Scott Goodson On the Spot

On a snowy day in Boston, the co-founder and creative partner at Amsterdam’s StrawberryFrog wears a pair of square-framed, clear-plastic sunglasses, a funky look he pulls off easily. A native of Montreal, Goodson, 40, has been spending time stateside, last month opening a “pond,” as he calls it, in New York. In Europe, the 5-year-old agency has lured several high-profile brands—Ikea, Mitsubishi, MTV—with its quirky charm. Advertising is in Goodson’s blood: His father ran a shop called Cross Canada Advertising (where Goodson started out); his mother was copy director for the Morgans retail chain; and his four sisters have all worked in the industry as well.

Q. What inspired you to get into advertising?

A. When I was a kid, my dad brought me to Madison Avenue, with these huge skyscrapers. We entered a huge ad agency with polished marble floors and an elevator that played Bach. We got off high up and were met by a gorgeous secretary who ushered us into the office of a man in a Brooks Brothers suit—and he was only middle management! I was like, “Wow! I want to be like him.” And that got me into the business. Then, poof! I realized it wasn’t like that anymore.

What was your first ad?

[At Western University], I wrote job application letters for the whole graduating class of engineering for $200 a letter.

How is American advertising perceived in Europe?

I think it’s perceived as being the highest-quality work in the world. I also think some work is hated. I think there are more spots of brilliance in the U.S. than perhaps the other markets. Although the U.K. might disagree.

What’s the best U.S. ad you’ve seen recently?

I love the new commercial for Honda featuring the man raised by wolves. It grabbed me by the throat, and I howled down the hall.

Why come to America now?

Advertising used to be the best business in world to work in, but it went into a funk. We get a sense that there’s a creative renaissance coming, and we’re really optimistic about it, and we want to be here.

Why do you say there’s a renaissance coming?

Firstly, clients seem bored. Advertising talent seems bored. [It’s] the perfect fermentation for a creativity renaissance. Secondly, it’s creative thinkers’ and idea generators’ time to save the planet. The financial industry tried but failed. The technology industry tried but failed. Who is going to help businesses thrive? Creative thinkers, that’s who! As the world becomes more and more homogeneous, the more important distinctiveness becomes. More evidence? The creative frontier is the merger of advertising plus entertainment plus content. This is giving creatives so many more outlets. One more thing—there always seems to be an explosion of energy and creativity after an economic funk.

Which American agency do you think is most interesting creatively, and why?

Crispin Porter + Bogusky. They are really strategic, and the work is refreshing. They create a culture. Every time you see a campaign from them, you feel like they are creating a movement. And today great advertising comes out of anywhere—big agencies, tiny shops. I love Crispin, because they are an incredible challenger brand.

Where do you want StrawberryFrog to be five years from now?

We want to be known as the agency that creates movements for clients. We also want to be one of several agencies that have made advertising a great business again, with lots of vitality, lots of fresh product, exciting thoughts, big ideas that get results—a business where people can have a lot of fun. A business that people love.

What advice would you give someone starting out in advertising?

Be iconoclastic. Take nothing for granted. Maybe it’s a good time to start a new agency and find ways of communicating with consumers that people haven’t thought of before. Challenge the establishment with responsibility—that’s what clients want.

You’ve said StrawberryFrog is “designed to ride the Bronco”—be more adaptable than large networks. But why should holding companies feel nervous when you’re so small?

StrawberryFrog is leading a new and effective way of doing huge, multimillion-dollar campaigns without the bulk, without the bureaucracy, without the expensive real estate. We’ve done it for five years. Imagine how many new agencies will be inspired by this and be open to challenging the big conglomerates in five years’ time. I’d be nervous.

How do you buy media for global clients?

The big media firms are incredibly well organized to distribute our work down to the last tiny ad. They are kind of like the best-organized airport. We fly our Lear jet into the airport with our client on board, we land the media firm—like JFK—[which] perfectly offloads and distributes the baggage—the ads, so to speak—so it gets to the right place on time and flawlessly.

How do you get past a creative block?

It’s different in Amsterdam than it will be in New York! Just kidding. Creativity is about being open to new impulses, new thinking. I like to meet people, travel and experience life. This usually gets a lot of ideas flowing.

What’s your biggest fear?

That I wake up tomorrow and I’m working at a dinosaur.