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Campaign Brief (AUS/NZ) Online.
Campaign Brief Magazine : November December 2007
NEWSMAKE R before leaving in 1979 to work for the legendary Hal Riney at Ogilvy & Mather, which is where he met his co-chairman in GS&P, Rich Silverstein. They were working on a freelance project for the gaming company Electronic Arts, when Silverstein and he teamed up with Andy Berlin to start Goodby Berlin & Silverstein in 1983. It was renamed Goodby Silverstein & Partners in 1994, when Andy Berlin left to form Berlin, Cameron & Partners in Manhattan. He suggests everyone quit their job and start their own agency at some stage so they can experience what he calls the ‘tree house feeling’ he used to get when he first started his own agency. “It freed my mind up in a way that I’d never felt before, especially creatively. It was a great feeling of not knowing what was going to happen next and that you would just have to rely on yourself for whatever happened that day and the day after that. Even if it hadn’t worked I’d still feel like it was a great experience. “Despite the feeling of wonder, it was daunting sitting in this tiny office measuring 500 square feet avoiding mistakes because mistakes can put you right out of business. There’s that statistic that 90% of new businesses go out of business in the first year so we were really happy when we got to the end of the first year and we were still in business,” he says. [Interestingly, one of the accounts it had in its early years was the Australian range lamb account to promote Australian lamb in the US, which it did for a couple of years.] Working off the theory that the best ads are entertainment and that a little controversy can stretch your media budget, one of its original breakthrough campaigns was for the Mill Valley Film Festival for which they did a three-minute trail- er promoting the film. Starring actual people from Mill Valley they feed them lines to make them sound like they were erudite, eso- teric film buffs: for example, the guy at the hardware store was talk- ing about film noir and the garbage collectors were discussing French filmmaker François Truffaut. Although there were only four people at the agency at the time it got them noticed. Naturally, there are a few more steps between winning awards for a film festival and being lauded as one of the best agencies in the world. Goodby says a lot of it is just get- ting the right people and that a lot of the new business you get is also about luck. For example, a speech he gave was heard by William Randolph Hearst the third, the grandson of the newspaper baron, who then invited them to pitch for the San Francisco Examiner. As the story goes, the idea they presented was a parody of the film Citizen Kane - talk about a brave idea - but not only did he buy it, he acted in the commercials. 12 C A M P A I G N B R I E F Goodby suggests everyone quit their job and start their own agency at some stage so they can experience what he calls the ‘tree house feeling’ he used to get when he first started his own agency. What’s Goodby’s advice for creating better work? “Find the truth about a product and just tell it and shoot for the highest common denominator, not the lowest, do not use bad poems from the 1970s, presume people are paying attention and then you get that attention and see the world through the eyes of your audience.” However, by the early 1990s, the friction between the partners was growing and amid fears the agency may be split apart they accepted Omnicom’s offer to buy the agency, a move that took some explaining to the staff. Soon afterwards, third partner Andy Berlin left. Says Goodby: “That was fine for the company because there was a lot of head butting going on at the time, it was good to have two peo- ple who agreed with each other.” Also a commercials director, among the work he is proudest of is the HP campaign promoting its merger with Compaq, which was Advertising Age’s Campaign of the Year in 2006: “It was controversial and people wondered whether it was really going to help the compa- ny but it turned out to be a good move and they have now passed Dell in personal computer sales,” Goodby says. The other is the ‘Got Milk’ work – he penned the tagline - which he says has taken the agency into a whole other place when it comes to mixing the internet work with the more traditional stuff - as evidenced in the aforementioned cow abduc- tion campaign, and the game called gettheglass.com. “Those are both examples of a truly integrated forward looking campaign and those guys want that. They are a client that demands it now, we would never be able to go there and say well, here is your commercial, again. And these are dairy men!” he says. Goodby predicts that within a few years agencies are going to need the capacity to do fully integrated cam- paigns because by then the internet and TV will be one. He also dismisses the notion that advertising isn’t art: “I think it is an art form in the sense that it’s a piece of art designed to have a cer- tain effect towards a certain end. We have this slogan for our compa- ny ‘art serving capitalism’, it’s a lit- tle bit tongue in cheek, but that’s what we do,” he says. “We are making something akin to art, we are engaging people and trying to help them do something, we are trying to make think something and feel something. I’m not a Pollyanna about what our goals are, our goals in some examples are quite mun- dane but I do think what we are try- ing to do is hard to do.” He says that agencies are also in the entertainment business in the sense that you have to come at peo- ple in all these different ways and you have to do it with stories that have a lot of depth and drama and humour to them and to really think about what is going on at the other end, so you are not just talking at people. Then there’s the image of adver- tising itself with only 14% of Americans thinking advertising is an admirable profession. “I think it happens because adver- tising is really bad, we all probably agree that the majority of advertis- ing – at least 99% - is pretty terri- ble. I don’t want my kids to see it, I certainly wouldn’t want anything to do with making it. There are lots of ways to avoid making bad advertis- ing, just don’t do it.” What’s his advice for creating bet- ter work? “Find the truth about a product and just tell it and shoot for the highest common denomina- tor, not the lowest, do not use bad poems from the 1970s, presume people are paying attention and then you get that attention and see the world through the eyes of your audience.” J N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 7
AWARD Awards 2007
September October 2007