According to Jeff Goodby

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Jeff Goodby is happy but thoughtful as he tries to explain the sustained return to form Goodby, Silverstein & Partners has enjoyed this past year or so-a purple patch that has culminated in Creativity's Agency of the Year award. He declines to over-emphasize the idea of a previous dip in his agency's creative fortunes or the degree to which it has "come back."

"Some of the work we did the year before last was really underrated," he begins, "but I am really happy the work has come back. Obviously Saturn was really influential in this. It energized the place and really raised the bar." Goodby points to the arrival of Jamie Barrett, the return to the agency of Harry Cocciolo (now recently departed again), and the work done by Steve Simpson in leading an HP client to dramatically improved creative work as landmarks in the Goodby renaissance. "We saw the opportunity on Saturn right from the beginning," says Goodby, beginning a trawl through the agency's client list. "We wanted people to be the inspiration. It wasn't really a different kind of car or car company any more. The difference had to be built around the customer experience. It was a tough sell not to have the cars in the original 'Sheet Metal' ad and others. It would not have gotten through without the support of Jill Lajdziak (the Saturn marketing VP). She championed it despite the focus groups. She thought it really captured why Saturns are made the way they are made."

Throughout the current Goodby oeuvre, clients have been "brave." Often this means using personal intuition to go against the findings of focus groups, or not having pre-research at all. Imagine what research would have made of "Birthday." "We have a great relationship with the Milk Board," Goodby says. "They really understood and trusted that the sport would be a little dark. Perhaps they were surprised by quite how dark. But the only thing we forced through was ending on the child's face with an accompanying clap of thunder."

The other huge achievement of the year was clearly the dramatic turnaround in standards on HP. Here, Goodby largely credits the CD Steve Simpson for working tirelessly to "get a handle on this big, beige, not sexy client. The HP campaign is just an old ad trick done extremely well, but the work really broke through with the 'Plus' stuff," Goodby continues.

For eBay, it was Barrett who came up with the idea of answering the client's insistence on having lots of products in its ads by listing them all to music. "I did it eBay and the rest followed."

"Meg Whitman, [eBay CEO] did not budge on the brief," Goodby says smiling, "but Jamie turned it into something cool, putting all of the products in stupid songs. She thought it was Nirvana, and we have so much fun coming up with the songs." Fun is a frequent theme in Goodby's conversation-it is distinctly unusual to hear in the current climate. For instance, he says it is "so much fun" to work for AT&T now, the agency having been dropped by its longtime client SBC (it was 10 percent of Goodby's business at the time).

Goodby chooses his words carefully when describing Ogilvy & Mather's previous "mLife" work as "a little confusing." Harry Cocciolo led the AT&T pitch bringing back the old "Reach out and touch" theme, but updating it. It was Cocciolo's idea to place people having distant conversations side by side as if they were chatting. Once again, the AT&T client used to be his Etrade client.

Goodby cites work for Ace Hardware and even some decent Liz Hurley ads for Elizabeth Arden as other highlights of the year, before wrapping up with his latest attempt to explain his supposedly new stance on planners. "We were actually planner light, with not enough of them," he says warily. "So planners became account people as they hung around with the client too much. Planners are always welcomed by clients. But I am working hard to help planners visit clients less and creatives more. I don't want planners to be scared of the creative department."

He is still working out the new role of planners, he says, but even as he pays tribute to his creative directors yet again, it is clear that the success Goodby is enjoying stems from the kind of trusting client relationships that most other agencies would kill for. Goodby himself, like Rich Silverstein, is entirely still involved, which makes it little surprise that Goodby Silverstein has had the kind of year it has.

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