Los Angeles-based agency Observatory has made a series of changes at the top, as president and chief operating officer Brendan Shields-Shimizu will take over as chief executive officer from Jae Goodman. Goodman is stepping away from daily operations after 16 years building the agency, but will continue as a board advisor to Observatory and parent company Stagwell.
Linda Knight, Observatory’s chief creative officer, now becomes president in addition to her role as CCO.
“Observatory’s vision and expertise are unmatched in the industry and this is an exhilarating time to be taking over as the CEO,” said Shields-Shimizu in a statement. “I’m excited to continue working alongside Linda and the team, to challenge the perception of what’s possible for content and brand entertainment.”
Observatory began in 2006 as CAA Marketing, a division of Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Since its launch as an independent agency in late 2017, with backing from Stagwell, Shields-Shimizu has held key leadership roles, from head of brand to managing director to president and COO. Shields-Shimizu got his start with the company 11 years ago, having worked his way up from the famed CAA mailroom, an experience he refers to as getting an “MBA in entertainment.”
Goodman said that it is time for him to take a moment and assess his future, which he stated will most likely still be at the intersection of brands and entertainment. “My decision to step away from the day-to-day is only possible because Observatory is doing so well. The agency has never been in a better place, has never had better leadership and is doing its best work ever. I look forward to supporting Brendan and Linda in my new advisory role,” he said in a statement.
The moves come at a high point for Observatory, which created brand entertainment campaigns and experiences for clients including Chipotle, Netflix and Waffle Iron Entertainment, the content studio Observatory built for Nike.
Just in the last month, Observatory wrapped a successful run at Cannes Lions with five Lions and 11 shortlists. It also helped Waffle Iron Entertainment ink a deal with Apple Original Films; created a Stranger Things concert in the Upside Down for Netflix; made Martha Stewart into an action figure for her 19 Crimes’ Martha’s Chard wine; and crafted A Future Begins—the Emmy-nominated and Cannes-winning Chipotle “sequel” to the stop-motion film, Back to the Start. The agency has also won Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies Award for the past three years.
Knight joined Observatory as CCO almost three years ago after time at Phenomenon, where she was CCO, TBWA/Chiat Day and Wieden+Kennedy Portland and Amsterdam. Since her arrival, she has expanded and reimagined Observatory’s creative department and led Observatory’s creative success, including Netflix brand partnerships with Ben & Jerry’s, Busch Beer and VRBO. Most recently, Knight led creative for the Doritos Stranger Things concert, as well as Chipotle work and the latest work for Waffle Iron Entertainment—a podcast about women soccer players around the world called Hustle Rule, that was released on the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
Another key figure in Observatory’s new leadership team is head of brand Caroline Doyle, who joined Observatory in 2019 and has helped lead its partnerships with Netflix and Treasury Wine Estates. She also shepherds Observatory’s role as agency of record for Major League Baseball.