is reporting tonight that Hal Riney died on Monday at his home in San Francisco after a battle with cancer. He was 75. Riney helped build San Francisco into a creative center for the advertising industry with low-key, upbeat campaigns for Saturn cars, Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers and the re-election of President Ronald Reagan, the NY Times said in his obit.

Here’s a You Tube link to his classic “Morning in America” ad for Reagan’s re-election. And, yes, Riney did the voiceover.

“What is remarkable about the resonance of that effort for Reagan was that it was a positive ad message,” wrote David Kiley of Business Week. “As politics has been driven deep into the gutter of negative advertising and talk-radio partisan blather, it is a testament to Riney that he wrote the only positive political ads in modern times that are still remembered.”

Riney’s entire career was spent in San Francisco, starting in 1956 as a marketing trainee at BBDO. Ten years later, Riney was promoted to exec VP-creative director. He switched in 1972 to San Francisco shop Botsford Ketchum but four years later took a job opening Ogilvy & Mather’s San Francisco office. He set up shop as Hal Riney & Partners in 1985 and the following year bought the remaining 40 percent of the agency from Ogilvy to become an independent.

Riney is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Sutherland Riney, and two children from a previous marriage, Benjamin, 21, and Samantha, 19. His ashes will be spread at Mount St. Helens, Wash., where he grew up and loved to fish and hike, Ms. Riney said told AdAge. A wake celebrating his life is being planned to take place in about a month.

UPDATE, 12:05 a.m. Wednesday: The Chron has posted its obit. George Raine — after noting the Bartles and Jaymes, Saturn and Reagan campaigns — writes:

    “These advertising campaigns and many more had a unique and relaxed Western feeling to them and stood in contrast to so much in a New York-dominated industry. Importantly, Riney’s ads prompted marketers to pay attention to the San Francisco ad scene. He narrated many of them, and his gravelly voice is as memorable as the products he promoted.”

Raine quotes Jeff Goodby, one of Riney’s proteges and co-founder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners:

    “[Riney] was an optimistic, perhaps even romantic, vision of America. It was a land populated with people of similar values, small-town Fourth of July parades, and rocking chairs on shady porches. There was little tolerance of fakery and cant. It was this vision he mined in his 1984 campaign for Reagan, and even in his advertising for beer and automobiles.”

Here’s a link to the full Chron obit. posted this obit and a link to Riney’s Reagan ad about the bear in the woods. It added:

    “Riney will long be one of the names most associated with San Francisco advertising, alongside local titans like Howard Gossage. He influenced many of the city’s agencies and big players, including Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein.”
SF Press Club News


  1. Glad the Press Club isn’t so narrow minded that it can’t report on other aspects of the media besides newspapers! Hal was clearly a giant here in the Bay Area, though I don’t think a lot of people under 30 understood his importance.

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