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Jamie Barrett Doesn't Need to Brand His New Agency


Age 51
New gig Co-founder, cd, barrettSF
Old gig Partner, ecd, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

What advice did Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein have about launching your own shop? What about Pat Fallon?
Jeff and Rich didn’t need to give me any advice. They’ve been showing me the right way to do it for the last 10 years, and Pat for the last 25. I’d put Dan [Wieden] in there as well. I’ve had unbelievable role models. Very lucky that way.

How will barrettSF stand out in a crowded marketplace?
Agencies burn so much time and energy trying to brand themselves. If we look in the mirror we know it’s mostly just a bunch of words. All we really are is the work we do. That’s how [co-founder] Patrick [Kelly] and I want to stand out—with the work we do.

What’s with all the forty- and fiftysomething creative directors going solo?
Probably a little different for all of us. I’d thought about starting something for a long time and I was just ready. I didn’t have a big account. I didn’t have a brilliant plan. I just knew I wanted to build something new. I wanted to create not just an ad but a place.

Which recent startups do you admire and why?
I admire anyone who chucks it all and starts over. Guys like David [Droga], Gerry [Graf] and Ty [Montague]—they’re all highly successful people who gave up a lot of stature and security.

You grew up on the East Coast. Why do you love San Francisco?
The West Coast takes the edge off type A people. I love New York, but I can’t last there for more than a week or two at a time. San Francisco is an amazing combination of laid-back and driven.

How did studying English at Princeton prepare you for advertising?
I have a recurring nightmare where I’m back at college, I’m trying to write a 100-page thesis on a Smith Corona typewriter and it’s due in two days. It’s just me and a toaster oven and a bottle of NoDoz. I think Princeton prepared me for advertising by stressing the crap out of me.

Who’s your favorite author?
Charles Schulz. Simple, funny and soulful. More advertising should be that way. There’s a new Charlie Brown movie coming out in 2015; that’ll be a half-day at barrettSF.

What was it like to work with Michael Jordan on Nike?
The whole Nike athlete experience was incredible. You realize these people are exceptional not just for their physical talents, but [also] for the strength of their minds. Jordan was driven to be the best in the world at everything he did, including commercials.

I didn’t realize how competitive you were until you crushed me in pool in the East Village. Where does that come from?
Ever since I was a kid I’ve hated losing to advertising journalists and older brothers. I’m a middle child. I’ll always be the little brother looking to prove himself in a lot of ways.

What was your worst ad ever?
A print ad for a bakery. It has a picture of a Rolls-Royce with the headline, “We Make the Second Best Rolls in the World.” I don’t typically showcase that one in new business presentations. If there were an award show called the Stinkies, I feel confident I’d do well.

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