As an in-demand creative director, Bob Cole worked on such storied accounts as Max Factor (the Clio award-winning "Take It to the Maxi" lipstick ads), Iberia Airlines ("Spain on a Plane") and Camel.
And yes, that would be the infamous Joe Camel campaign, created along with Bob Summers, Mike Koulermos and others at McCann Erickson. McCann's creative group had been heading in the direction of stylized movie posters featuring illustrations of masculine, chiseled Hollywood types. The client liked the direction but worried about legal binds - maybe it would be misconstrued as John Wayne?
The creative team took the camel head from illustrator Nicholas Price's 1970's French campaign, Old Joe, and put it on their own illustrated hero, with the headline "Smooth Character." (And despite conflicting accounts on how Joe Camel was created, this one comes straight from the camel's mouth.)
Cole also created print ads at McCann for Smirnoff Vodka, the winner in a New York Times blind taste test, with the headline "So Superior You Can Taste It."
Early in his career Cole worked with Peter Palazzo on the much-heralded ads for I. Miller Shoes, with illustrations by Andy Warhol. The campaign took I. Miller from stodgy to a contemporary fashion brand in no time.
Also in those early years, Cole was approached by his former teacher Alexey Brodovich, who was leaving Harper's Bazaar after years at the helm, to work with him as a freelancer. "And what would my salary be?" asked the young Cole.
"Oh, I don't know. Whatever I get, you get a piece of," replied Brodovich.
"I had just had my first child," explains Cole recently. "I couldn't go home and tell my wife that I have a new job but don't how much money I'll be bringing home." Cole refused the offer.
Soon after, Alexander Liberman, the senior creative director at Conde Nast Publications, offered Cole his own magazine to work on. Which one? Turns out Liberman was offering up Vogue Pattern Book.
"I just couldn't work for a pattern book. Couldn’t do it. I had to turn him down.” says Bob Cole with a laugh.