4A's Conference

Jeff Goodby Encourages Industry to Think More Like Vandals

Agencies Should Be Brave and 'Run Toward the Fire'

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Jeff Goodby speaks at the 4A's Transformation convention in front of a photo of celebrated ad man David Ogilvy.
Jeff Goodby speaks at the 4A's Transformation convention in front of a photo of celebrated ad man David Ogilvy. Credit: Ari Mintz/Courtesy of the 4A's

Jeff Goodby, co-chairman and partner of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, said agencies should push the envelope a little more by tapping into their youthful naughty sides at the American Association of Advertising Agencies annual Transformation conference.

"Like good advertising, good vandalism is funny, loud and still there the next day," he said, adding that the expectation and naughtiness of being a vandal as a teenager was what made it so good.

Mr. Goodby listed his five steps for creativity: take a different route to work every day; draw or write with the wrong hand; write things down; study jokes; and a have constant state of readiness to do something provocative or kind of naughty in the world.

One way to promote vandalism, he said, is to build it in-house and give staffers the freedom and tools to make things that interest them or that they care about. For example, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners' in-house beta group developed a spring-loaded Doritos feeding machine to make snack time hands-free. The team also created a virtual reality experience of a Salvador Dalí painting with Oculus Rift at The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

When it comes to being provocative, sometimes you have to "run toward the fire," said Mr. Goodby. His shop's staffers took it upon themselves -- through a suggestion from one of its planners -- to create an anti-bullying emoji.

"Vandals are people who chase results, not rewards. That's how things get famous," he said.

The agency also worked with Frito-Lay, headquartered in the conservative state of Texas, to develop a "subversive bag of chips," said Mr. Goodby. The shop helped launch Rainbow Doritos to show support of the LGBT community. For each bag purchased, a donation was made to the It Gets Better Project, and the bags sold out in 12 hours.

"Do things that people appreciate, that are big, that they see and that stick in their heads and make the most of the media channels we're looking at," said Mr. Goodby. "Be brave -- we're all going to be fired in the end by people or time."

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