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Margaret Johnson ascends to first-ever GS&P chief creative officer, part of leadership evolution at the SF agency


By Doug Zanger, Americas Editor

August 26, 2016 | 4 min read

Quite a few moves are afoot at San Francisco’s Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P), as Margaret Johnson has been named as the agency’s first-ever chief creative officer — evolving her role as partner and executive creative director. Additionally, Derek Robson, managing partner, will take on the role of president — and, as part of the rising leadership team, Brian McPherson, director of account management, and Leslie Barrett, director of new business, along with Bonnie Wan, director of brand strategy, and Christine Chen, director of communication strategy, will all become full partners. McPherson and Barrett will also assume the title of managing partner.

“We are reinventing our company every day,” said GS&P co-chairman Jeff Goodby, “and these are the people who will formulate the big changes, come up with the big ideas that will keep us not just relevant but game-changing. Our new president, chief creative officer, and new partners will make a difference immediately — and down the line, five and ten years from now.”

In a message to staff, Goodby pointed out that “the skill set of the people who run our company has just grown exponentially. And here, on National Equality Day, we have also formed a balanced group of men and women who make our most critical decisions.”

Goodby and co-chair Rich Silverstein will remain involved in the creative, but Johnson, a 20-year industry pro, will continue to oversee the department.

Promoted to partner in 2012 and executive creative director in 2014, Johnson led GS&P to the third-most award-winning year in the agency’s history — 13 Cannes Lions for multiple campaigns: Frito-Lay’s “Doritos Rainbows,” Sonics’s “#SquareShakes,” “Unacceptable Acceptance Letters,” the Ad Council’s “I Am a Witness” and the Dalí Museum’s “Dreams of Dalí” (an Oculus Rift experience).

“Margaret has grown up at GS&P and has the DNA of the agency in her blood,” said Rich Silverstein. “She’s fearless and has led us with innovative creative thinking that taps into culture. She’s earned the admiration of our people and our clients, and there is no one else we would want to carry forth our legacy.”

New president Robson joined GS&P in 2005 and helped lead a major reorganization of GS&P, specifically to prep the agency for the digital age.

McPherson played a key role in leading Frito-Lay to some of its most award-winning campaigns team and his teams also developed Frito-Lay’s social media community efforts, which produced “Chester for Mayor” for Cheetos and “Chip Kelly” for Tostitos. He is now leading Adobe and Princess Cruises.

Barrett has led a number of the agency’s new business wins and, as a result, the agency recently evolved her to the new business director role. In the first six months of 2016, the agency’s wins have included StubHub, the Golden State Warriors, Gree and significant organic growth on Comcast and Frito-Lay.

Wan, who has worked with GS&P in three separate stints since 1998, and Chen, a 12-year GS&P veteran, will oversee brand and communication strategy, respectively.

“Since 1993, when we put the word ‘Partners’ in our company name, we have believed that a collective intelligence and respect for wide-ranging opinions are the secret sauce here," Goodby noted to staff. “We feel we now have the most exciting collective intelligence in the world. This announcement today should not only make us more successful as communicators but also go a long way toward making life here more predictable, warm, and connected. “

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