Since launching the “It’s Only Fucking Advertising” podcast in mid 2018, executive producer Ted Rosnick wanted to get Judy John as a guest, but his partner and host Aaron Starkman refused.
Starkman knew she’d be great, but as the CEO of Leo Burnett Canada, she was also a direct competitor to his agency Rethink. That’s one of the main reasons he always tries to get international guests in global roles.
John, however, left Leo Burnett to become global creative director for Edelman last spring, and that’s why she’s the guest on the latest episode of IOFA. Of course, she’s also generally regarded as one of Canada’s best ever creative minds, and sits at the upper echelon of worldwide talent today.
Like each IOFA podcast, the conversation is casual and wide-ranging, less of an interview and more an informal chat between an advertising junkie speaking with someone he respects and admires, and from whom he wants to know “How did you do that?”
John talks about starting in the business by running in high school student council elections for the position of publicity director, and her first jobs in advertising—including the time she infuriated one well-known boss with her decision to leave his agency.
“He was very mad at me and he asked me where I was going,” she recalls. “I said I didn’t know, I hadn’t accepted a job yet, which made him even more furious.”
Starkman recalled first hearing about John very early in his career, when his creative leaders at the time talked derisively about John getting hired at Leo Burnett and then leaving to have a baby. “And at that moment, I was thinking, is this one of the shitty reasons why there aren’t a lot of female creative leaders?”
John said she wasn’t planning to join Leo Burnett because she expected she’d soon be starting a family, but a meeting with the president changed her mind. “He said to me, ‘Look, I know that you’re probably gonna want to have kids at some point in time.’ And he said, ‘Just so you know, I’m okay with that.’
“And that really changed my perspective [to] maybe I can do this… I don’t even know if you can legally say that anymore.”
John also shares behind-the-scenes insights from how she and her teams made so much multi-award winning work for clients including James Ready, IKEA and, of course, “Like a Girl” for Procter & Gamble’s Always. And she reveals how Richard Edelman managed to lure her away from Leo Burnett.
The pair also discuss their own challenges of working in advertising while both being introverted personalities, and how they strive to balance work and family life.
“The idea of balance is bullshit,” says John candidly. There are always going to be ups and downs, she says, before offering this advice: “I always tell people at work, be the best version of yourself at home because those are the people for the rest of your life… I try to be more efficient at work now, so that I can be present when I’m home. Like really be present.”
IOFA was recently named Adweek’s Podcast of the Year. The Judy John episode is available at Apple now.