Goodby Silverstein & Partners rises above with cultural connections
Amid the crowded field of commercials at this year’s Super Bowl, one agency stood apart for the sheer volume of creative contributions to the ad industry’s largest event of the year. Goodby Silverstein & Partners produced commercials for four different brands—Frito Lay’s Cheetos and Doritos, as well as PepsiCo’s SodaStream and Pepsi—a record for the Omnicom-owned agency, which won special acclaim for a dance battle challenge between rapper Lil Nas X and Sam Elliott in the “Old Town Road” spot for Cool Ranch Doritos.
“I could watch that Lil Nas/Sam Elliott commercial all day long,” one consumer wrote on Twitter.
Such a response might be music to Goodby’s ears, but it’s also the result of the 37-year-old agency’s time-tested strategy of providing cultural value that resonates with the average consumer for its clients.
“It’s something we love to do—we can immerse ourselves in pop culture and be part of something,” says Margaret Johnson, partner and chief creative officer. It helps that Goodby’s San Francisco headquarters, which houses 400 staffers, serves as both an incubation and creation zone for all new work. At a time when many brands have a scattered roster of agencies and production companies that are hard to reach amid the coronavirus crisis, much of Goodby’s offerings are on site—including animators, editors and a music suite. “We have all the tools in-house to make things from scratch,” says Johnson.
Winning new clients
Even before the pandemic, such an offering helped win new clients including HP, Truly, SodaStream and PayPal last year. Revenue grew by double digits for the year after more than 20 percent growth in 2018. And existing clients like BMW gained market share; the car brand overtook Mercedes and Lexus in 2019 to become the top-selling luxury car brand in the U.S. Goodby has a 94 percent client retention rate, according to Bonnie Wan, partner and head of brand strategy.
It even won back a client. Goodby and HP, the Palo Alto, California-based printer brand, parted ways in 2012 following a 16-year arrangement. That relationship was rekindled last year when HP was looking for an agency partner to help make it relevant again.
“We make the best printers, but it’s not just enough to have that when no one is thinking about the category,” says Ladd Martin, head of global marketing, print and hardware systems at HP and a former Goodby employee. He notes that Goodby’s “robust production facilities” and “nimble approach” to problem-solving paved the way for HP’s “Get Real” campaign, which aired last fall. The push, which highlighted the dangers of digital obsession, helped propel HP back into the cultural conversation, Martin says, noting that Goodby is now HP’s lead agency of record for its printing, commercial and PC businesses.
“We weren’t sure if [Goodby] still had the momentum, the ability to do the kind of work they have always done,” says Martin. “But we found more than ever they’ve taken all the things they knew to be true about what kind of work works when it comes to branding and advertising, but address that in a modern context.”
Keeping in touch with modern times and new brands is in part a result of Goodby’s Brand Camp offering, a 2018 initiative that gained ground last year. Originally developed with the agency’s Silicon Valley startup neighbors in mind, Brand Camp includes a concentrated brainstorm with brand and agency leaders to develop a quick marketing solution. Last year, it moved beyond startups to projects for SodaStream and the San Francisco Giants.
“People want to work fast, they need answers quickly and want to keep the emotion and instinct alive—Brand Camp does that,” says Jeff Goodby, partner and co-chairman. “There’s so much testing and second-guessing of what goes on, but Brand Camp maintains the spontaneity.”
Goodby is also focusing on advancing its technological prowess, evidenced by GS&P Labs, the agency’s in-house innovation lab for experimentation. Last year, it created an artificial intelligence face-swap around artist Salvador Dalí for the Dalí Museum.
Such offerings “are always grounded in some kind of strategic thing that furthers the brand,” says Rich Silverstein, partner and co-chairman.
This year, Goodby has new work rolling out for Boston Beer and Truly, the fast-growing hard seltzer brand owned by Boston Beer Co. The agency also won a project-based assignment for Panera. Even in the early days of coronavirus, before many states implemented quarantines, Goodby execs were already planning ahead on how best to help clients.
“Who can operate best in this new world where we’re quarantined from each other—we’re already thinking about that and trying to figure out how to educate clients about how to deal with the differences in media and production,” says Goodby. “It’s going to be a new world out there, and it’s not going to be business as usual.”