Tricks of the trade

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Shoot to edit: Directors may say, "Got it," and move quickly to the next shot, but agency principals Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein demand a variety of takes to offer them lots of editing options. "Jeff and I are the editors," says Mr. Silverstein. "We don't go on a shoot and get attached to a location or an idea," he says. "We see the emperor naked."

Ultimately, a lot of the agency's magic takes place in the editing room, where Messrs. Goodby and Silverstein's skill does things such as allowing jokes the space they need to breathe, says Harold Sogard, partner and general manager.

Creative style: The agency's work displays a classic narrative, providing "a breathtaking combination of humanity and humility," says former partner Andy Berlin. "People have foibles but don't lose their dignity. There is a gentleness and an edge. It is very much an outgrowth of their [Messrs. Goodby's and Mr. Silverstein's] characters," he says.

Empowering talent: Over the years, Goodby's creative has avoided falling into a genre, thanks not only to turnover, but to the ability of Messrs. Goodby and Silverstein to tell creatives "not how they would do this, but `What do you want to do?' " says Steve Simpson, partner and creative director on Hewlett-Packard Co. "They trust you to take the shot."

"We cajole people. We're firm with them; we're straight with them," says Mr. Silverstein.

Going for the fences: Mr. Silverstein wants his shop's legacy to be a reel that can be enjoyed over and over, like `Seinfeld' or `I Love Lucy' reruns. "We try to hit home runs," says Mr. Silverstein, adding, "Jeff and I sit around [reviewing work] and say, that was a `B.' We're the harshest critics of the agency's work."

Getting it right: Account planning is not just a tool to help develop creative, but also a means of avoiding unpleasant surprises with risky creative. After work is developed, "We talk to the consumer about the work so everybody will know we've got it right," says Mr. Sogard.

Being nice: Some creative shops may have a confrontational style, but at Goodby, "We're respectful. We're nice people to work with," says Mr. Sogard. "It helps get you over the sticky parts" with clients, and with employees, too.

"I loved going into work in the morning-it was like going to school and you got to sit with all of your best friends at lunch," says Amy Nicholson, now creative director at Wieden & Kennedy, New York.

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