This month’s University of Washington alumni magazine, “Columns”, features an image from the iconic Hal Riney ad campaign for Bartles & Jaymes. Just one of countless campaigns for many clients that Riney did over the years (many of which he penned himself) that demonstrated the power of doing something completely different (a choice that the vast majority of clients are entirely afraid of). The irony there is gigantic, because having the spine to take the path less (or never) traveled has the kind of bottom line-altering effectiveness that all companies would kill for.

Bartles & James was a huge success, largely due to the two charming, if not entirely country bumpkin gentlemen, played by actors Dick Maugg and David Rufkahr. A UW graduate, Maugg passed away last summer, which partly explains the magazine’s editorial toast to him and this campaign. The other part is that Hal Riney, too, was a graduate of the University of Washington, and along with Bill Bernbach, Lee Clow, Dan Wieden (also a northwest boy), Jeff Goodby and a few others, largely defined the great work of their times, and are in a way responsible for generating billions of dollars of economic prosperity. So, while people generally look at the advertising industry with disdain (and if you look at most work, there is good reason to), those clients brave enough to believe in an unusual idea — and trust the advice of their agency — stand to realize the greatest levels of success. There is nothing quite as powerful as a great idea.

Anyway, as a graduate of Washington myself, I look at this as some sort of badge of honor. Not that I’ve had a career like Riney. (I wouldn’t qualify to dust off the keys of his Underwood.) But I take pride in knowing that such a great campaign came from a man who went to my school. Ridiculous, I know, but that’s how I feel.