You can't talk about San Francisco advertising, without bringing up the name of Howard Gossage (1917–1969). Gossage and his partners functioned under several agency names, Weiner & Gossage; Freeman & Gossage; Freeman, Mander & Gossage. They were selective in the accounts and projects they took on, and it had little to do with budget. Of importance was the nature of the product, or cause, and the media audience the advertising would be directed toward. Luncheons at the agency located at Firehouse #1 were legendary. Among the many creative guests that often appeared there were John Steinbeck, Buckminster Fuller, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Tom Wolfe, Herb Caen and Marshall McLuhan.
Howard was born in Chicago, educated at the University of Kansas City, fought in World War II as a Navy combat pilot and, at 36, his first advertising job was in San Francisco. "I got into advertising," he once said, "because there wasn't anything else I knew how to do."
His byline appeared many times in CA. We frequently published the fascinating speeches he gave. Some people’s speeches listen well and others read well. His always did both. He presented some very abstract thoughts with such wit, generally relying on allegories to explain complex ideas, that audiences were enraptured.
One of his often quoted remarks, "If you're stuck with a lemon, make lemonade out of it. Indeed I was so successful at this method of turning disaster into triumph that, when there wasn't a lemon handy, I'd find myself rummaging around in the fruit bowl just so I'd have something to work with. Life—and clients—being what they are, I generally didn't have far to look."
Howard Gossage was really a philosopher who happened to work in advertising, but he was one of its finest practitioners as well as one of its strongest critics. ca