Goodbye Goodby

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Are these guys nuts? On June 1, Paul Venables and Greg Bell - co-CD/associate partner and group CD, respectively, at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners - said goodbye to all that and set up their own shop, Venables, Bell & Partners, with former Goodby suit Bob Molineaux. This in the middle of the largest advertising downturn in a decade, amid threats of a recession, and the San Francisco ad market hobbled by the dot-com disaster.

"We're complete idiots," Venables confesses. "Not only are we quitting our jobs, but they're two of the best creative jobs in the world." On the other hand, the new shop comes out of the gate with a $50 million client, Microsoft-backed Ultimate TV, which pulled its business out of FCB/San Francisco last month. And, because the split from Goodby has been amicable, the upstarts expect help, including an office-space arrangement and the referral of conflicting business, from the established agency. "In return, one of the biggest things we can do for them is just not raid and pillage their staff," says Venables.

Venables, Bell grew out of conversations with Bill Morgan and Beth Kachellek, former executives at Goodby client SBC who now oversee marketing for Ultimate TV. "We have a longstanding relationship," Venables says. "It just sort of serendipitously worked out." Ultimate TV was out of play for Goodby since the agency already represents TiVo, a direct competitor.

Accounts the departing duo has worked on at Goodby include SBC (which owns both Pacific Bell and Southwestern Bell), Netflix, Sutter Home, and Isuzu. As a team, copywriter Venables and art director Bell also created the latest broadcast work for Discover Card including a Behind the Music spoof about imaginary hair-band Danger Kitty, and a recent musical number featuring tragedy-prone consumers crooning "Put on a Happy Face."

"Let's look at it from the positive side," Venables says. "I have great partners, some of the best people I've ever worked with in the business. I have a lot of experience. Greg and I have turned around a lot of difficult brands and managed to build a pretty cool reel. We're going to be working on an account that we have right out of the gate, run by really smart, nice people that we know and like, and I have the help and support of the best agency in the world. We would be foolish not to pursue it. It's a dream. It's a storybook way to start an agency."

But Venables, Bell? Not very flashy. Haven't they considered any names involving colors, or maybe a number? "Most successful agencies have names that sound like a law firm," says Bell. "So we're just following suit."

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