Run Toward the Fire

Yesterday, around 1:30pm, in the theatre of the Creative Circus, something brilliant happened. Something that simultaneously reinforced everything I want to believe about the industry I so dearly love, and opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about advertising and creativity in general. Yesterday, in a room of students hanging on his every word and teachers trying to pretend they weren’t starstruck, a giant walked among us. Yesterday, Jeff Goodby* spoke. And I peed a little.

If you don’t know who Jeff Goodby is, let me quickly refresh your memory: Got Milk. Great, now we’re all caught up. (Obviously we’re not all caught up. He’s done, is still doing and will continue to do incredible work, much of which can’t even be categorized. He is not just an advertising god, he’s a creative institution. But I needed to keep this post under 1,000 words.)

The first slide Goodby put up had all of us on the edge of our seats. It said, “How Vandalism Will Save Advertising.” You may have seen or heard about it through various advertising outlets, apparently it’s a presentation he’s been working on for a bit and given great thought to, and it shows. The premise is simple: to save advertising, if indeed it is something to be saved, we need to run toward the fire.

We need to shake things up, be crazy. To unleash something on the world that it doesn’t expect. Do what they’re telling you not to. Be a vandal with a purpose. A rebel with a cause. We need to embrace our social responsibility. We need to make it bigger. Make it better. Make a statement. Make a change. Check out the work GS&P is doing now and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

This is not a new idea, per se. It’s not groundbreaking or earth shattering or mind blowing. In fact, it’s the reason I got into this business in the first place: to effect social change. But lately, I’ve been feeling creatively suffocated. I’ve been told my work is “too cause based” my feminist voice is “too angry,” and if I could just tone it down it would be a lot easier for me to get a job. So imagine my delight when not only is one of my idols speaking not 10 feet from my face, but he’s telling me that what I believe in, the way I work, my desperate desire to inject social justice into every little thing I do, is not only good, it’s necessary.

“Take a brand and figure out how to make them do good.”

It’s the simplicity of this idea that speaks to me so much. It’s not about only writing for non-profits or brands with a social message, it’s about changing the perception of a brand, it’s about taking brands with no message, with no agenda, and giving them one. Make them matter. Make them stand for something. Because vandalism without a purpose is just destruction.

Of course this is only a sliver of his presentation. The sliver that resonated most with this little rabble-rouser. There were so many other perfect pearls of wisdom I couldn’t begin to write about all of them, but I’m going to try. For you. You’re welcome.

Jeff Goodby’s pearly wisdom nuggets

  • This is lucky. You are lucky to be in this industry and to be creating silly and sometimes powerful stuff all day.
  • Use your own life, don’t try to be something different. And if you want to be something different, change your life.
  • Amateurism is the purest form of creation because it is done out of love.
  • Study jokes
  • Write things down
  • Be in a constant state of readiness.

What a guy, man. What. A. Guy. I couldn’t be more pleased to have shaken his hand. My sincerest thanks.

Peace, Love & Goodby

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