Legendary Leadership Series: An Evening with Judy John
When you get a brief to change the world one girl at a time, by championing girls’ confidence as they go through puberty, you create Always #LikeAGirl campaign.
You are Judy John!
So, when we got the opportunity to hear from Judy John, we were ready with a handful of questions that she passionately answered through the creative lens that could benefit today’s marketers in advertising, marketing and communication.
Judy John is the first ever Global Chief Creative Officer at Edelman, the world’s largest communications firm where she leads a team of creatives and planners globally. Before joining Edelman, Judy worked with Leo Burnett as the Chief Creative Officer for North America, and CEO for Canada. She has been recognized globally, winning at virtually every show, and is known as the driving force behind the Always #LikeAGirl campaign that won the Emmy, and awards such as Black Pencil, Titanium, The Grand Prix and The Glass Lion award. She was also ranked as the #1 CCO in the world in Advertising Age’s Awards Report 2015, was named in Business Insider’s 30 Most Creative People in Advertising, she was listed in Forbes’ The 14 Creative Directors You Should Have on Your Speed Dial, as well as Advertising Age’s Creativity50 2014: The Most Creative People of the Year and she is Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends recipient.
Melanie Hyde, the Senior Product Marketing Manager at CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, our Presenting Sponsor, along with Jacob Kessler, Vice President, AMA CMHOL steered the conversation forward with an array of their own and audiences’ questions. The excerpts have been captured below:
Q: What were the magical ingredients that helped you become the creative person that you are today, maybe the first memory of you being creative as a child? Do you think that creativity can be taught?
Judy: Growing up in a small town where there was not a lot to do, keeping myself entertained and out of trouble was really motivating. As a high schooler, I had to come up with creative ideas for Halloween. I fondly remember using green carpet underpadding to create my Gumby outfit (an animation character). Making something, solving a problem is so rewarding that you never forget the joy it brings. I have carried this notion of creativity throughout my career. My world is like how kids play where there are no rules and nothing is impossible; I have hung onto that spirit. In fact, my daughter says that I am like an 8-year-old, creating my own games, but that’s the way my brain thinks.
We are all innately creative but over time we don’t value it much as we grow more responsible. Look at the education system, I can’t help but notice how information and memorization are prioritized and there isn’t much focus given to creativity. The spirit of creativity brings joy.
Q: When did you know that advertising was your calling? What have been some of the turning points in your career that led you to where you are right now?
Judy: Everyone goes through this dilemma where you wish that someone could walk up to you and tell you what are you supposed to do! It was not until my 1st internship that I realized what was my calling. I walked into the advertising world and immediately felt at home; they were my kind of people.
I remember that very early in my career, I wanted to move to the USA, because all the action was there. Everyone was doing it. So, I reached out to a CD, my mentor, to seek some guidance and he asked a very simple question which changed the course of my career. What did I want to be- a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond. I stayed back. If we just focus on, what are we doing to build the brand and the company that we work with and not be caught up in how others’ careers are progressing vs. ours, we will be home.
Q: Did mentorship play a role in guiding your way? We, at AMA also have a mentor exchange program to connect mentors and mentees. What are some of the ways you initiate or support youngsters towards building relationships as mentor-mentee?
Judy: I think it’s hard for newbies because they don’t really teach about advertising until you go to the workplace. Having a mentor can steer you in the right direction of your career. I was lucky that a couple of creatives took me under their wing and helped me build my portfolio during my internship. I was an introvert, so it was tough but I approached everyone and talked to them because you really have to be an advocate and show initiatives. Don’t be a wallflower! Today, we have mentorship programs across different offices and buddy system for new comers.
Q: How do you ensure your team thrives and delivers big ideas even in current Work-From-Home (WFH) scenarios when they don’t meet often like before? How do you find the work-life balance?
Judy: As a team, we share what we watch and read, things that we did over the weekend that could become a new experience for the rest of us. When we sit on a brief, we discuss the ambitions that we want to set and achieve through that work-can it change people’s perceptions, can it create advocacy beyond selling, increase fanbase, love, relationship etc. Basically, how do we help the idea to catch fire…
Unfortunately, our business has become 24/7 but saying I always maintain that work-life balance is a lie. It is more like a teeter-totter. Being great at home is as important as staying awesome at work. One of my friends’ words often ring in my ears- “Stay high on your mood ladder because it reflects on your team.” If you have a bad day, it will reflect on your team’s mood too. The same goes for family. Being present in the moment is the key. When I am having dinner, I am with my family, the rest of the work is paused. Also separating work place from living space is important, or else trust me you will be returning emails all night long. Creating boundaries is important.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from when working on a creative challenge and how do you keep yourself updated? Also, how do you spark creativity in your team?
Judy: I always take inspiration from human behaviour and culture. Science, statistics and emotions are the combination that help in creating meaningful content. I often ask my team to go beyond answering the brief in the most practical way. Finding that emotional connection eventually makes the creatives worth connecting to. If you feel stuck, leave your house! Go for a walk, to a gallery; a place that can stimulate the playing mind rather than the working mind. Funny memes, videos helps minds wander too- a daily dose of internet works wonders!
At times, it can be overwhelming to stay on top of everything happening. However, it’s important to have a set of teams around that thrives on the spirit of curiosity so that it doesn’t seem like a job.
Q: What has been a campaign that has a special place in your heart?
Judy: From a creative perspective, every time you create something, you find some flaws in that later on. But #LikeAGirl had an impact that I am proud to be a part of. This campaign started a conversation, a shared feeling that we had hit something true and meaningful in girls’ lives that we could influence. People send me pictures till today- for e.g., Hillary Clinton wearing a t-shirt that says Run #LikeAGirl. Getting to be a part of the cultural change where people all over the world joined the brand to help reclaim ‘like a girl’ as a positive statement and not an insult will always stay close to my heart. (You can watch the advertisement here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs)
Q: What is one thing you wish someone had told you during your career journey? Any advice to the young marketers as to how to be a good client?
Judy: I only discovered as a leader that I wish someone had told me way earlier in my career that the entire team, all of them are your kids. Make everyone better. You want to retain good talent, give them opportunities for growth and movement. My job as Creative Director is to help people realize their creative potential and if I can do that they will stick around. Hopefully! And remove creative barriers, help create a positive environment, give security, and above all be a good human being for your team.
In my experience, the best clients have been built around mutual respect and having open dialogues. When an agency becomes a partner and not a vendor, it leads to magical results. Be the champion in your job and people will be gravitated towards your infectious energy.
Basic things are the best reminders.
To watch the full session, you can click on the link here.
Thanks again to our generous sponsors
We’d like to thank and recognize CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, our Presenting Sponsor, our Chapter Partner Mission Hill Family Estate, Q OneTech our Data Technology Partner, and our Official Media Partner, Globe & Mail for their generosity and support.
This interview excerpt has been summarized to the best of our abilities to accommodate all the questions and the POVs of the esteemed speakers and participants.
Written By- Shreya Parashar. She is the founder of Culture Opus, a Toronto based content agency and is the Content Director at AMA Toronto.