Goodby wows at Pompous Society’s great, first event

Bob Scarpelli and guest speaker Jeff Goodby. Photo by Deb Klonk.

It was a great party.  Tasty passed hors d’oeuvres. Wine in genuine glass goblets.  Fun speech.  And a lively group of people.  Indeed, the best we could have hoped for on all fronts.

Any concerns we may have harbored about whether the speakers’ committee recruited by the Chicago Chapter of the American Association of Advertising Agencies could pull off its debut event were fully dispelled by the time we exited the vast series of rooms that comprise Untitled — a funky underground supper club and the event host venue hidden beneath a nondescript CVS drugstore at 111 W. West Kinzie. 

What was most heartening — of many heartening things about the event — was the genuinely interesting cross-section of Chicago advertising talent that showed up for this inaugural gathering of the Pompous Society, including some really bigwigs such as Leo Burnett chief creative officer Susan Credle and the cantankerous Ogilvy/Chicago creative leader Joe Sciarrotta.

Sponge CCO Paul Brourman of Sponge and Susan Credle, Burnett’s top creative  As we indicated in a previous post, the Pompous Society  is the sassy name the speakers committee has given to the overarching organization that is trying to foster a real sense of community within Chicago advertising’s creative ranks and beyond.

We have been to many previous events intended to try and bring together the local ad community, and left them thinking “what a disaster.”  But not this time.  The many younger members of the city’s ad world didn’t appear to be at the Pompous Society launch merely to down as much liquor as they could stomach — though there was plenty of liquor to be had during the evening, to be sure.


Goodby talked about big ideas and daring work

Instead, this time around, all in attendance were genuinely attentive and thoroughly engaged in the remarks made by guest speaker and legendary creative ad man Jeff Goodby, a founder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners/San Francisco. 

GS&P has long been viewed as one of the nation’s finest ad agencies and Goodby himself, one of the smartest creatives in the global ad world.

In his address to the Pompous Society gathering, Goodby opted to talk about how creatives can effectively sell advertising concepts to clients, even if it’s work that may be more daring than a client could be expected to buy and produce.

At the top of his talk, Goodby had a lot of fun poking fun at friend and fellow ad man Bob Scarpelli, the former global chief creative officer at DDB who introduced the guest speaker.

Before taking on his global role, Scarpelli led the creative department at DDB/Chicago, where he oversaw a vast amount of work produced over many years for iconic American brewer Anheuser-Busch and its lead brands, Bud Light and Budweiser.

Goodby showed several commercials produced by GS&P that most amusingly skewered the frogs that were the centerpiece of a major Budweiser campaign from DDB/Chicago during the 1990s.

The high point of Goodby’s presentation, however, was the airing of an extraordinarily moving spot intended as a tribute to the staying power of General Motors, which managed to come back at near full throttle after near total collapse.

In the end, one came away from Goodby’s talk realizing — most of all — that both the man and the agency that has his name on the door are truly all about ideas and smart executions of those ideas — ideas that could be funny or emotionally gripping depending on the case. So many agencies pay lip service to the notion of “the big idea.” But at GS&P, those ideas are there on a regular basis.

A campaign Goodby wished wished he’d done

During the question & answer session that followed Goodby’s talk, one Pompous Society attendee asked him what recent ad campaign that wasn’t his did he wish he had done.

After pointing out that there were so many that fit in that category, Goodby singled out the recent DirecTV campaign — the one featuring commercials that show a series of increasingly ugly sequential events that finally lead the voiceover announcer to say get DirecTV and avoid such an outcome.

There were indeed a couple of decent spots in that DirecTV campaign, but Goodby, we think, shouldn’t feel too sorry that particular campaign wasn’t his.  He’s done so much work that is so much better.

Contact Lewis Lazare at