Our industry lost one of its all-time best executives, innovators, leaders and, most importantly, human beings when Nick Johnson, chief revenue officer at Spotter, passed away in April at way, way too young of an age (55). I miss Nick terribly.
Nick helped build our digital ad industry, from his days at CNN.com and Lycos to building audience platforms at Revenue Science and NBC Digital to, most recently, pioneering and shaping the world of streaming and connected TV advertising at Spotter. and didn’t need to be asked.
Nick was a giver to all of us whenever we were in need, and didn't need to be asked. He showed up -- and he didn’t seek recognition for it.
As his longtime friend and business partner Peter Naylor remembered at Nick's service last week, “Nick was a mediocre golfer.” Peter meant that being great at golf, playing enough to maintain a low handicap, invariably means that you can’t also be great in your personal life, in business and with your friends -- and Nick was beyond compare in his excellence in all three of those areas.
Nick was one of our industry’s best, most giving and most accessible mentors, helping both top industry executives considering C-level moves and students at his alma mater Gettysburg College wondering where they were going to get their first jobs.
A number of times over the past two decades, Nick and I would talk about some of the opportunities he was considering in his career. I was honored that he chose to talk to me about them, that he cared about my opinions.
Nick was always generous with his thanks but, as I related to him recently, I was the one that got the most from our relationship. He had always thought through things more fully and clearly than I had. He saw around corners that I couldn’t see. And the adventurousness of Nick’s spirit was irreplicable. He went at everything with a thoughtfulness, enthusiasm and an enormous, ear-to-ear smile that let you know that he could, and would, accomplish everything he set out to do.
I feel so much for his family. Everything he did revolved around them, and he was so proud of how amazing they were. I will thank them every day for sharing their husband, father and son with us.
Nick made me a better human being. It’s as simple as that.
As his incredibly brave and eloquent daughter Caroline related at the service, if offered the choice to have Nick as her father, but to have to endure losing him after only 19 years versus not to have had him in her life at all, she would gladly take the unbelievable 19 years she had with him.
I never thought that I would not have Nick Johnson to talk to for at least a couple of decades more. Now I don’t. But, like Caroline, I know that I am incredibly lucky to have had the time that I did with him.
In future, we may not have Nick to talk to for counsel, but we do have his example to follow.
Going forward, we can all, even in little ways, be like Nick. His goodness, generosity and humor need to live on.