The day they broke into Hal Riney’s island

Hal Riney, the legendary adman who died this week at 75, was a guy who could appreciate a prank—even when it crossed a line. Back in 2001, Brian Grosenbaugh and Marc d’Avignon, two well-meaning, line-crossing employees of Publicis & Hal Riney, decided they wanted to learn a little more about their illustrious, semi-retired leader. So they decided to locate, and then infiltrate, his private island and vacation home in Honduras. Armed with only an 18-by-24-inch photo of Riney and a video camera, they embarked on their quest. Five airplanes and a boat ride later, they found an American expat at a Honduran bar who recognized Hal. With the help of the property’s caretaker, Grosenbaugh and d’Avignon were soon in the house, checking out Hal’s fishing rods, trying on his shirts and playing his guitar. They didn’t run into Riney himself, but ambushed him with their six-minute video at that year’s holiday party. “He was laughing, thank God,” d’Avignon told me at the time, in a piece I did for Adweek. D’Avignon, who now works for Wieden + Kennedy, wrote to me this week and reminded me of the story. “Over the next few days, ad guys and gals will sit on barstools from San Francisco to New York and tell stories about Hal Riney,” he wrote. “There are plenty and they’re all pretty good. I am grateful that I could be a part of one.” RIP, Hal.

—Posted by Tim Nudd