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Rich Silverstein, co-recipient of this year’s Lion of St Mark, shares much with his GS&P co-founder Jeff Goodby. 

They both left the East Coast and headed west, seeking jobs in journalism, they’re both political, principled and have spent 35 years creating convention-busting work. They’ve also both, on occasion, worn mismatched shoes and had near-fatal issues with planes. 

However, says Silverstein, they differ profoundly. Cue enthralling tales of falling Concordes and kissing Hillary Clinton...

Above: Rich Silverstein, photographed by Quinn Gravier.


Jeff and I couldn’t be more different. Firstly, shirt-wise, I like to wear a proper shirt and sneakers. Jeff wears Birkenstocks. Can you believe it? We’re so different – stylistically, visually. He went to Harvard; he has a writer’s personality. I went to art school. My SATs were so bad, yet I had this visual thing going on, thank God. We’re a bit like two musicians – one writes the music and the other the lyrics. We don’t socialise, we just work really well, we agree on stuff. We can sit down for lunch and a few minutes later we’re like, “yeah, yeah, yeah”. Who we should hire, who we shouldn’t. We both have an intuitive sense of what feels right – in terms of storytelling and humour. 

Jeff is very quirky. The joke is that you would walk out of his office going “What did he mean?” and you would walk out of my office and go “Holy shit, I know exactly what he’s saying.” I am very direct and he is obscure.

I didn’t know what artists or designers were, I certainly didn’t know what advertising was, but Time magazine had a page called Art and I was always drawn to it.

I’ve only recently talked about being dyslexic and maybe there’s a possibility I have ADHD. I know what it’s like to grow up feeling you’re stupid because your grades aren’t good. You know what’s going on but you can’t write it down. I have a sense of the words. I just feel them. I can tell a story, but if you asked me to write down my answers to your questions I’d be terrible.

My earliest memory is probably my first day at school. I was so excited. I like to plan things, so the first night I put all my clothes out perfectly. But I went to school with two different shoes on. I was so embarrassed that I’m still talking about it today. Oh my God, how could I do that? Then just last week Jeff was at work and sent an email round to everyone saying he’d just realised he had two different shoes on.

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Above: Spots from GSP's long-running Got Milk? campaign, which kicked off with Aaron Burr.


I grew up in New York. I had a regular, Jewish, middle-class childhood, everything was fine. My father was a roofer and… Jeez… I think it has a lot to do with the dyslexia but I always felt a little disconnected. My parents sent me to art school, never asked questions, never asked if I wanted to go to art school. They said, “If you want to go art school, go to art school.” 

I remember hearing that my dad had wanted to be an architect and I thought “Well, why isn’t he an architect?” I didn’t ever want to wish for something, I wanted to do it. I didn’t know what artists or designers were, I certainly didn’t know what advertising was, but Time magazine had a page called Art and I was always drawn to it. I always found my art classes the most fun. Then I went to Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, partially because I had terrible grades, but I made the most out of it. 

I guess I was always trying to prove something to my father. There you go, it has to be that. My father was very judgmental. Today I’m still trying to prove I’m worth something to him and he’s long dead. That’s my drive, you know? 

I would always find myself working for people who were very tough. I wanted to prove something to them. That’s how I met Jeff because we worked with Hal Riney [at Ogilvy & Mather], who was a son of a bitch. Extremely talented, so tough, so hard and somehow he saw something in Jeff and myself and he put us together. 

Above: Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby, photographed by Quinn Gravier.


When I graduated I kind of ran away to San Francisco. I got married to my first wife when I was 21 or 22. I married the girl I went to high school with. I had kids early, too. I played grown-up very early. We left New York in a little VW Beetle, we ripped the seat out the back and stuffed everything in it and we drove across country, we headed out west! It was an adventure. 

Jeff is from Rhode Island and I’m from New York. So we’re both from the East Coast and we both chose to live on the West Coast. Coming out west was an adventure. It was the world of hippies, it was the world of anti-war demonstrations at Berkeley. It sounded like freedom.  

I cycle over the Golden Gate bridge every morning. I think cycling is a metaphor for moving forward, never stopping. Also, it’s a think machine. You’re on it and ideas just come.

I went to California and became a designer and then found my way into Rolling Stone magazine. Magazines were at their high point then. Great craft and photography and wit all coming together. 

I was at Rolling Stone when Tom Wolfe was doing The Right Stuff [Wolfe pioneered a literary style of journalism and in 1979 wrote about the Apollo space mission.] But I wasn’t a hippy and I wasn’t into rock’n’roll, I was a designer. I then became art director at San Francisco magazine. I talked my way into every job. 

Budweiser – Budweiser: Lizards

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I didn’t know I had ‘sell’ in me, I just think I had a drive to try to prove something. As a designer, I hated the ads in magazines. I thought they were crass. But then in San Francisco I saw some interesting ones. I talked my way into a six-month job at [San Francisco agency] Bozell & Jacobs and then I stayed in advertising.

My personal career highlights? I have to say Got Milk?. That came out of nowhere and became famous, but I like the quirky little films we’ve done. I love what we did for E*Trade. 

I really pushed for the E*Trade Monkey spot, [GS&P’s subversive 2000 Super Bowl spot for the online investor], when Gerry Graff and Dave Gray came up with the idea that $2million was the cost of a 30-second commercial at the Super Bowl at that time, and that company had just wasted $2million to have two whackos and a monkey dancing to a Mexican beat, I just thought, that is so brilliant, we gotta do it! And, of course, the client’s marketing department said, “No. No way.” I said we’ll spend our own money and shoot it and if you don’t like it you won’t have to pay for it. But luckily the CEO heard about the idea and said, “That’s fantastic!” So I didn’t have to pay for it. 

E*Trade – E*Trade: Monkey

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One of my favourite ads is The Guardian’s Points of View [from 1986]. I love that spot. Even today I show it to people because it’s intelligent and it’s still relevant. 

I try not to be a slave to my phone, but we’re all pretty much slaves to tech. I believe you should look directly at the world, I find myself not doing this sometimes – you go to an art gallery and you take pictures of the art rather than look at it. People aren’t using their eyes, they’re looking through a machine to capture the world. I don’t want to get too philosophical, but I think you should really look at things. 

If I was president for the day, I’d say let’s have some grace and treat each other with respect, and let’s get back to being real people with no bullshit.

I used to tell my kids when they were little, “Hey look! It’s the magic hour,” and I would show them a sunrise and sunset. I think looking at the light is important. It’s beauty, it’s hope. My wife [Carla] says she fell in love with me because she’d never met a man who would look at the light in that way. I’m jealous of DPs, I think the way they can use light is magical. I don’t think DPs get enough attention. 

Every couple of years they say advertising is dead, TV is dead. But every night we watch Hulu or Netflix or Amazon – storytelling is far from dead. People can’t get enough of a story where you connect to characters. We try to put that into our advertising. To me, everything is a film, even if it’s not a film; in storytelling there is always an arc. I get disappointed if we make something and it goes flat at the end. Good stories need an arc.

Polaroid – See What Develops

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My biggest fear used to be failure, now it’s the fear of not being relevant. 

I’m going to turn 70 soon, 13 June, just before Cannes. I have four grandchildren; I’m like, where did the time go? But [at GS&P] I always get to see new things, meet young people. It keeps you alive, it keeps you current. 

I cycle over the Golden Gate bridge every morning. I think cycling is a metaphor for moving forward, never stopping. Also, it’s a think machine. You’re on it and ideas just come. I don’t know where from. As long as you don’t fall off, you’re good. Jeff swims every morning, maybe that’s how he gets ideas. I work with the Specialized Foundation which is researching how ADHD kids who cycle don’t need as much drug treatment. It frees up the mind in interesting ways. 

Jeff and I both love and hate politics. Both of us are dying here with what’s going on, we do a lot of pro bono work for causes we like. We’ve tried to get the Democrats elected many times. We tried to get Hillary Clinton elected. I had dinner next to her once. I fell in love with her. I kissed her on the forehead, like an aunt. She’s amazing.

Above: Hillary Clinton during the 2016 US presidential campaign.


Trump says “rapists and murderers” are coming from Mexico. They’re not, they’re children and moms. It’s gross; it’s Nazi Germany all over again. 

If I was president for the day, I’d say let’s have some grace and treat each other with respect, and let’s get back to being real people with no bullshit. I wonder what that would do. 

My heroes are racing driver Ayrton Senna, Randy Newman, the Coen Brothers, writers, cyclists, architects. I admire an eclectic bunch. 

I didn’t realise how big the Lion of St Mark award is. But the more people talk about it, the more I think, “Oh my God! It’s a global award. I’m just a little kid, I just do what I do! I don’t know how it happened.” So I’m kind of floored. 

Above: The Lion of St Mark.


The closest I’ve been to death was when I had to fly to England and Carla said, “Hey, Concorde is going to go out of business, you gotta fly it before it does.” So I did. So I’m on Concorde, in the middle of the Atlantic and suddenly KABOOM! The plane seems to start falling and suddenly has to land in Cardiff. [A faulty engine on a 2003 flight led to the unscheduled landing at Cardiff, Wales, instead of Heathrow]. I remember thinking, “Oh, so this is how you die.” It was interesting. It was my wife’s fault. It’s kind of sad to realise that when people are going to die in that situation, they have a long time to think about it. 

After I’ve gone I’d like people to think that I was a good mentor who wanted the best for people and that I treated them with respect. I’d like them to say, “He was fun to work with – too bad he’s dead!”

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