A former Apple advertising creative lead, who worked on some of its biggest ad campaigns, has sued his former agency, TBWA. Duncan Milner claims wrongful termination based on age discrimination.
Following the retirement of TBWA boss (and Steve Jobs friend) Lee Clow this year, Milner was told that the company “couldn’t carry his salary anymore.”
“I felt I was let go unfairly, and we couldn’t come to an agreement over what I felt was fair compensation, so I have filed a suit,” Milner told Adweek.
Milner played a crucial role in Apple history. He worked on the “Mac vs. PC” campaign, as well as the “Silhouette” ads for the iPod. Most recently, he was involved with the heavily praised “Shot on iPhone” campaign. He was taken off the Apple account in 2016.
According to Milner’s lawsuit, Jobs credited his team with “a billion-dollar idea” for his iPod ads. “For years thereafter, Milner received high praise from Jobs for his iconic ‘Mac vs. PC’ campaign, which was named ‘Campaign of the Decade’ by Adweek. Jobs would say to Milner, ‘You guys are the best in the business, and that’s why you’re here.’”
Jobs continued working with Milner as Jobs’ health worsened. He continued to meet with him until just weeks before his death. “As his health worsened, Jobs became more selective about those he would allow to bring work to him at home,” the lawsuit said. “But Milner was always included in the select few who went to Jobs’s home to meet with him.”
Being shuffled out of his job
Milner rose to the position of Chief Creative Officer in 2009. However, he was replaced in this role in 2016. He was then transitioned to a new job as global chief creative president of MAL\For Good. This is described as “the purpose-driven arm of the agency.”
In a statement, TBWA Worldwide said that MAL\For Good “struggled to be profitable as a stand-alone business entity.” After a reorganization, “Duncan Milner’s position as the creative leader of MAL\For Good was eliminated.”
He claims he was offered either a 50% pay cut or a severance package. He was later told that the company, “didn’t have anything for him, even at a reduced salary.”