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Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P) has named managing partner Leslie Barrett as its next president, only the third person to hold the post over the past 30 years. Barrett takes over the role from Derek Robson, a 17-year GS&P veteran who left the agency in December 2022 to become CEO of Ideo.
“Leslie is an aggressive business builder, a master negotiator, a champion of innovation and a leader dedicated to employee well-being who thrives on making work that drives true business impact,” said Jeff Goodby, co-founder and co-chairman of GS&P in a statement. “She is the perfect leader to take GS&P forward.”
Barrett said her promotion means creativity and growth for the agency.
“We’re going to hold on to the things that have made us us: our creativity, our humanity and the responsibility we take in the ways we influence culture. We’ll evolve in the way that we use our creativity to solve problems and do it in even more innovative and welcome ways,” Barrett told Adweek.
Barrett will help direct the agency’s vision and be responsible for the overall business, while also creating and maintaining a place where people can come and do their best work.
Barrett takes the president position in a partner group that is now 62% women. Since the new partnership was put in place in 2016, the agency has thrived, landing on Adweek’s shortlist for U.S. Agency of the Year and becoming Fast Company’s Most Innovative Advertising Agency (2021), along with other accolades.
“Leslie is a strong leader who sets a clear direction, believes creativity can solve any problem and creates momentum for the business,” said Margaret Johnson, CCO of GS&P in a statement. “She takes a human approach and nurtures trust and collaboration within her teams and loyalty with her clients.”
“I don’t think there’s anyone who better understands what the company is and where we want to take it,” added Rich Silverstein, co-founder and co-chairman of GS&P. “In advertising you can’t sit still and rest on your laurels. You have to constantly evolve, and she’s the person to help us do that.”
Barrett has been instrumental in agency growth and leads many of GS&P’s largest and most pivotal clients. With a client retention rate of 100% since 2014, she has fueled the agency’s average client tenure of seven years. She has enabled pitchless business wins over the years, most recently Comcast Business, Idorsia, Califia Farms, One Medical, Oura, Lidl and Bic razors. The agency is defending the BMW account, which the brand put into a procurement-mandated review earlier this year.
In her new position, Barrett wants GS&P to take an even more aggressive approach to new business and leverage technology—including AI—to answer harder questions and do more interesting work, like it did recently with its “Dream Tapestry” at the Dali Museum, an interactive experience where visitors can turn their dreams into art using OpenAI’s Dall-E.
“Strategy is more important than ever, and we have the best strategists in the world. Our offerings, such as [creative branding experience] Brand Camp, help clients prepare for and react to the future of their companies, articulate their purpose and evolve their brands,” said Barrett.
Over the past few years, Barrett and the agency have welcomed back boomerang clients, including HP and Truly. She helps establish deep client relationships, including with Doug Sweeny, now the CMO of Oura.
“Leslie and I have worked together three times on vastly different brands over 12 years—at Nest and most recently at One Medical and Oura,” said Sweeny in a statement. “She has the innate ability to solve problems quickly, to challenge and rally clients while earning their respect.”
A push for diversity
GS&P, an Omnicom agency, has long championed diversity and bringing new voices into the industry.
In 2022, GS&P created an in-house advertising school called The Academy at GS&P, which trains talent tuition-free. The goal for the school is to increase the diversity of talent by including those from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and the inaugural class was 74% people of color.
“We’ve always championed diversity because we do our best work and are our best selves when we reflect the audiences that we have the privilege of representing,” said Barrett. “Like most people, we are on the journey. We are learners and listeners and strive to be our best.”