Hal Riney, 75, RIP

Hal Riney, 75, RIP

Hal Riney, the San Francisco advertising man whose iconic and memorable work helped establish the city as an important creative center for the industry and a magnet for major accounts, died of cancer in his San Francisco home Monday. He was 75.

Whether his client was an automobile manufacturer, a company selling wine coolers or the committee to re-elect President Ronald Reagan, no one could put as graceful a spin on Americana as could Hal Riney. He made likable, engaging advertising in a career of nearly 50 years.

He is best remembered for creating the brand – and the outside-Detroit image – of General Motors’ Saturn automobiles, but he may be equally famous for creating the codgers Frank Bartles and Ed Jaymes, who sing the praises of the Gallo wine cooler that bore their names. In 1984, he created “Morning in America,” the soft-textured, 60-second memorable montages of Americana, telling stories of swelling national pride, making people comfortable about re-electing Reagan.

These advertising campaigns and many more had a unique and relaxed western feeling to them, and stood in relief to so much in a New York-dominated industry. In the process, Riney ads prompted marketers to pay attention to the San Francisco ad scene.

Before Riney, the legendary Howard Gossage had established San Francisco’s ad industry roots. Riney proteges Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein, who started with Riney doing “Billy Ball” ads for the Oakland A’s, left in the spring of 1983 to establish one of the country’s top tier agencies and encourage the next generation of San Francisco creative advertising people.

“He created an atmosphere and body of work that attracted the highest level of creative people outside New York,” said Goodby, co-founder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. “Some would say higher.”

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