Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring in-depth profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Jannie Gerds. Photography for Capitol Communicator’s profile series is by Cade Martin. Wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup was by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Jannie, please provide us a short bio and your current title.
I’m VP, Creative Director at Subject Matter, and took a roundabout way to get here. After cutting my teeth at Hal Riney & Partners in San Francisco, I moved to Citron Haligman Bedecarré (now AKQA). Then to Atlanta for a few years at Ogilvy before going out on my own and running my own shop. My husband and I returned to San Francisco in 2010, stayed three years, then moved here. Clearly, we don’t have kids.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
When freelancing or running my own business, I had the flexibility to teach at Creative Circus, and volunteer on community boards, several Tours of Homes, at a primate refuge, and the SPCA. I even ran for Atlanta City Council – and lost in a runoff with 47% of the vote. But since we moved to DC, work, my husband, and my rescue dogs have taken priority.
What are the things you are most proud of?
Professionally: Being one of the highest-rated teachers at Creative Circus for 10+ years, crashing two call centers with response, and ghost writing a piece for David Ogilvy—without being fired. Personally: landing the best bonus at my first job, my husband, Rob.
Who are your personal role models?
Thanks for forcing me to think about this. As a personal role model, my grandmother. She was a divorced mom who supported herself and her son at a time when women didn’t do that.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
I’ve learned from so many people along the way. Doreen Dvorin had a profound impact on me at Porfolio Center. She taught me people don’t buy features, they buy benefits—the answer to “what’s in it for me.” My husband has taught me the most powerful concepts are not only creative, but strategic. Some of the best advice for understanding what effective advertising is came from Hal Riney. He said there are only two questions to ask a concept-testing focus group: what did you learn and how did it make you feel? Nothing else matters.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Stay curious. Stay excited. And if you want to become a creative director, teach. Nothing prepares you to articulate feedback faster than a student asking “why?”
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
All sorts of stuff: Adele, Muse, Ed Sheeran, U2, R.E.M., Andrea Bocelli, Brad Paisley, Blitzen Trapper, The Cure, Kenny Chesney, Etta James, Jaron, Lady Antebellum, Indigo Girls, Bruno Mars, Lorde, Van Morrison, Killers, Johnny Cash, Coldplay and dance music.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Henry’s Hunan in San Francisco.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Condé Nast says, “Travel isn’t a reward for working, it’s homework for living.” In that context, I live for more homework.