Jae Goodman passes torch to new CEO Brendan Shields-Shimizu and president and CCO Linda Knight
Observatory announced today that president and chief operating officer Brendan Shields-Shimizu will take over as chief executive officer after 11 years with the agency, with Linda Knight being named president in addition to her role as chief creative officer, continuing to lead the agency’s creative work. After 16 years of building an agency for the content era, founder Jae Goodman will continue on as a board advisor to Observatory and parent company Stagwell. The move comes at a high point for Observatory, which pioneered brand entertainment for clients such as 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 with five Lions and 11 shortlists; 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 lauded stop-motion film, Back to the Start, which revolutionized brand content when it debuted in 2011. The agency has also won Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies Award for the past three years straight.
“Observatory’s vision and expertise are unmatched in the industry and this is an exhilarating time to be taking over as the CEO,” Shields-Shimizu says. “I’m excited to continue working alongside Linda and the team to challenge the perception of what’s possible for content and brand entertainment.”
Since Observatory’s launch as an independent agency in late 2017, Shields-Shimizu has held key leadership roles from head of brand to managing director to president and COO and has driven much of its signature work. 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.”
“I realized recently that I’ve been operating on the same platform since a year before the launch of the iPhone, and while I’m unlikely to stray far from the intersection of brands and entertainment, it might be time to take a moment and assess where and how I do that,” Goodman says. “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.”
Knight joined Observatory as CCO almost three years ago after tours 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 work with Ben & Jerry’s, Busch Beer, and VRBO. Most recently, Knight led creative for the Doritos Stranger Things concert, and award-winning Chipotle work as well as the latest work for Waffle Iron Entertainment: a podcast about women soccer players around the world called Hustle Rule that released on the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
“Observatory’s mission is to create content that attracts and engages rather than interrupts and annoys,” Knight says. “These past three years we’ve cranked it up to a whole new level and cracked the code on how to help brands achieve engagement. Waffle Iron Entertainment alone has over a dozen active entertainment projects, and I can’t wait for the world to see what we’re cooking up for Old Navy — we’re on fire!”
Another key figure in the new leadership team is head of brand Caroline Doyle, who joined Observatory in 2019 and has helped lead Observatory’s partnerships with Netflix and Treasury Wine Estates, including the recent unconventional approach to launching 19 Crimes’ Martha’s Chard wine. She also shepherds Observatory’s role as agency of record for Major League Baseball.
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