Q&A: Margaret Johnson, ECD & Associate Partner, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

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Margaret Johnson, ECD & associate partner, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Margaret Johnson, ECD & associate partner, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Margaret Johnson, ECD and associate partner at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners talks design, marketing technology, and social strategies.

Q: What's the most dynamic vertical to do work in and why?

A: For me, I wouldn't say it's cars or beer or anything specific. It's more about the clients and how adventurous they're willing to be. For example, I work on Sonic, which is a great example of a fun brand that's incredibly fast-moving. We do tons of commercials for them a year. Then I would contrast that with something like Nest, which is a new kind of beautiful thermostat created by a guy who used to work at Apple. It's a learning thermostat, so it basically learns your life patterns and then takes over. It's a small account, a startup, but it's really interesting creatively getting to help them build their brand from the bottom up. Sonic and Nest are two really different accounts, but they're equally fun to work on.

Q: What cool marketing technology has caught your eye lately?

A: What immediately comes to mind, even though it wasn't conceived as a marketing technology, is Pinterest, which is becoming the biggest marketing tech story of the year. People are gathering the products they love on pin boards and that ends up driving an unbelievable amount of traffic. Retailers didn't think initially that would happen, but now people are clicking on the images and then trying to find out where they can buy.

Q: Where do you fall in the Big Data debate. Does it boost or quash creativity?

A: I think it actually lets you be more creative because you get highly granular, constantly updated data on exactly who you're trying to talk to—your exact target market—instead of having to water down your idea to appeal to the masses. You can get very specific in your messaging when you're talking to a group of super fans. I wonder if people are saying Big Data crushes creativity because they're not comfortable with the technology, so it seems overwhelming. Everything at [Goodby] is so tech-focused. Social is such a big part of every campaign we do. But that technology is moving fast, so there's a lot more work for us.

Q: What are some tips to help brands be smart about their social strategies?

A: My advice would be to let the social part of a campaign be as funny and as daring as the rest of the creative is and to use social for what it's great for—and that's interacting with your audience.

Q: You have a background in both communications and design. Does this make you a more well-rounded creative?

A: I think it does in that I have a good sense of whether a campaign idea is “story worthy,” as in: Will writers find it interesting? The design side has always been with me and I've always had strong opinions about the way things should look. I love Pinterest for that reason. With journalism, it was the major I decided on at [the University of North Carolina]. But with design, it's less about a thing I was taught in school and more about my gut reactions.

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