Creativity 50

Creativity 50 2014: Judy John

CEO/CCO, Leo Burnett Canada

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Judy John
Judy John

Female empowerment became a go-to theme for marketers this year, and perhaps the most celebrated work produced in that vein was the Always "Like a Girl" campaign. Though created out of Leo Burnett Chicago, the campaign was spearheaded by Judy John, CEO and chief creative officer of the agency's Canada office. The campaign's anchor video aimed to change the meaning of the phrase "like a girl" from a pejorative expression to one that stands for female empowerment. It asks, "When did doing something 'like a girl' become an insult?" That question resonated with viewers in a way that most marketers can only hope. Of all the marketing videos that were passed around on social media this year by people not working in marketing, this was among the most shared, raking in nearly 54 million YouTube views within five months of launch and heaps of media attention.

What is your definition of creativity?

Ms. John: Simply, creativity is using your imagination. The long version, creativity is using your imagination to make unexpected leaps to express something or problem solve.

How would you describe your creative process?

Ms John: This sounds incredibly boring, but I'm a big fan of process. My process is methodical. I read through as much information as I can get my hands on. I draw a lot of simple charts, making connections of themes. Then I get out of my own head and into other people's heads. I talk to people in the target and ask a lot of questions. For the actual ideas, I like to get them down as simply as possible, articulating them in as few words as possible, ideally one or two words.

What was the biggest challenge of "Like a Girl," and how did you overcome it?

Ms. John: We knew we had a strong idea with "Like A Girl" because everyone on the team and everyone we shared it with had a visceral reaction to it. We had to find a way to tell the story in a way that would bring out the complexity around the phrase in a simple and authentic way.

In the execution of the idea, we stayed loose and continued to evolve it through every stage. We started with a base script. When you do an experiment like this, you never know what you're going to get, and you want to capture more than you need. So for the shoot, we added an interview and questions.

In the edit, we never cut the original script; it would have been a disservice to the amazing content we captured. We rewrote the script based on the girls/women and their stories, which meant changing most of the supers and the shape of the video. This led us to a much more emotional and real place.

Did you have any idea "Like a Girl" would pick up as much steam as it did? Were you surprised?

Ms. John: We put something out into the world we hoped captured a truth for girls and women that would start a conversation. We thought it would hit a nerve, since it did for all of us on the team. But we didn't imagine it would get millions upon millions of views and all the support in the press and Twitter it did.

What other campaigns or messages geared towards girls and women in the last year or two have you liked the best?

Ms. John: It's encouraging to see more work that captures the complexity and depth of girls and women. A few things I really liked recently were: print campaign featuring women's strong body parts (beautifully written); Dove "Camera Shy" (a great insight, perfectly executed); and HelloFlo's Camp Gyno (hilarious -- not everything has to be serious).

Any advice for anyone to get out of a creative rut?

Ms. John: Stop what you're doing. Get up and go out. Go for a walk. Go to a bookstore. Go talk to people. Let other people inspire you: ask random people questions that are relevant/related to what you're working on.

Click here to see more of the 2014 Creativity 50
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