Hal Riney retires to great agency in the sky at 75

A different kind of agency. A different kind of adman.

Ad legend Hal Patrick Riney died from oesophagal cancer March 24 at the age of 75. 

He began his career at BBDO, before moving on to Ogilvy and then founding Hal Riney & Partners in 1985. He has left us memorable campaigns such as Saturns strategy "a different kind of company, a different kind of car" the two old men who were Bartles and Jaymes, and even Reagan's 1984 campaign.

Trvia: In this bear ad you can hear Hal Riney's own raspy voice - because he did the voiceover. 

Jeff Goodby has written a long obit in adweek. 

Ronald Reagan had Riney to thank for setting the positive tone of his 1984 re-election campaign, which ranked No. 43 on Advertising Age’s list of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the century. It was Riney’s gravelly voice that could be heard intoning, “It’s morning again in America” in Reagan’s iconic commercial.

Riney went against conventional wisdom in creating the ad. Rather than attacking Reagan’s challenger, Walter Mondale, Riney compiled clips of happy and hopeful Americans moving into new homes, getting married and proudly raising flags.

“I was told at the time that the only kind of political advertising that worked was negative advertising, where you lied about your opponent’s faults,” Riney said in a 2002 presentation at San Francisco’s Academy of Art College. “And I went to Washington, D.C., and I listened to the researchers talk about negative advertising for two days, then came home and sat at the bar here in my office for two hours and wrote what I thought would be a better presidential campaign.”

Hal Riney 1932-2008


Riney won hundreds of advertising awards throughout his career. Advertising Age named Hal Riney & Partners the agency of the year in 1993 and ranked him No. 30 on a list of the top 100 ad figures of the 20th century. In 2002, he was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Fame.

Adland® is supported by your donations alone. You can help us out by buying us a Ko-Fi coffee.
Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
Files must be less than 1 MB.
Allowed file types: jpg jpeg gif png wav avi mpeg mpg mov rm flv wmv 3gp mp4 m4v.
Neo's picture
Dabitch's picture

Ah, Riney video commenting, very apropos.
Trivia - When at BBDO Hal hired composer Paul Williams to create a theme for Crocker Bank of San Francisco. The song, "We've Only Just Begun," went on to become a No. 1 hit by the Carpenters.

Also, this is just cute from the SF gate:

In his private life, Riney was a doting father who wrote and illustrated hundreds of unabashedly sentimental letters to his children. One of these included a poem explaining that the Easter Bunny was actually a lawyer for a special-interest group who, once a year, assuaged his guilt by distributing candy.

Toste's picture

Hal escaped a plane hijack once.

"I just opened the goddamn emergency hatch, jumped out and ran like hell," Riney told The Chronicle that year. "I zigzagged while I ran, expecting shots that never came." Coming home, he circulated a memo to his staff that read, "A belated thank you for your concerns while I was on that airplane. Actually, my research shows that there were 37 in favor of rescue, 29 in favor of blowing up (the airplane) and the remainder undecided."

Dabitch's picture

Here's a Saturn ad from the Hal Riney era in the archives:

Saturn - Jet Pilot (1994) - 0:30 (USA)

Dabitch's picture

Hal Riney trivia: his office at Publicis & Hal Riney had a giant Bison head mounted on the wall.


Dabitch's picture

One Club hall of fame, Hal Riney

Advertising folklore has it that Ernest Gallo once said, "An agency is like a grape. You squeeze it dry and then you throw away the pulp." Whether Ernest truly made that statement is beyond me. What is true is that Hal's juices never stopped flowing.

In fact, it could be argued that Hal has written and (or) art directed more commercials than anyone else in history. Doubtful? Consider this. There were one hundred fifty-three commercials in the Bartles & Jaymes campaign. Hal wrote every one of them. To equal his output on that account alone, a writer would have to produce a spot every month for the next twelve years or so.

Obviously, it's not the quantity of work that's most important. Sometimes it's not even the quality. It's the gravity. In whatever spare moments Hal found between writing commercials and building an agency, he created work that would have a more profound impact on people's lives.

//* */