Goodby and Silverstein Revisit Their Greatest Hits, and Notorious Misses, in Cannes Talk

30 years of great work, and unforgettable stories

CANNES, France—Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein told some great stories from their 30-plus years together at a seminar before an adoring crowd at the Palais here Thursday. And true to form, it was a funny and honest talk, with the creative partners recalling almost as many failures as successes—punctuated by an abounding gratitude for what they've accomplished, and the people they've met along the way.

They began, for example, with the topic of getting fired—something Goodby, Silverstein & Partners has endured many times over the years.

"The last time I was on this stage, I was here with Joel Ewanick, my client at GM," Goodby said. "We were both fired within months. He used a really bad word that starts with M and has a lot of letters in it. That got back to Dan Akerson, the CEO of GM, and that was a really bad thing," he added with a chuckle. (The word was motherfucker, and it was hardly the only profanity uttered in their 2012 seminar, which was lively—apparently too much so.)

Not that getting fired is always the worst thing in the world. But it can be frustrating when you feel like you're doing good work for a client.

"We've done some of our best work before being fired. It's just a rotating thing," said Silverstein. "The new CMO comes in. It doesn't matter how good you've been. You're on the chopping block."

The pair then told three funny firing stories.

E*Trade

"I met the new CEO. It wasn't even the CMO," Silverstein recalled. "I thought, of course we're going to continue with them. We did great work. And the first thing he said to me was, 'Thanks for destroying my company.' So, we didn't continue with that guy."

 

Logitech

"We lost it after doing this wonderful spot [with Kevin Bacon]," Silverstein said. "And I've never seen another spot from this company. So you never know what's going on in the world." The Logitech spot was actually a tie-in with Google TV, which Silverstein jokingly dismissed. "Who has a Google TV out there? I don't think it worked. And who has the Logitech mouse? I hope Google's not in the audience," he added with a laugh, "because we are available for work."

 

NBA

Goodby then ran an NBA spot from GS&P, which never aired, that used CGI to show a LeBron James jersey getting unburned—celebrating his return to Cleveland. "It certainly had something to do with us not getting any more assignments from those people," he said. "I think the mood of it was just not right. If you're a basketball fan, I think you enjoy it."

 

Adobe

In the case of Adobe, GS&P actually turned around what seemed to be a broken relationship.

"In this case, we quit. If you can't get fired, you might as well quit," Silverstein joked. "We weren't doing any good work for them. The process was broken, and it was frustrating. They had this product, this great brand that we knew we could do something for. I always say that I called the client and said, 'I quit.' But actually Robert [Riccardi], our partner, went in person—and the CMO threw a stapler at him. But then I got a call from Shantanu [Narayen], who was the new CEO of Adobe, and it all turned around."

He then showed "Dream On," the Adobe spot that won gold and silver Cyber Lions here earlier this week and is in the running in the Film competitions, too.