Why Jerry Goodis, Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk are good as gold

The trio of ad legends are the first inductees to the Hall of Marketing Gold.

hallofgold

What better time to inaugurate an archive of ad legends than during the Marketing Awards’ big birthday bash? As the 100-year-old program looked back on its time in Canadian advertising, it also recognized the creative powerhouses and agency builders revered by their peers for galvanizing the industry forward. The “Hall of Marketing Gold” program was born this year with the aim to recognize the mega mentors who broke ceilings, gave back, nurtured talent, inspired a culture of creativity and elevated Canada on the world stage.

All of these qualities and contributions were easily found in ad giant Jerry Goodis, and creative mentors Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk. All three inductees were recognized at the 100th Marketing Awards gala in Toronto, with the lifetime achievement awards presented alongside this year’s Gold winners.

Jerry Goodis

Scanned DocumentsJerry Goodis was a folk singer-turned-advertising maverick, an outspoken businessman with an eye for creative talent and a scrappy salesman with a sharp marketing instinct – remembered as much for his colourful personality as his work through his agency Goodis, Goldberg, Soren.

“He could be prickly, overly candid and outrageous,” says Doug Linton, the former chair of Ambrose, Carr, Linton, Carroll, who also previously served as CD and president at Goodis’ firm. “He shook up the business and pissed people off. He loved it. He was the enfant terrible.”

Goodis’ career in advertising was prefaced by the mark he first made in the music business. He was one of four founding members of the Canadian folk group The Travellers, formed in 1952, who were best known for their Canadian interpretation of Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

Years later, he, the band’s musical director Sam Goldberg and Goodis’ half-brother Albert Soren made the jump to advertising.

Goodis was an outlier from the beginning. His agency opened up in an industrial area, rather than downtown. He was a Jewish man whose personality and mode of operation was the antithesis of the establishment. And he was charismatic in an industry that wasn’t always known for being so.

“If he was pitching to a bank, he would want to show prosperity; if he was pitching to a nascent company, he would show his lean and hungry side,” says Alan Gee, director of business and brand development at Gee Beauty, who first worked for Goodis as a freelance and then full-time AD. “That’s a skill of people who understood the cut and thrust of growing a business and how to relate to your audience.”

While a campaign for Hush Puppies helped put the agency on the map, Goodis, Goldberg, Soren would go on to produce memorable and long-running slogans.

There was “At Speedy, You’re Somebody,” which focused on the treatment of customers, addressing the poor service that people would receive from competitors when they brought their car in for repairs. “Harvey’s Makes Your Hamburger a Beautiful Thing” targeted adults with its pick-your-own-toppings option, a personalization no other burger chain was offering at the time. The
agency also produced WonderBra’s “We Care About the Shape You’re In” and Swiss Chalet’s “Never So Good for So Little.”

The work environment under Goodis was both convivial and challenging. “He was very mercurial; he was hot or cold; he loved or hated you,” recalls Gee. “It was a running joke around the place: What he wore would telegraph what his temperament would be. If he was wearing bold things, he was exuberant. If he was wearing a gray suit, you didn’t go in and speak to him.”

Despite a fluctuating temperament, Goodis had a gift for attracting and cultivating talent. Many who worked for Goodis went on to start their own agencies, like Gee, or become creative directors. “He inspired people, he was a great salesman, he believed in good work and he believed consumers were smarter than most,” says Linton. “He championed work with artistry and wit that created a dialogue with you. He brought together a multiplicity of people who grew under him.”

Before his passing in 2002 at age 73, Goodis penned three books: 1972 saw the launch of Have I Ever Lied to You Before?, the same title used for a 1976 doc about Goodis, produced by the National Film Board. GOOD!S: Shaking the Advertising Tree and his autobiography Battles of a Marketing Warrior were both published in 1991.

Throughout his own career in advertising, Gee recalls how firms were more focused on retaining clients and the bottom line than on the internal workings. But not Goodis.

Adds Gee, “To a lot of creatives who knew him over the years, Goodis was that charismatic guy who loved creative work, and celebrated the creative process and the people who did it.”

Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk

SWIM

As former co-CCOs at Ogilvy & Mather Toronto, award-winning powerhouse duo Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk produced and
oversaw iconic, culture-shifting campaigns, the most famous of which includes Dove’s “Litmus Test.” They later co-wrote books
guiding the career growth of others. And as co-founders of the Swim leadership lab, established in 2012, the advertising veterans went full-tilt on their passion for training and coaching creative leaders as a way to drive change in workplace culture. All of this has served their truest passion: Ensuring women succeed.

“They’ve been champions for diversity and inclusion, and they have been spectacular mentors for women (and men) all over the
world,” says Jenny Smith, president, CD at Ray Creative Agency and member of the Hall of Marketing Gold Advisory Board.

Each arrived in advertising via a different route. Vonk chose her path after hearing Advertising Design program head Ray Nichols
at the University of Delaware present to undeclared art majors like herself. In his talk, Nichols used the adage, “Advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” convincing Vonk to jump into the field. Kestin was almost broke in Montreal when, after observing ads above the subway seats and thinking she could do better, called every ad agency in the Yellow Pages alphabetically, until Young & Rubicam – at the end of the phone directory – agreed to give her a shot.

Later, Kestin spent a number of years out of the industry, having been fired twice by agencies in the earlier part of her career. Over two hiatuses, she sang in a bar band, wrote for a magazine, spent time as a mother, tried to figure things out.

She wasn’t planning to return to advertising. But then Ogilvy & Mather asked her to work with Vonk, on a freelance basis, in 1989.
The two spent the May long weekend coming up with ideas for feminine hygiene brand Kotex, and a friendship that would lead to a thriving professional partnership was born.

It was their work on the Dove “Litmus Test” in 1991 and 1992 that solidified them as a risk-taking creative force. Using science to demonstrate that Dove was gentler on skin than other soap, the campaign was unique in that it appealed to women’s intellect, providing a new way to talk to a female audience. It went on to garner global accolades, from Cannes Lions to the One Show.

More than a decade later, the CCOs again defied advertising norms with Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” born in partnership with four Ogilvy & Mather offices. Their teams redefined beauty, calling out the ideals of feminine beauty perpetuated by the media and beauty industries. The Toronto office’s work included the double Cannes Grand Prix-winning “Evolution” film.

But for all their pride in their roles in the “Real Beauty” campaign’s success, Vonk gives credit where due: While they were among the creative leaders, “one of the most famous Dove ads ever made was actually created by – gasp – a male team! (Tim Piper and Mike Kirkland).”

Two other award-winning campaigns are points of career pride. To promote Timex’s Indiglo Night-Light feature in ‘97, the duo created TV ads that featured a blue dot moving against a black background, suggesting an athlete was wearing the illuminated watch while diving or rowing. At the end, a super explained Timex Indiglo supported the Olympic athletes, with print ads using simple line illustrations to convey the same message.

Their famous Diamond Shreddies campaign, the brainchild of Hunter Somerville, a summer intern, cheekily promoted a supposedly “new” kind of Shreddies, by simply rotating the square cereal to become a diamond.

While at Ogilvy, Kestin and Vonk mentored young talent and provided them with opportunities.

“If I want to be really glib about it, it was because we were mothers,” says Kestin. “We always felt we should bring younger people in, and I loved that part of the job as much or more than the actual doing. I really loved raising of other people, the helping, the growing.”

When the two were ready for their next career steps, they landed on the idea of starting a leadership lab that would help creative leaders make a real impact in their workplaces and the industry. Ogilvy offered to house Swim as part of its offerings, but the pair opted to go out on their own, with the agency as their first client.

“Having been that person who had to make the transition from being a maker to helping others be their best is a hard shift because we work in a business that says you’re rewarded for what you personally make,” says Kestin. “So there’s so much unlearning that goes into creative leadership.”

“Leading is hard,” adds Vonk. “It’s the leader who shows up with empathy, puts their employees first, brings humanity into the role and creates an environment where people can truly thrive.”

Kestin and Vonk have lectured at schools and conducted workshops, as well as written books. Pick Me (2005) stemmed from their advice column, Ask Jancy, on a now-defunct website, and continues to be a resource in schools. Darling, You Can’t Do Both (2014) was born when a HarperCollins editor approached them after a talk they gave at a Women of Influence event, and is a guide to ignoring, bending and breaking the unspoken rules of business that trip women up.

Over the years, the pair has been recognized with everything from global awards to being included among the 100 Most Influential Women in Advertising Age. Recently, they were recognized as recipients for the 2021 Les Usherwood Award.

Their latest Swim project, a global virtual leadership program for women for the Grey Group, is another contribution that aligns
naturally with their impactful careers. Says Kestin, “Going all the way back to Dove, if you look at the through-line of our careers, working for women, with women, to improve our own lives and those of others has been a passion for us from the get-go.”