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Goodby Silverstein & Partners

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Goodby Silverstein & Partners has basked for some years in the general adulation of its peers, but the partners seem determined to keep their shop small and laid-back. As a result, unlike equally admired agencies such as Wieden & Kennedy or Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Goodby Silverstein has resisted the temptation to expand its footprint with offices in other countries or even much beyond its home city of San Francisco. Luckily, parent group Omnicom agrees with this strategy, and this creatively led agency retains standalone status within the marketing giant's portfolio, allowed very much to go its own way, producing ads under a guiding philosophy which it describes as "art serving capitalism".


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Although the agency's creative work has always been strong Goodby Silverstein's new business record was until 2005 a little patchy. Several major clients were won and then lost either as a result of consolidation (the old AT&T Wireless) or for general business reasons (Subway, eBay, Banana Republic), making the agency increasingly reliant on a few long-standing accounts such as HP and Anheuser-Busch. Founders Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby were also increasingly piqued that their reputation as the country's hottest agency had been stolen away by fast-expanding Crispin Porter & Bogusky. They set out to change that during 2005, after which point Goodby seemed virtually invincible in new business pitches. It collected a string of valuable new clients in 2006 including Motorola (later lost), Doritos and Comcast, earning an accolade as Adweek's Agency of the Year.

That winning streak continued into 2007, with the capture of Sprint Nextel and Hyundai. The shop tripled its billings, virtually doubled staffing levels and took Adweek's Agency of the Year award for the second consecutive year. "The company changed more in the last two years than it did in the first 23," said Jeff Goodby at the beginning of 2008.

Since then, though, the agency's record has been much more mixed. Most of those big wins were later lost. The most notable gain was the capture of the Chevrolet creative account from the revitalised General Motors in 2010, and its subsequent retention following a review. Goodby Silverstein was the main US component within the Commonwealth global network, a partnership with McCann set up to handle the global Chevy account. The agency maintained a lowish profile during 2012, with only one sizeable win (Cisco). Its only real loss was the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, an account running almost exclusively in Australia, but which oddly enough it had held for several years. However, there was a significant blow in 2013, when Goodby was dropped from Chevrolet and the account consolidated into McCann. Another big loss was TD Ameritrade in 2014.

As a result, Goodby Silverstein has arguably returned to a more modest existence after that decade of starry attention. It has maintained a somewhat lower profile as a result of these well-documented losses. In addition to its San Francisco HQ, the agency opened an office in New York for the first time at the beginning of 2013, primarily to serve existing client Comcast. However, a separate outpost in Detroit was closed following the loss of Chevrolet. The collapse of Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable was another blow, prompting the closure of the New York office as well in summer 2015.

Ad Age estimated revenues of $121m for 2013, down by almost 30% on the year before as a result of the Chevrolet loss. There was a further 10% fall in 2014 to $108m, and then $100m for 2015.


The shop was founded in 1983 in San Francisco. Rich Silverstein had been art director of Rolling Stone magazine, Jeff Goodby was a former newspaper reporter from Boston, seeking new challenges on the West Coast. During the 1970s they began freelancing for West Coast ad agencies, including the San Francisco office of Ogilvy & Mather (later to become Hal Riney & Partners). In 1983 they joined forces with talented creative director Andy Berlin to open their own shop. An early one-off job involved rebranding a local software company, whose name they changed from Amazin' Software to Electronic Arts. Placing creativity above all other attributes, Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein's first ads were strikingly idiosyncratic. Initially they handled a series of smaller local accounts, including Hearst's San Francisco Examiner, but got their big break when Advertising Age named them its US Agency of the Year in 1989.

The heightened profile won them the national American Isuzu account, and other major clients followed. But it also caused a rift between the three partners. Andy Berlin wanted to expand the agency nationally, Goodby and Silverstein wanted to stay small. In the end Berlin walked out (passing through a series of other agencies before ending up at what is became Berlin Cameron). At the same time all three partners sold out their shares to Omnicom in 1992 to ensure the agency's continuing security.

Goodby Silverstein has continued to gain plaudits for its top-notch creative. Among its most admired work has been the long-running and strikingly imaginative "Got Milk?" ads for the California Milk Processors Board, which earned them the title of "arguably America's best ad agency" from Adweek. At the end of the 1990s, a panel of more than 1,000 of Madison Ave's finest creative talents selected four of Goodby Silverstein's ads for their Top 10 TV commercials of the entire decade.

Last full revision 6th September 2016

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