For nearly three decades, Patrick Godfrey has worked to tell the story of technological change. As a strategist, marketer, entrepreneur, and thinker, he has helped the creators of some of the world’s most significant innovations capture attention, build understanding, and shape the public conversation. He has steered through the radical upheaval in media, advertising, and publishing to found two highly successful businesses. It’s a journey defined by creativity, tenacity, and insight.
And it all started when he crashed his boss’ car his first week on the job.
Patrick—or PG, as he’s known in the shop today—had just started as an account executive at Ogilvy & Mather in Los Angeles. He was put to work on Microsoft Office and Windows. Late one night before a client meeting, his boss handed him the car keys and a big box of collateral—these were still the analog days—and told him to print, bind, and collate materials for the next day. As PG drove down a steep hill in Seattle, the all-important box in the front seat began to slide. Instinctively, he reached out to protect the work—and rear-ended the car in front of him. He had to pull an all-nighter, but still got the binders to the meeting.
Instead of being fired, he returned to LA to find a crash helmet on his desk and a new nickname—“Pat-wreck.” And, following his noble if somewhat misguided display of commitment to the work, his career began. He won account manager of the year. He became an account executive on the software team for IBM after its new CEO, Lou Gerstner, upended Madison Avenue by firing its dozens of agencies and naming Ogilvy its sole advertising partner. In that role, he became a frequent visitor to IBM’s storied innovation hubs—Almaden, Somers, Mississauga, Research Triangle Park. He began to discover his passion and skill for translating the seemingly esoteric details of software—an industry that had largely shunned mainstream marketing—into compelling, accessible ideas for widespread consumption. “I found that I had a real knack for taking these hard-to-understand concepts and turning them into simpler ideas that could inspire creative people to write copy and stories,” PG says.
He also found that the audiences for these messages—the CIOs, engineers, and IT decision-makers—had consistent needs. “I felt like I had learned how to learn, and that I could step into new categories, because while they had differences, whether it was networking or semiconductors or security or enterprise software, they had a lot in common, too.”
Eating the World
As software started to eat the world, and the web started to spread, PG felt drawn to the epicenter of those changes. Trading New York for San Francisco, he left Ogilvy and joined Anderson & Lembke, which specialized in B2B advertising when the industry as a whole was still captivated by consumer brands over history-changing technologies.
“They bragged about work for Sun Microsystems and AGFA photo printers and IBM token ring technology. It was not the kind of work we're supposed to aspire to in this industry,” PG says. “But they did and it was a special group of people that they gathered to do it. That had a lot to do with my cementing my stock in trade.”
At Anderson, PG shipped some of the first internet banners, a technology pioneered at wired magazine, which in mid-‘90s San Francisco was also defining new territory for magazines, not to mention new ways of understanding the world. “wired became my bible. It became my handbook for knowing more than my clients about where the world was going.”
PG moved to Lowe & Partners to work on Sun Microsystems during its period of hyper-growth. In Silicon Valley, the dotcom froth was starting to build. “I never did work on a dotcom startup. Everybody was at the time. But something about them made me feel uncomfortable. I didn't know what it was. Later it all made perfect sense.” Next, at Goldberg Moser O’Neill, he ran the Cisco Systems business when the networking hardware maker had risen to become the second-most valuable company in the world. Then the dotcom economy crashed. As enterprise companies that survived began to pick themselves up, they needed guidance on how to define themselves in this new, uncertain landscape. PG saw the chance to put his expertise to work.
In March of 2003, Godfrey Q opened for business and by April had landed its first client, Sybase. Together, PG and his co-founders, Brian Quennell—a creative director known throughout the industry as “Q”—and CFO Dennis O’Rourke, ramped up to more than $100 million in billings by showing technology clients that their offerings and needs were well understood. Godfrey Q was more Silicon Valley than Madison Avenue. As one of the agency’s early pitches put it, “We flatten the learning curve.”
Over the next decade, technological innovation didn’t just reshape the industry that was driving it. It was changing the business of media and advertising. “Every year more clients were saying, ‘OK, we’re going to brief you guys in on a project, but we don’t want you to bring us any advertising.’” PG says. In this state of flux, PG increasingly came to see strategy as an anchor. Platforms and messages may change, but a brand’s purpose and values can and should remain consistent. Godfrey Q’s work became more and more focused on helping brands define themselves at their core.
One of those brands was wired. Not a traditional technology client, wired by 2013 had become a cultural institution in the public conversation around technology. At the same time, the culture itself had changed. wired no longer had a monopoly on its market, and the brand needed to assert a clearer sense of identity and purpose in the crowded technology space. The Godfrey Q team interviewed scores of stakeholders inside and outside of wired, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Twitter inventor and CEO Jack Dorsey, and marketing innovator Beth Comstock, as well as Scott Dadich, the Editor in Chief with ultimate responsibility for ushering wired to its new identity.
For wired, the work was important. For PG, it was scintillating. “It was really about where this indelible brand was going to go and what it had the possibility to do,” PG says. “wired suffered from predicting a future and then having it all come true—and as it became true, all of a sudden it had a thousand competitors in every direction.” The wired work was technology, strategy, and publishing rolled into one, all in the context of finding direction in a world beset by change. The work helped wired claim a renewed sense of purpose and dramatically increase its audience. It would also help seal a bond that would lead PG to radically change his own business vision.
A New Vision
As a designer, Scott Dadich was an unconventional choice when he became Editor in Chief at wired, a position in the magazine world typically reserved for journalists who had come up through the ranks as wordsmiths rather than creative directors. But Scott’s conception of design extends beyond any one medium. It’s a philosophy of careful decision-making in the service of clarity of understanding. It’s also a way of thinking and doing that perfectly complemented PG’s approach to strategy as a rigorous distillation of purpose.
After completing the wired strategy with Godfrey Q, Scott stayed so engaged with the work that he asked PG to return two years later and re-present the strategy to help wired keep its aim true. “We didn't need to change a single word of the strategy in the intervening two years,” says PG. “I was surprised and delighted by that.”
In 2016, Scott decided he was ready to take his next step. And PG was ready to build something new. His longtime creative collaborator, Q, had left in 2013 to become a Zen monk. (Yes, a monk.) Both PG and Scott saw the potential in fusing their capabilities, commitments, and ambitions. “We always knew that if we were able to do for our clients what we did for wired and then be able to build the stuff we envisioned, that would be the evolutionary jump we needed—and that clients needed us to make,” PG says.
On January 3, 2017, PG and Scott announced the formation of Godfrey Dadich Partners, a new kind of firm that brings together Patrick Godfrey’s strategic insight and industry experience with Scott Dadich’s design and editorial mastery. The shop as it exists today represents a successful merger of cultures: former members of the wired team—writers, editors, designers, producers, and managers—joining with veterans of Godfrey Q—planners, production specialists, account directors, creatives, and media planners—and new recruits to help brands tell their stories in a media environment saturated with challenges and opportunities. “The internet has democratized the means of production. You did not need to own the printing presses and the trucks and all the voices to be able to tell stories. Now you can tell stories a lot of ways, from micro to macro,” PG says.
“I believe fully that the brands that embrace storytelling and don't try to get the media—who, by and large, aren't there anymore—to write stories about them are going to be the ones that succeed,” says PG. “I want to be a firm that becomes synonymous with this progressive way of helping brands do more.”
When not offering strong opinions about natural wines or what’s on the GDP office playlist, Patrick cherishes his downtime with his wife, Lauren, and son, Miles, at their homes in San Francisco and Sonoma.