Geoffrey Goldberg's Journey From Broadway Performer to CCO of Movers+Shakers
Reinventions profiles people who've made big pivots. Meet Geoffrey Goldberg, who went from Broadway to agency life.
Muse: What were you before?
Geoffrey Goldberg: Prior to this, I spent over a decade as an actor, singer and dancer on Broadway, and as a cast member on global musical tours. I was a performer and Dance Captain in Mary Poppins on Broadway, and performed in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 42nd Street, Singin' in the Rain and more. My time on Broadway eventually led me to directing, writing and choreographing for stage and film.
What triggered your reinvention(s)?
Performing eight shows a week is extremely rewarding, but also rough on the body and soul. I realized there are other—and more impactful—ways to showcase my creativity, and tell and craft stories. When I started writing, directing and choreographing, I quickly caught the storytelling bug. I developed three full-length musicals, and a handful of short musical numbers. When a few of my online videos went viral (see below for an example), Evan Horowitz, my partner, saw an opportunity: What if I leveraged this creative storytelling and partnered with brands to tell their stories in a fun, entertaining and joyful way? And so we started our creative agency Movers+Shakers.
What did the first steps look like?
We started off by making a few proof-of-concept videos—fun, musical, entertaining spots that brought brands to life in an unexpected and compelling way. These got our foot in the door for conversations with bigger brands.
We quickly started gaining traction, leveraging my experience in musical storytelling in videos for Match.com, Little Tikes and Razor Scooter. Then, when TikTok started to grow in popularity, we jumped right in, working with e.l.f. Cosmetics and launching what became the most viral campaign in TikTok history.
What was one hard obstacle to overcome?
I'd say the biggest hurdle was that I had zero experience in marketing. But honestly, that lack of experience, specifically in the advertising world, has proven to be a boon in the long run and has allowed me to think outside the box, creating ideas that no other agency is thinking of! So, I guess I'd say the main obstacle was that we were just an unknown entity. Here are two people running a marketing agency who didn't come from the agency world, trying to get a meeting based purely on our creativity and grit.
What was easier than you thought?
Figuring out how to tell these stories for brands! At the end of the day, I am a storyteller, an entertainer, and I come with no baggage or rulebook from decades of agency life. And so, we just put forward ideas that made sense, that made us laugh or smile, and that were unexpected, joyful and never been done before. And those were the ideas that brands loved.
What's something you learned along the way that other people, hoping to do something similar, should know?
Every single experience in your life has brought you to this moment, and one of the biggest tasks in reinventing yourself is to look back and take stock in those learnings. Peel them back and build a toolkit of experiences for yourself that you can take into any situation.
For example, starting off as a performer, auditioning 10+ times a week for months on end, committing 100 percent of my time, yet getting rejected 99 percent of the time, you could say that has nothing to do with running an agency. But then I stand up in front of a room of executives, flip on the PowerPoint to "sell" the biggest idea our company has ever come up with, and think to myself: "Oh yeah, I've been training for this my whole life."
Did anyone or anything inspire you along the way?
Collaboration. We simply cannot, and should not, do this alone! I've always been inspired by the people I work alongside, whether that was on the Broadway stage, a writing partner on a musical, or the insanely talented people I have on my team at Movers+Shakers.
What has this fundamentally changed for you?
I spent years chasing my dreams, walking into an audition room, singing my heart out, and hoping that someone sitting behind a table would make a decision that would change my future. Now, I'd rather be the one deciding my fate, and instead of chasing dreams, I'd rather be writing them.
Do you think you could go back/do you want to?
I love to dance and sing, and now I tap dance in my garage with my 3-year-old daughter, and we sing songs at the piano together. Would I ever go back to a career as a performer? No. I've moved on from that. But it will always be a part of who I am. I still write, direct and am involved in the theater world today, and I use the learnings from my background in entertainment every day in helping tell stories for our clients.
Tell us your reinvention song.
"My Shot" from Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I mean, come on, it had to be a Broadway song, and I work a ton in the pop and hip-hop space now, so I thought this would be appropriate.
Aside from the fact that Lin is an absolute genius who gave everything he had to put his vision onto page, paper, and eventually onstage, and inspired people with his words and music, this song captures that moment of the unexpected decision to lean in, or back off. To seize the moment and believe in yourself against all odds, even when other people call you crazy, and to decide right then and there to commit.
How would you define yourself now?
I am co-founder and chief creative officer of Movers+Shakers, a disruptive creative agency on a mission to spread joy. Our clients rely on us to push them into tomorrow, creating cultural relevance across mainstream and emerging social platforms.
With 100 billion+ views on our TikTok campaigns, we have been named by some as "the TikTok whisperers." We were also named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies in 2021. I get to work at the nexus between brands, the consumer and culture in a really exciting and entertaining way!
Reinventions is a questionnaire series with people who are making pivots in their lives. If you're going through a reinvention and would like to be interviewed for the series, please get in touch.