Being Black Is Not a Crime: Goodby Silverstein & Partners Emblazons Message on HQ

It's not the first time the agency has used its building to amplify its position on issues

black lives matter window
The windows of Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ headquarters. GS&P

Being Black is not a crime. That this message needs amplifying in 2020 is a sad inditement of the inequality that continues to decimate communities and cost lives, but it’s a stark reminder that San Francisco ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners has emblazoned across the windows of its office.

Prompted by the police-involved killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the agency said the activation aims to combat racism and raise awareness of the fact that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police. This is despite the fact white people are twice as likely to be carrying guns, according to the Courageous Conversation Global Foundation.

The work was created by associate creative directors Rony Castor and Anthony O’Neill, who have been honored among Adweek’s Creative 100 industry accolades for 2020 as Rising Stars.

Anthony O'Neil and Rony Castor have been honored in Adweek's Creative 100.

“What happened to George Floyd was horrifying. It was inhumane, and something most Americans can’t unsee,” Castor said, discussing the new campaign. “But it’s something the Black community has experienced for far too long. It’s time for our white allies to act. To use their voices, and stand up against systemic racism in every way imaginable.”

As Black men, we have a duty, responsibility and obligation to stand up against racism,” O’Neill added. “As an agency, we need to use our collective voices and stand with the Black community. It’s time to hold ourselves accountable. It’s time to stand with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, all victims of police brutality, and the entire Black community.”

O’Neill and Castor were also behind two powerful campaigns created in partnership with Courageous Conversation: “Not a Gun” and “Not a Crime.” The work highlights the unjust reasons why unarmed Black people have been killed by American police, such as carrying a candy bar that was mistaken for a weapon.

The duo joined Adweek’s latest Yeah, That’s Probably an Ad podcast, co-hosted by David Griner and Ko Im, and revealed how they’re coping and forging ahead amid the renewed Black Lives Matter protests, as well as what needs to be done in the face of uncomfortable conversations about social injustice.

Their agency, Goodby Silverstein, recently created a Twitter bot as part of a campaign called “Respond2Racism” aimed at addressing harassment online after hate against Asians and Asian Americas surged 900% on the platform since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bot auto-replied to racist tweets mentioning the coronavirus with videos that educate the perpetrators and uplift Asian front-line workers.

It is not the first time the agency has used its offices as a giant campaign platform. In 2013, the building became a giant celebration of Pride, with all of its windows turned into colors of the rainbow for a week.

“Looking at the racism and hate that threatens Black Americans every day, we just couldn’t stand by in silence,” said Goodby Silverstein co-chairman and co-founder Jeff Goodby.

@saramayspary Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.