Gideon Amichay: Founder & Chief Creative Officer, No, No, No, No, No, Yes

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Gideon Amichay is an award winning ad man, writer, communication artist, and TEDx speaker. He is the Founder & Chief Creative Officer of No, No, No, No, No, Yes - a creative boutique, focused on innovation in communication & advertising, based in New York City and Tel Aviv. Amichay is known as the person who put Israel on the world advertising map. For 18 years he was a partner at Shalmor Avnon Amichay Y&R. As Chief Creative Officer, Amichay led the agency to become Israel's market leader in creativity and innovation and the most successful Israeli ad agency worldwide. For over 10 years he was a member of the Worldwide Creative Board of Young & Rubicam.

Amichay is an international lecturer and has spoken and given workshops about innovation, creativity and advertising at some of the most prestigious venues around the world, including: a TED talk at TEDx Jerusalem; a keynote at Cannes Festival Creative Leadership Program; “Think Consumers” by Google, Social Innovation Summit SF, Berlin School of Creative Leadership, MFA-SVA School of Visual Arts NYC; Miami AD School, IDC Herzliya MBA School, Tel Aviv MBA Business School, JCC and more. He graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design with honors and earned an Executive MBA from the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. Amichay is the author of "No, No, No, No, No, Yes", a book on innovation and creativity.

How did you get into the industry?

I stared as a cartoonist and a writer. My first cartoon was published when I was fourteen. At fifteen I became the sports cartoonist for Ma’ariv, which was one of the two leading newspapers in the Israel. I loved sports so it was a perfect combination. When I was twenty-two I went to Bezalel Art and Design academy in Jerusalem where I studied design (there was no class for cartooning). In 1989 I was sent on an exchange student program to the School of Visual Arts in New York.

It’s funny – the only course in Bezalel that I didn’t take was advertising. At that time, I thought advertising was too commercial for me. I came from journalism which was totally the opposite of advertising. However, when I lived in New York I found myself collecting print ads… lots of them. I collected all of the Absolut Vodka campaign ads because I really admired them. It was a brilliant campaign, using a strong Master Concept with any fragmentation in mind. I fell in love with advertising. It was love from first sight (shame on the CMO who killed that campaign. He probably thought ‘We need a fresh approach’ and “killed” the brand as well). I wound up writing an article for a major business paper in Israel about how genius the Absolut ad campaign was and was offered a job as a creative director at GREY Advertising in Tel-Aviv. That was how my career in advertising began. We won lots of new business and creative awards. Shmuel Warshavsky, one of the owners, was the best school for my new career.

After four years at GREY I joined Rami Shalmor and Shlomi Avnon as a creative partner of Shalmor Avnon Amichay. We became one of the 3 biggest agencies in Israel, with 180 people on staff. We won honors recognition all over the world including 19 lions at Cannes, 9 Clio’s, and several Grand Prix Awards (NYF, LIA) amongst many others.

In 2011 we, (the partners) sold Shalmor Avnon Amichay to Y&R. Soon after, I moved to New York. In 2013 I opened No, No, No, No, No, Yes - it’s a creative boutique focused on innovation in communication and advertising. We have two branches; one in New York and one in Tel Aviv. The agency works with clients in both markets.

Any emerging industry trends?

For me, the most important trend is content. We seek for more and more content. We have more and more platforms! We look at more photos, we watch more videos, we read more texts and at the very same time we (all of us!) create more content - we take more pictures, we shot more videos and we write more texts. Tons of it!

The only problem though is to filter all of it, and find its good parts.

So yes – content is a huge trend, which will stay here for a while. Now we just need to make sure it’s good!

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Advertising is all about seizing opportunities and overcoming challenges. It’s hard to think of anything that is off limits to ideas. Especially today with all the digital possibilities. There’re so many NEW brands and most of them disrupt the status quo – and that is a great opportunity for creativity and innovation. For the newest but also for the oldest. There is a need for creative ideas more than ever. Storytelling becomes crucial. Brands have to be more active because there’re more platforms. There is exponential growth in the need of content. These are great days for every content creator although competition becomes harder and harder.

It is not only how creative you are, but how fast you act. Brands need to be more unique. Because products are more of the same, the solution comes from other arenas and not the usual marketing techniques. Just look around you - marketing and advertising involve with gender equality, gun control, A.I. and VR. The trick is to match the right opportunity with the right challenge you’re trying to solve for your brand.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Surprisingly, my business started from a book. I know it sound weird but it’s an interesting story. When I left Shalmor Avnon Amichay Y&R Israel I wrote a book in Hebrew about all the ups and downs experiences throughout my years in advertising.

When I move to New York, one of my first projects was translating my book into English. Meanwhile I was privilege to be invited to create a TEDx Talk about the narrative of my Hebrew book. During the process of writing the TED Talk, the translation to English has changed tremendously. Sure there are lots of similarities, but it’s basically a new book. The book name is No, No, No, No, No, Yes. As you can see, it gave the company its name and vision: Almost every NO in life comes with a comma and not with an exclamation point. We have to find out what that comma was about and eventually make it a YES.

The English version became a new beginning, an opportunity. Using my life lessons and conclusions I started a new chapter in my life (and a new company.)

I think that my main guiding principle for No, No, No, No, No, Yes - is to only work on projects that we want to work on and for clients that we want to work with. We enjoy new challenges and we aim clients who have them. Michael Conrad, the Berlin School president and a great friend said to me once ‘if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing any more then you should move on’. So I found a way to keep enjoying every second of it!

What's next for the Business in the near future?

I’m more comfortable writing about the past and never too quick to predict the future. I recently posted a headline quoting Facebook’s prediction that the written world will go away in the next 5 years and will be replaced with video. To me that sounds more like a Facebook’s mission than a prediction and either way that will never happen. And yes video will be stronger.

As a boutique agency we are not looking to grow too fast but we are growing. We have found our rhythm, we have a strong multi-disciplinary team and we are constantly working on new projects for new and existing clients. For some it’s the first time of using marketing. Wow, is that exciting or what?

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Our business is not driven by money. It is the PASSION. The passion for ideas, stories and creativity. Our tag line says it very simple: Ideas That Make News.

Recently we partnered with The University of Tel Aviv and The Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center to create wide exposure for the 6th Annual International Cyber Security Conference in Israel. That is a challenge mainly because cyber security is important but it stays only among cyber professionals. Our mission was to reach far more audiences and build the conference reputation. We built a giant (6 meters tall and weighs more than 2 tons) Trojan Horse, created with thousands of infected computer and cell phone components, that illustrates the increasing use of malware in making cyberspace a hostile environment.

We believed in the project so much so we created a different business model. We shared the expenses with the client. The main difference is that we own the Cyber Horse itself. That’s a unique model for us and it was right because of the nature of the work – an art piece. Speaking about Ideas That Make News --- the project earned more than 150 international news items and millions of impressions around the world in the first week alone. It acted better for the business than any other project we could have taken instead. Below is an image of ‘Cyber Horse 2016’.

Photos: Chen Mika

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

It’s a moment I’ll remember till the rest of my life. Resigning from my office; the very office with my name on the door! Leaving 200 people and 18 years of great achievements and good memories was hard. Nothing prepares you to that moment. Today, 6 years later, it seems natural and obvious, but then it was like the END of the world. It was the end of something very special to me. Then I learnt that Michael Conrad was right! I had to move on!

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

In my opinion, the ideal experience for a client is to turn on the news and see their brand because of good reasons, and go to work prouder to be part of that brand.

How do you motivate others?

I tell them NO.  Lots of No’s  I always challenge them for better ideas. The main key is not to reject their work but go together into a process which makes our product brilliant. You’ve to be delicate with rejections, it’s always better to use humor when you ask to see another round of ideas.

Career advice to those in your industry?

In order to succeed in today’s industry, you need to be fast and flexible; not only in that order. You’ve to be able to change and to adapt. Relevance is a must. But being different, unconventional and innovative will take you far more distance. Otherwise nobody will see or notice what you are doing. Conventional work today is a professional suicide.

Finally, you have to be simple, without simplicity you’re dead.