Why MasterClass Tapped Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein to Teach the World About Advertising

Online education for a world fascinated by marketing

Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby take their experience to the MasterClass stage.
Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby take their experience to the MasterClass stage. Goodby Silverstein & Partners

From traditional academia to millions of do-it-yourself videos, online education continues to be a burgeoning business. But sifting through the options to find instructors with a true level of expertise can be a daunting task. Since 2015, MasterClass has been taking the guesswork out of online education and supercharging it with some significant star power.

In its video series, Martin Scorsese teaches filmmaking; Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson share acting wisdom; Shonda Rhimes digs into writing for television; and, perhaps most famously, Gordon Ramsay offers up tutorials on cooking. Scrolling through the options is a buffet of centuries of combined experience and includes names that some might not expect, like astronaut Chris Hadfield teaching space exploration.

In the storytelling section, the platform, co-founded by MasterClass CEO David Rogier, is rich territory for some of the most influential names. Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, David Sedaris, Judy Blume and James Patterson are among the powerhouse names on the topic.

Advertising is often positioned as storytelling and to that end, MasterClass enlisted Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein, co-founders of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, to teach advertising in a course that launches today.

Filming: Goodby Silverstein & Partners | Production/Editing: Breana Mallamaci, Adweek

The curriculum is titled Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and Creativity. The duo covers several ad-related topics such as what advertising is, how to create work that lives in culture, the anatomy of campaigns, craft, the Super Bowl (the agency has four ads in the game this year) and more.

Included is a look at some of the agency’s most famous campaigns, like the Budweiser lizards and the E-Trade monkey. A more in-depth segment focuses on the agency’s iconic “Got Milk?” work that, in many ways, broke the mold of predictable advertising. Goodby noted that it wasn’t so much about learning the nuts and bolts of advertising, but how to approach any work from a different angle.

“They asked us a lot about creating an environment where people could be creative and fearless,” he said.

The portfolio has grown to over 70 classes, and MasterClass CMO David Schriber notes that having famous people is one thing, but being able to share expertise on vital topics is crucial and builds trust.

“We look at our consumers and have conversations with them about the topics that they want to learn,” Schriber said. “One great example is negotiation. But who is the world’s greatest negotiator? We feel like we found one in Chris Voss, who not only has an interesting story as an FBI hostage negotiator but has written a great book on the subject.”

While something like negotiation seems practical, the idea of two advertising legends teaching people about advertising may seem a little inside baseball. According to Schriber, who spent many years in marketing at Nike and Specialized, there was a thirst for the subject.

“The idea came from our consumers, who tell us that they live in a world now where they feel everyone is marketing themselves,” Schriber said. “But it’s still a mysterious process and something they asked us to demystify. Anyone with a startup or side hustle, or even going to work for a brand, would love to understand more about how that works.

Since they founded the agency, Goodby and Silverstein bounce off each other in a way that makes the content seamless, and several decades together have made them experts in the subject matter. There is a density to the material, but their easygoing manner makes it accessible to newbies and provides inspiration for those who have been in the industry for a long time.

Ever the creators, Goodby and Silverstein kept their marketing hats on well after the cameras stopped rolling.

“I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming, but Jeff and Rich shared a lot of advice on how to market this class,” Rogier said. “I didn’t expect that. They had wonderful ideas that didn’t even cross my mind, and that was a delight.”

@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.