Q&A with November Luncheon Presenter, Gavin Johnston

Name: Gavin Johnston

Title/Company you work for: Chief Strategy Officer at Bradley & Montgomery

  • How did you get started in this field?
    I was on an academic path in cultural anthropology in the late 90s, when I happened to have the privilege of being part of a team doing work in the meat industry. As the dotcom explosion got underway, anthropologists were in high demand and I decided to jump into the private sector. I discovered in a very short time that I really enjoyed applying my skills to marketing, advertising, and design, and I’ve been in the field ever since.
  • Why did you stay in marketing? What attracted you to it?
    I was drawn to the creativity of it. I was already focused on applied anthropology and problem solving, but the nature of work inside a traditional anthropological role tends to be done alone. Work inside the organizations I’ve been a part of has revolved around collaboration and drawing from a range of fields to find the most creative, smartest solution to a problem. That’s what keeps my head in the game every day.
  • Who is your biggest influence and why?
    That’s a tough one. I’d like to say it was someone in anthropology or advertising, but I think it was actually a chef I worked for many years ago by the name of Dieter Illig (I was a classically trained chef in the distant past of my youth). I say him because I learned some key lessons that have stuck with me over the year: nothing is “someone else’s” job, the work isn’t done until it’s done, and back up everything you say with proof. Those lesson have been defining elements of how I approach a job, whether as a student, a strategist, or as a leader over the years.
  • Was this always your career goal or did it happen by accident/you stumbled into it?
    I actually planned on pursuing linguistic anthropology, with a focus on semiotics. Before that I was a professional, classically trained chef. So, the simple answer is no. However, after stumbling into it, I discovered it was a perfect fit intellectually and temperamentally.
  • What are some of your accomplishments and what do you hope to gain/give back with your current role?
    I’ve had the privilege to lead campaign and branding efforts for Gatorade, MillerCoors, Chase, and Bayer to name a few. And I’ve been blessed to work with or lead teams that have won a number of awards. But I think what I regard as the centerpiece is that I’ve been able to shape a number of planners over the years – planners and creatives who are, in truth, brighter and more gifted than myself. And that is a large part of why I joined BaM; to help grow the business and mentor teams. This is a tremendously talented, creative firm, and I’m incredibly proud to be a part of it. I hope to impart what I can and grow the agency into a beacon of the industry.
  • How long have you been working for your company for?
    I began in March of 2017.
  • What are you most excited about presenting to AMA Omaha?
    A different way of looking at creative problem solving. Over the last few years I think there has been a tendency to fall back on big data and segmentation to the expense of real insights. That’s not to say I’m not a fan of data, I am. But people are more complex than that. For us at BaM, our goal is to help clients develop deep cultural relevance. Not just in the moment relevance, but relevance that is sustainable and becomes part of the undercurrent of society. So, I’m very excited to present a different way of thinking about marketing and advertising to the Omaha AMA attendees.
  • What kinds of skills do you hope your audience will gain during/after your presentation?
    Coming out of the presentation, participants should be able to distinguish between fads, trends, and cultural norms, all of which can be used to improve not only your messaging, but your delivery, brand performance, and share of market. Attendees will have an understanding of how starting with culture at the heart of your brand or campaign can improve short-term ROI and well as set the stage for long-term customer devotion.