“Whatever success I’ve achieved has come from pretty much doing the opposite of what I’ve been told.” – Hal Riney
Some would say that Hal Riney helped make San Francisco become the creative center it is today. It was Hal and a few others who helped open the west coast offices of some of advertising’s largest agencies. But what Hal and group did was give these west coast offices a voice of their own. It was inventive and took creative to a new level.
Hal himself gave us such great campaigns as:
- Bartles & James
- Perrier water
- The launch of Saturn for GM
- “Morning in America,” for the 1984 Regan reelection campaign
And nobody embodied that voice more than Hal Riney…quite literally. Riney not only created these iconic campaigns, but he also did the voiceover work for many of them. It is his voice that so perfectly accompanies the “Morning in America” ads. At points in his career, Riney was actually being requested by others agencies to do voiceover work. Many would describe much of the whimsical, patriotic work from the late 1980s as ‘riney-esque,’ showing the mark he left on advertising during that time.
Riney was nominated for an Academy Award in 1969 for his work on a documentary about patients in a California mental hospital and in 1982 he opened a plane door and leaped to safety with a few other passengers when their flight to Honduras was hijacked by Honduran rebels.
And he may be the only advertiser to win a Grammy, having given us the Carpenters “We’ve Only Just Begun” for a Crocker National Bank commercial.
But Riney was no saint.
He was notorious for his Irish temper and was no stranger to alochol and cigarettes. But as hard as he was on his employees, he was equally hard on himself. That drive to be better was not lost on his people, as some 28 would go on to head other notable agencies, including Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
And that’s what is so inspiring about Hal Riney. He broke the mold. He did whatever he had to do get the job done, and if that meant being the voice of a presidential campaign to deliver the right emotion, he did it.
He challenged those around him, and he challenged himself. He pushed others to be better.
Mediocre and good enough were not in his vocabulary and he didn’t go by the 80/20 rule
Instead he believed that advertisers had to make up for their intrusion into a home’s TV viewing. That was our burden to bear. And that’s why Hal Riney gave us some of the century’s most iconic campaigns.