob Schwartz, Chiat’s L.A.-based Chief Creative Officer. Not wanting to open a can of cease-and-desist orders, I refrained from harassment for almost a year. When I finally inquired as to Lee’s knowledge of LCB, Rob confirmed that he was aware of my existence, and that he approved of my hijinks. Huzzah.

A couple of months later, Rob and Lee flew me out for a lunch that was, from my perspective, a very “one of these things is not like the other” moment. But both men were exceedingly gracious and moderately impressed with my growing legion of Beardists, which had cracked the 10,000 mark the day prior. Somewhere between the soup and the sushi, the idea for this book was born.

I hope as few people as possible are disappointed to discover that some unknown Midwesterner is really the chin behind the whiskers. But in a way, that (unintended) deception is the point – to prove that smart people inhabit every corner of the advertising world. After all, not everyone gets a shot working at well-known shops for deep-pocketed clients. Some of us have to convince the elderly to pre-arrange services at discount funeral homes, as I did at my first job.

I realize LCB is akin to preaching to the choir. And that’s okay. Because while the choir may already agree with what the pastor is preaching, they need some inspiration for the daily grind, too. I hope to have provided that in some small way. At least enough to get folks through the next status meeting or conference call.

As with any worthwhile endeavor, thanks are in order. To God for, among other more significant things, giving me this talent as recompense for my pasty afro. To my wife, Megan, for putting up with a melancholy writer-type. To my kids, Gideon, Charlotte and Simon, who give daddy a reason to face the daily slog. To my parents for never asking why they spent so much money on a business degree when a nice pen and pencil set would have sufficed. To my art director partners through the years – collaborators and co-conspirators all. To the colleagues who taught me what advertising should and should not be. To Rob Schwartz for spearheading this effort when he had 3,956 more important projects to oversee. To Bill Hornstein for his outstanding book design. To, of course, Lee Clow for loaning out his beardiness and inspiring us all in an industry where inspiration is often spoken of but rarely delivered. And finally, to every person who clicked that “follow” button and made this book possible.

May you all grow long and prosper.

Lee’s forward (I like how he calls me “kid”):


Lee and I at the fateful meeting in July 2010:


Thanks to everyone who contributed in any way, shape, form or size to the success of @leeclowsbeard. It’s been an adventure. Hopefully, one that will continue.




If you need a heavily Photoshopped headshot for reasons I won’t dare question, you may find one here. Please list photo credit as “© 2012 Rob Johnson.”