Rupert Samuel—All to the Good

NEW YORK Rupert Samuel, former head of integrated production at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and his four partners in Venice, Calif., startup Goodness Mfg.—Brian Rekasis, Paul Keister, Bob Cianfrone and Tom Adams—were behind some of Crispin’s most famous work for Burger King, Volkswagen and Mini Cooper.

Next month, they open a new shop that aims to keep the industry on its toes. Samuel, 33, who began his career at Crispin as an intern more than 10 years ago, discusses what he learned at the agency, what he’ll do differently and what makes Goodness good.

What’s the philosophy behind Goodness?
The name refers to us being a great place to work and supplying a lot of goodness to our clients. For us it’s a lot of fun right now, and we’re excited about the future…We picked the name to serve as a compass for how we want our culture to be.

What did you learn at Crispin that you’ll apply to your own agency?
The ability to push work that is outside the box and to create a culture where people want to be part of it.

How do you build that type of culture?
By providing an environment where individuals are a huge part of the process. They are what will make Goodness Mfg. what it is. Our goal as founders will be to provide that foundation for creating great work.

At Crispin, a lot of production was done in-house. Will you duplicate that model?
As a start-up, we’ll be relying on outside resources to help us grow.

What was the most complex production you worked on at Crispin?
I would have to say for me it was creating the [1999] And 1 Mixtape properties. The challenge was far greater than just a normal shoot, in that, at the time, And 1 didn’t have any street players signed. We not only created the Mixtape from scratch, but also went out and found the most talented street players, created a national tour and aligned great unreleased music. We also shot it ourselves, including TV spots that were concepted as we shot, and did so all within a shoestring budget. It was very challenging and also some of the best times I have ever had in production-lots of winging it, which is what I love, freestyle.

Of all the ads you’ve worked on, which are you the most proud of?
From a purely TV perspective, the “Lamp” spot we did for Ikea with Spike Jonze. It’s storytelling in the most profound way possible.

What’s the smartest business decision you’ve ever made?
The day I decided to become an intern at Crispin. [From intern, Samuel then moved up the ladder, first working as an editor, junior producer, producer, senior producer and finally director of integrated production.] I was part of a great case study. It’s something I can learn from today.

What kinds of clients does Goodness want to work with?
Anyone or anything that we feel will be a great partnership. Our mission statement is, “We want to make brands famous and the industry nervous.”

With so many options out there, what will you offer that’s different?
What we do is bring a lot of experience, and we’re a potent creative force. We’ll be coming up with the best ideas to get brands injected into pop culture.

Will you focus on branded entertainment?
The idea will define it. That’s what we used to do at Crispin. You can’t just say, “Let’s do branded content.” It has to be, “What does the brand need?”

Which agency, past or present, is closest to what Goodness hopes to do?
There are a lot of agencies I admire: Wieden for believing in relationships and integrity; Goodby for being great storytellers and pioneers; Crispin for their innovation; Mother for their Britishness, after all, I am a limey. We are excited to forge our own path and learn from these key aspects and hope to leave a very positive legacy.

Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
My family, the main reason being that I used to be the youngster who went through a lot of craziness and they always supported me. I got thrown out of school when I was 16 and they were always supportive despite the ambiguities of being a teenager. Also, Crispin Porter + Bogusky because of the work ethic I learned there. Chuck Porter [chairman of Crispin], more than anyone, was a great influence. He taught me how to put together a formidable team of people and how to manage them and how to not take yourself too seriously while doing it.

Who has influenced you most creatively?
For me it’s always the work. I look at the work of Spike Jonze and Micheln Gondry and everything they do is so well thought out and meticulously planned, even though it doesn’t look it. The production is high quality. That’s what I look for. Those are the kinds of guys we all aspire to work with.

What is one thing you will do differently than Crispin?
If we would be as half as successful as CPB has been over the last 10 years we would be loving life.

How do you get past a creative block?
I don’t. Ideas are your currency. If there’s a challenging idea out there, you’ve got to rely on your vendors and the people around you to help you figure it out.

What is your dream assignment?
Anything where you create a really good relationship with a brand as a team, and you’re able to go out and create new things.

What is the dumbest business decision you’ve ever made?
I don’t believe in making dumb moves because you learn from everything, especially in advertising. If you don’t take risks and push the boundaries, you’ll never learn. There’s nothing I look back on and regret as a dumb business decision.

Name one person with whom you’re dying to work.
We’re a completely doors wide-open company. We don’t want to be in the position where we grow ourselves so much internally we can’t bring in someone from the outside. We want to push into all areas of advertising and I wouldn’t want to put one person down over another. When the time and idea are right, that’s when you seek the person who would be applicable.

What’s the last ad that made you stop and watch the whole thing?
“Night Driving” for VW London from DDB. It’s really inspiring. The music is amazing and the voiceover poetry is great.

Are there any clients you won’t go after?
We don’t see ourselves doing tobacco. The brand has to be the right fit for us. We’re open to a lot of things whether it’s traditional or not.

Did you try to bring any Crispin clients over to your new agency?
No, we’re not seeking that. We all left with very good vibes. We’re all good mates in life. It’s like we’re brothers. The last thing we’d do is something to hurt them.