Share

Since his last interview with shots, back in 2016, Jae Goodman has learned a great deal – not just about running his own company, Observatory, but also about himself as a leader and manager. 

His progression from Creative Artists Agency Marketing has been built on a decade’s worth of award-winning work that has now led to more creative opportunities within branded entertainment. The art of persuasion for Goodman is to never interrupt an audience but attract and engage with them. “This is what really motivated the creation of Observatory and the partnership with independent holding group Stagwell and CAA," he says. "We knew that if we were going to be an integral marketing partner, we’d need to be independent, insights-driven, and capable of delivering fully-integrated campaigns.” 

Goodman’s attitude relies on a genuine focus on content that delivers on a crystal clear ethos.

Therefore, Observatory’s success rests with Goodman taking on ventures that wouldn’t have been considered in his previous position at CAA, such as the global launch of Marriott Bonvoy! [below], and Overwatch League for Activision Blizzard. “Even the brand entertainment work we’ve done for VCA with the Pet Friendly comedic series, directed by Whitney Cummings, was approached in a more informed, integrated manner than we would have approached it a couple of years earlier,” Goodman says.

Marriott – Bonvoy!

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source
Above: Observatory's work for Marriott.


Goodman’s attitude relies on a genuine focus on content that delivers on a crystal clear ethos; ‘unskippable ideas’ that are ‘beyond interruptive advertising’. All of which pitches Observatory as ‘an agency for the content era’. But just how Don Draper is he? “Hah, well, when I hear you repeat back the mantras we’ve been repeating for the last decade, I wonder if it’s more Don Quixote than Don Draper," he says. "For a while there, I definitely wondered if we were tilting at windmills, but now I think the market is here, and we are at the centre of placing brands into popular culture the way Don Draper was. So, we started as one Don and became the other, minus the misogyny and alcoholism. I definitely had the suits though.” 

When I hear you repeat back the mantras we’ve been repeating for the last decade, I wonder if it’s more Don Quixote than Don Draper.

In a conversation with Matt Weiner during peak Mad Men (2007-2015), Goodman told him how frustrated he was that Weiner could write his job better than he could actually do it, to which Weiner responded, “Jae, I know how Don’s meeting ends before I write the beginning and the middle. Don’s ideas are sold before he starts selling. You have to actually go through it.” 

If we believe something, then we’re going to take the time to carefully and clearly articulate that belief.

Coherency is a driving force for Goodman, “If we believe something, then we’re going to take the time to carefully and clearly articulate that belief, and if we’ve taken the time to do so then we’re going to repeat them. A lot.” He implements what he calls 'upstream entertainment intelligence and relationships'. "Observatory’s relationships are with a creative community which creates premium content in streaming/TV, film, music, publishing, live events, podcasts and every other aspect of entertainment. Ad agencies operate in a much different, ‘downstream’ eco-system, with production companies built to create interruptive ads.”

Above: "I wonder if [our mantras are] more Don Quixote than Don Draper," says Jae Goodman.


With Observatory built to work ‘upstream’, with individuals and companies creating content that attracts and engages their audience, they are more than adept at driving brand and business results. “This is initiated through content that a consumer chooses to interact with for 60 minutes rather than being forced to sit through for six seconds,” he says.

Through a broad knowledge of the industry, Goodman believes that timing is also crucial to the upstream approach. “We know about treatments being pitched, scripts being written, shows being bought, music tours being planned… this enables us to bring brands in during the creative process.” All of which places Observatory way ahead of the curve.

Story arcs, story beats, writers’ rooms, these are all pieces of the entertainment process that we include in ours.

Collaboration may well be the single most important element for Goodman. “We love our relationship with Nexus. We’ve worked with them quite a bit this past year," he says, "including a Star Wars-related film for a major retailer, and one for Drinkworks (a joint venture between Keurig and AB/InBev), and we are in deep with them now on a top secret project.” He has built on his connections, bringing together a group of people (with Observatory CCO Linda Knight top of the list) who have huge experience in advertising, but also that come from every aspect of entertainment, both on the business and creative side. “We spend a lot of time on story development," he reveals. "Story arcs, story beats, writers’ rooms, these are all pieces of the entertainment process that we include in ours. Once we settle on the idea and the format, only then do we build an integrated campaign around it.” 

He has built on his connections, bringing together a group of people who have huge experience in advertising... both on the business and creative side.

When looking at brand integration and execution Goodman has always encouraged ideas to be inspired by a more methodical and comprehensive insight of the entertainment landscape. With a network ranging from studio executives and producers to other diverse talent across genres and formats, it is no surprise that Observatory’s work remains so hyper-aware. He highlights how inspired he is when discussing the milestones in branded entertainment, “I just read the most wonderful article by Kevin Keane at Brainsights about the battle between Moët’s Champagne Charlie and Veuve Clicquot’s The Great Vance, the champagne-swilling, singing and dancing performers of – wait for it – 1860’s Paris," he says. "That seems like a milestone to me. Flashing forward 150 years, I was super-inspired by Scott Duchon and Geoff Edwards’ work for Halo. Easily an Entertainment Lions Grand Prix had they existed.”

Credits
View the full credits on

Halo 3 ODST – Halo 3 ODST: The Life

Credits
View the full credits on

Xbox Halo Reach – Xbox Halo Reach: Birth of a Spartan

Above: Decade-old work for Xbox's Halo 3, which inspired Goodman and, he says, would have won an Entertainment Lion had that category existed back then.


Goodman also praises the charitable one-off performance of Skittles' The Broadway Musical from 2019, along with The New York Times' The Displaced. “That opened my eyes to the medium, and the world. Blew me away as both a marketer and a human. Then there’s Dan Krauss and Paul Haggis’ film, 5B. Wow. And even more wow given the tragic moment we’re all in with Covid-19.”

All of our [Emmy] nominations and wins are in ‘Entertainment’ categories, for work done by and for brands.

From podcast, Open Account with Umpqua Bank, Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears film and #EvolveTheDefinition for Bonobos, his own portfolio is up there with the best of them, and still makes him incredibly proud, and proud, he says "of the amazing colleagues and clients who brought them to life". There is a genuine appreciation of history and craft, such as traditional animation in Chipotle’s Back to the Start and Savor.Wavs, Dolby Silent and recent Nexus collaboration, History of La Cerveza Mas Fina [below] for Corona.

Corona – The History of ‘La Cerveza Mas Fina’

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source
Above: Corona beer's History of Cerveza Mas Fina.


It is this enriched approach that wins awards, and as president of Cannes Lions’ Entertainment category for what will now be the 2021 awards, Goodman has first hand insight on the best work out there. How much have the awards evolved since he was president of the Entertainment jury 2016? Just look up Observatory’s own Emmys. “None of them are in the ‘Advertising’ category. All of our nominations and wins are in ‘Entertainment’ categories, for work done by and for brands.”

Cannes Lions continues to reflect the change, aligning more to brand entertainment and, as one of many events cancelled in the wake of Covid-19, the industry will no doubt respond more innovatively when it returns in 2021. “I think it is a paramount example of a company placing the health of people and the financial health of an industry ahead of its own financial interest. I am confident that when the time is right, we will appraise and award the best work in the world from 2020 – a year of unprecedented difficulty for the world – and the best work of 2021 – hopefully a year of unprecedented recovery.”

Bonobos – #EvolveTheDefinition

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits powered by Source
Above: Bonobos's #EvolvetheDefinition.


As Observatory plans the imminent releases of their playful Mod Pizza campaign, and the next work with Bonobos “…a pure expression of the joy within that brand,” what helps Goodman and Observatory standout is a clear vision that places the company and their clients front and centre, enabling both to express the importance of their values. “We’ve obviously chosen to wait until the world is ready for pure expressions of joy again, but that’s something we’re quite excited to share," he says as we speak in April, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. "Right now, we have weekly development meetings with at least four different projects for four different clients, and this is in a period where 90% of our focus is on helping our clients help the world through this tragic Covid-19 moment.”

[Covid-19] is changing behaviour, for sure. Will some brands stumble and others soar? Yes.

Post-pandemic, it will be interesting to see how the language and content of advertising will refocus. But, by the very nature of such an unprecedented event, will it lend further to the narrative? “Now, not so much. Look, this whole interview feels so unimportant in the face of the human, social and economic toll of Covid-19 and, for that matter, in light of the truly remarkable acts the world’s greatest brands are undertaking. GM, FCA and Tesla factories that once made cars are making masks and ventilators, AB InBev and Pernod are making hand sanitizer at scale, messaging for the healthy-but-homebound is making us feel a little better, actions to keep more people healthy, alive, comfortable… this is an important moment to be very sure. We are seeing companies and executives step up where governments and politicians have not. Of course, this is going to have a lasting effect on the way brands communicate.”

For some brands [branded entertainment] is already at the centre of all that they do.

Alas, the world as we know it is now forced to reconsider everything, “It’s changing behaviour, for sure," says Goodman. "Will some brands stumble and others soar? Yes. Will brands retrench to conservative 'tried and true' marketing methods? Yes.” 

With all this in mind, it seems the future for branded entertainment is just getting started, “For some brands it is already at the centre of all that they do," Goodman concludes, "and this will only continue."

Share