32 Under 32: Ralph Paone

By Egotist / /

Today we’re doing something a little different. Just kidding, we’re doing another awesome 32 Under 32 interview. This time it’s Ralph Paone, Brand Strategy Director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Take a look at what Ralph had to say, then check back tomorrow for another one.
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Congrats on being chosen as one of the top 32 advertising and marketing professionals under 32. We selected people who really go above and beyond in their work. How do you think you approach your job differently than other people?

Part of what attracted me to advertising was the scale—the ability to reacha mass audience and share art, a joke or create utility. But that scale implies a responsibility to be relevant. A lot of advertising is unwelcome noise.

So I try and approach my job with empathy and respect for the people we are trying to engage. My favorite part of being a strategist is the opportunity to get outside, talk to people and understand what issues various groups of people face in their daily lives—from pickup drivers in the Midwest to coastal college kids.

What kind of accounts/projects are you working on these days?

All kinds. Princess Cruises. Frito Lay. Recently, I’ve been helping expand the agency’s work with local startups (shout out to our friends at Clever).

What is it about where you currently work that really pushes you to be better?

At GSP everybody brings their A-Game. Across every discipline, people are not just smart, they are thoughtful in how to best solve client problems. It’s intense, exhilarating and forces you to bring your best.

In thinking over your career so far, what work had made you the proudest?

I am most proud of creating Seed Detroit—an online platform for organizing, getting involved with and promoting community projects.

The project emerged from my work in Detroit on Chevy. It was selected as the winning idea in a GS&P innovation contest. I was inspired by grassroots efforts to transform neighborhoods in absence of government resources and wanted to accelerate their efforts.

I was involved in the project from genesis to launch—cracking the initial idea, finding funding, sourcing developers and fostering local partnerships.

You were president of the debate team at Harvard. How does that help you with clients?

Fun story. After college, I was a debate coach in Austin when I received a Facebook message from a stranger named Zach Canfield. Zach had somehow stumbled upon my debate background and wanted to talk about working at a place called Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. That was six years ago. I wouldn’t be in advertising without debate.

When it comes to client work, debate provided me an invaluable foundation in research and argument construction. It also provided secret persuasion skills, which I am not at liberty to discuss.

Here’s a ridiculously clichéd interview question for you: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Ideally, I will still be working with creative people and applying my skills to help build a better world. I am a “cities nerd” and very interested in the role technology and design might play in making cities more responsive and useful to their denizens. In ten years, I would like to be focusing on these concerns more directly at some as-of-yet non-existent studio/shop.

Hopefully, I’ll also have a few things published—non-fiction and poetry.

Lastly, access to a sailboat (and the knowledge of how to sail it).

This might be tough, but here’s your chance to give a shout out to one person who has helped you get to where you are today. Go.

My mom. She’s the most creative person I know. And she’s always pushed me to be smarter, more kind and thoughtful. She’s the inspiration and the motivation. Love you mom!