Goodby Silverstein's Margaret Johnson on finding creative inspiration in a pandemic
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ Chief Creative Officer Margaret Johnson says the last thing she’s been captivated by lately is advertising.
“There is someone who is going around my neighborhood and writing the name of each tree in chalk on the sidewalk, the scientific name and its origin, and that is so cool,” she says. “I’m absorbing things from all different places. I’m watching [John Krasinski’s web show] ‘Some Good News’ and the San Francisco Symphony free concerts on Saturday nights, and touring museums from all around the world that I would probably never take the time to go to. I’ve been taking time to get inspired and draw on that and hopefully push that into creative in the future.”
That’s not to say that the agency, where Johnson is a partner, isn’t doing a lot of work during the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The shop, which has a number of clients that have done well or held steady during the outbreak, such as Pepsi, (who's not snacking?) and Comcast (who's not streaming?) has so far avoided layoffs. Using its suite of production tools remotely, Goodby has produced more than 30 pieces of creative for 81 percent of its clients including One Medical, BMW, Samuel Adams Beer and Truly Hard Seltzer.
It wasn't always easy: For Panera Bread, the shop literally coached delivery drivers through video shoots on their iPhones. “It’s like being in film school all over again,” says Johnson.
Johnson, in this week’s Ad Age Ad Lib podcast, talks about film school and how she got her start in advertising by literally cold-calling agencies she found by ripping out a sheet of the Yellow Pages from a New York City phone booth. Her advice to new graduates having trouble finding work? “Reach out to anyone you have ever admired in the industry” and ask for advice, she says, noting that a surprising number of them will likely answer. And don't give up: "The hungry will win.”
Johnson also discusses the importance of lifting up other women in the industry and her resolve to create campaigns that resonate with them. That includes a project she is doing with her 11-year-old daughter to “help our daughters create the world they want to live in.”
Oh, and then there's are few other habits she's developed while sheltering at home, including a Peloton obsession and a kick-ass pork roast recipe.