2 Minutes With ... John Long, Senior Vice President of Creative at Digitas

On Samsung Galaxy Fold, John Williams and his Twitter faves

John Long serves as senior vice president of creative at Digitas in NYC. He previously held upper-tier creative posts at LG's in-house agency, The Economist and Ogilvy. A copywriter by trade, John has has won dozens of industry awards and garnered coverage from The New York Times, Wired and the BBC. He has written essays and commentary for Muse by Clio, The Drum, Campaign, Adweek, the Columbia Journalism Review and McSweeney's. He is also an associate member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

John is a second-generation ad guy and a failed, classically-trained musician. He lives with his wife, their two sons and a treat-addicted Beagle named Twix.

We spent two minutes with John to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.

John, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born in New Brunswick, N.J., grew up in Miami, and live in Bedford, N.Y., a small town north of NYC.

How you first realized you were creative.

As a kid, I was more interested in science than the arts. I had a telescope and this little kit microscope, and my parents were convinced I'd wind up in a lab. That began to change when I started piano lessons in the third grade, and by middle school, I'd taken up the oboe and started composing music. When I was 12, I wrote this 16-measure piano piece that was really just a bad imitation of Mozart. But at the time, it felt like an accomplishment that I created something.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

I was an aspiring composer so my creative idol was John Williams. Star Wars, ET, and Indiana Jones to Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and the Harry Potter series. The body of work is just staggering. A prolific genius.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

I majored in music in college, then went to grad school to continue my studies in composition. Because I was interested in scoring films, I took a screenwriting course. One day after class, the professor took me aside and said, "You have a knack for writing, and I think you could be successful if you pursued it." I didn't really give it much thought at the time. But later, when music lost its luster for me, I realized I was actually better at writing words than writing music. And that one bit of encouragement gave me the confidence to see it through.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Banksy. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about how to attract attention through impactful communications, it's hard to name anyone better at it. I admire his wit and daring, as well as his skill at using art to draw attention to important issues.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

I loved the first season of Severance. It stands apart in its ambition, even at a time when there's an overabundance of excellent television. I particularly found the attention to detail in the production design inspiring, down to the CRT monitors and funky UX of the computers. That's real craft.

Your favorite fictional character.

Not sure I have one, but I was tempted to say Rodion Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment just to mess with everyone.

Someone or something worth following in social media.

I'm a Twitter addict and despite its problems and ongoing implosion. Great job, Elon! I've learned a lot from the advertising professionals active there, especially: Vikki Ross (@VikkirRossWrites), Derek Walker (@dereklwalker), Rob Schwartz (@Schwartzie14) and my good friend and former Ogilvy colleague, the great George Tannenbaum (@georget20), Follow them and you'll be a better creative for it.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

Professionally, I think I had the same experience as everyone else in our business. I was surprised at how quickly we adapted to remote work. Personally, I think more about that period's impact on my kids. We were very lucky no one got sick. But they were in eighth and ninth grade when the pandemic hit. For adults, a year or 18 months, no matter how hard, goes by pretty fast. But for kids, it's very different. I worry about that.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on, and why.

When I was at Ogilvy, we were tasked with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the world's first foldable smartphone. A dream brief. A product that breaks the mold demands a campaign that breaks the mold. And that's exactly what we delivered.

A recent project you're proud of, and why. 

When I was hired as global head of creative at The Economist, I was determined to bring back the classic "White out of Red" campaign. For one thing, as a writer, it's one of my favorite campaigns. But I was also convinced it would work just as well in social and digital, and felt the brand had lost a bit of its voice in the advertising they had been running. There were all these reasons I was told why it wouldn't work, and I was shown data that "proved" generic offers "performed better" than brand messages. But I made the case to leadership, and finally got it through. Not only did we breathe new life into the voice, we showed that banners and social posts don't have to suck.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Jeff Kling's campaign for Miller High Life, directed by Errol Morris. The humor, artistry and craft remain a constant source of inspiration to this day. Advertising doesn't get any better.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

I thought the new British Airways campaign from Uncommon was terrific, and recently sang its praises on the Sweathead podcast.

Your main strength as a creative person.


Your biggest weakness.


One thing that always makes you happy.

When our Beagle named Twix greets me when I get home. It's as always as though I've been gone for several years.

One thing that always makes you sad.

When the Knicks lose.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

Probably still looking for something interesting to do.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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