CREATIVE HALL OF FAME
A proud history
Jeff Goodby And Rich Silverstein
It's... ironic to try to write something useful about Rich and Jeff's induction into The One Club's Creative Hall of Fame.
I mean, neither of these guys intended to commit their lives to advertising. They wanted to do something-
some act of imagination and craft-and do it so well that it would create a better set of circumstances
than were evident in the face value of the thing. They wanted to make work that was so good, so original,
so imaginative, and so right that it didn't matter if it happened to be advertising. That was the idea.
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Jeff could have been anything he wanted to be. There's a picture of him I can still see in my
mind's eye. In the picture, Jeff is in his twenties, with his wife, Jan, and their first dog, Bryce.
(I can still see the red plaid shirt he was wearing.) It's the "before" picture, an image of a young
couple and a puppy, but it crackles with destiny: I can see Jeff's deep interest in people. His practical
and considered optimism. His wicked sense of humor about the dark side of human nature.
And Jeff's breathtaking, "Hell, we can do that," sense of confidence, without which there never
would have been a Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
Jeff and Jan and Bryce came to San Francisco together from Cambridge, Massachusetts. (We all came
from "back east," as they say in California.) And while Jeff looked first for a newspaper reporter's job, he
really had no specific plans. He ended up taking the best course, as it turns out. Jeff followed his heart.
He always did. It's strange and wonderful that it led him (and then so many others) to advertising.
Rich came to San Francisco from New York. One of the first art directors at Rolling Stone, he
moved restlessly between graphic design and art directing, as though he had something specific
in mind, something that he'd only find in his own company. Rich is incredibly conscientious.
In that sense, he has always worked for himself. Rich working for Rich is an interesting idea,
something you'd only think about as a result of trying to write stuff like this. Rich working for
Rich. Hmm. I wonder if he'd ever ask himself who hired him or how much he was getting paid
and why. I loved working with Rich because he had the natural antidote to my imaginative excesses.
I heard the following words a lot: "It's not that good yet, Andy." And though you don't always
enjoy hearing that, it made our work better. Rich has a piece of genetic information that makes
him incapable of self-delusion. This is one of the most important elements in GS&P's success,
and it would be a valuable gene to identify and splice into people who have leadership ambitions.
It bears saying that it was Hal Riney who hired Rich and Jeff when he was running Ogilvy in San
Francisco. He hired them separately, then put them together as a team.
Hal was the second client of the fledgling agency, reacting to our decision to start a competitive
business 250 yards from his own by giving us a monthly retainer "to help out on stuff from time
to time." Of course, it was us that got most of the helping out. Hal gave us something. He taught
us subtle lessons of craft. And beyond craft, he taught us about emotional honesty in the work.
He taught us how products and people's feelings about them could combine in people's heads to
make the "thing" itself better. There was something beyond the face value of the work, which
is just no good trying to pin down for risk of profaning it by getting it even slightly wrong.
And there was Howard Gossage (to whom Hal introduced us, albeit post-mortem, when he
assigned the three of us to revamp the San Francisco Advertising Award show to be more . . .
substantive-this while he was being held hostage on a hijacked airliner in Central America).
Jeff wrote the headline of the house ad we did in our first year in business: "An Agency Founded
by a Man Who's Been Dead for 11 Years." Gossage demonstrated that it was possible to do advertising
so well that it could be a respectable form of work, especially if you didn't take its face value
too seriously. If Hal was Hemingway to us, Gossage was Hammett.
There are other reasons why Jeff and Rich are getting this honor. These reasons are more eloquently
expressed by the work Rich and Jeff have done. The artifacts of their genius (the word is both
considered and correct in this usage, though I know the guys will grimace when they read it) are
there to be enjoyed in the form of ads and commercials.
I believe their biggest accomplishment is more interesting than the work and harder to describe.
If you were ever at GS&P, you got it. If it ever touched you, even once removed, you could catch it.
If you know them, you understand what I'm saying. It's an infectious sense of permission and encouragement -
an idea that you can do (and damn well ought to do) something great with your
time at GS&P. This sense has always been alive at GS&P, which is why it has proved to be the
most fertile, most long-lived, most vibrant and versatile agency of its time. The agency has
passed on Hal's spark to many people and agencies. The thing is transmitted through the work,
of course. But it is most potent when it comes directly from Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein, my
old partners, my friends.
GS&P has always been more of a shaper of culture than an ad agency, something immeasurably
more potent for its clients. Mercenary art, before the historical revisions. GS&P has been practicing
this long before the current overuse of the word "convergence" (largely by people wishing to
emulate Rich and Jeff's abilities without sufficient understanding of what it is they do and how
they do it). Rich and Jeff "do it" with advertising that is so wonderful, no one minds that it happens
to be advertising. Which means, among other things, that it is controlled and crafted the way a
story is written or a painting is made. It is not the hopeful result of a collage of different (and
eventually competitive) interests and disciplines.
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These guys do it. That's the best thing I can say. Everyone claims this in new business pitches,
but Jeff and Rich actually do it. They do it consistently. They've been doing it for a long time and
show no signs of letting up. And nobody does it better.