Who Is Going to Make Us Laugh Now? Thoughts on the Closing of Barton F. Graf

Thank you, Gerry, for being my mentor

Since college, I've always wanted to have an independent agency. But for over 20 years, every time I mentioned my dream to someone, for the most part I heard words of discouragement: "It's too hard." "Not right now." "If I were you, I wouldn't." 

Lots of times from people close to me. Until I met Gerry Graf about two years ago. 

When I was thinking about going independent, I wrote to Gerry asking if we could meet. I thought he would ignore my message, but he didn't. So we met, he showed me Barton F. Graf, we had lunch, and he told me everything about his independence journey. At the end of our meeting he said, "You should totally do it."

He told me that when he started Barton, David Droga helped him a lot. And that he would do the same for me. I couldn't believe it. I left the meeting feeling I was Mel Gibson in Braveheart. 

Gerry said this is probably not something the big networks would have done back in the day. But indies are different. Indies help indies.

I immediately called Gaston. "Gaston, we're fucked. Gerry says we need to do it, so now we have to do it. Otherwise Gerry will think we don't have the guts to do it." 

Gerry's incentive was that final push everyone needs before taking a giant step. A few months later, we jumped. We left the comfort of a holding company for the dangers of independence. 

It's been only a year and a half since Independence Day. It's still just the beginning. And I've never been so uncomfortable and so happy in my life. 

During this time, Gerry has kept his promise. He helped me with great advice, always with transparency and humor. So, when I saw the news that Barton F. Graf was closing, I was in shock. Barton showed us it's still possible to have fun in advertising. Barton was our new Cliff Freeman and Partners. 

Barton's work will forever be part of the history of advertising. We'll never forget "Hurricane Marco Rubio," Kayak's "Brain Surgeon" or Little Caesars "#1 Dad" and "Fireworks." Or the look on that kid walking in on his parents after a "Long Day of Childhood." And to me, "Yes Good" is at the same level as "Just Do It."

I don't know the details of the closing, but I do have two points to make. 

First, dear clients, in the name of all indie shops out there: Do your part. If you want brave work, act accordingly. Be brave when it comes to commitment, agency compensation and payment terms. Pay fairly. Pay timely. Brave doesn't mean scrappy. 

Second, I hope this sad news won't discourage other people from going indie, if that's the desire in their hearts. Yes, indie is not for everyone, and it is extremely hard. But there will always be space for creativity and the indie spirit.

More than ever, what our industry needs right now is to show the power of creativity. How creative ideas drive business results. We need more Wiedens and Drogas and Bartons. And more Joans and Preachers and Opinionateds. 

I hope GUT will honor all the help we got from Barton, and one day become an inspiration to the next generation of indies, the same way Barton was to us.

Gerry, I will track you down and keep seeking your advice. Thanks for being my mentor. Thanks for inspiring our entire industry. For being our class clown, our mad man from Madison Avenue. Whatever you're going to do next, we all know it's going to be weird and funny.

Never stop making us laugh, Gerry.

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Anselmo Ramos
Anselmo Ramos is co-founder and chief creative officer of GUT.