Defining creativity can be, at once, both obvious and impossibly nuanced. As the lines between marketers and makers continue to blur, creative talents are crossing over into culture in more ways than ever before.
Each year, Adweek celebrates the Creative 100, a roster of gifted professionals who inspire current and future generations not only with their work but also their passion for creativity across advertising, media, art, literature, animation and more.
Check out Adweek’s Creative 100 by category, and the full list below:
Branded Content Innovators | Celebrities & Influencers | Directors | Global Creative Leaders | U.S. Agency Leaders | Media Innovators | Rising Agency Talents | Visual Artists | Cover Stars: Desus and Mero
Based in: Toronto
Recent work: “Lamp 2”, a recycling-themed sequel to Ikea’s highly acclaimed 2002 “Lamp” spot. “My favorite ad of all time is Spike Jonze’s Ikea ‘Lamp’ spot from 16 years ago. But the fact is, that sad red lamp I loved so much was likely headed to a landfill. The attitudes around waste have shifted a lot in the 16 years after ‘Lamp’ aired. That little lamp was a symbol for Ikea at the time—just throw it away and get a new one. So we suggested to give the red lamp that everyone loved a new life. Instead of it being a symbol of our wasteful past, we suggested to use the exact same lamp as a symbol for who Ikea is today: a company that truly cares about the environment. They care so much that in Canada, they encouraged people not to buy new furniture. Instead they encourage re-use (red lamp included) to help the planet. The re-use campaign highlighted by the lamps new life and was an enormous success in the market. Sales even shot up, though that wasn’t the main objective.”
Source of inspiration: “This year, I started my podcast, It’s Only Fucking Advertising (IOFA). I have a giant grin on my face as I hear the behind-the-scenes stories from some of the most famous work of the last 50 years from other creatives I really admire like Jeff Goodby his partner Rich Silverstein, Alex Bogusky, Susan Credle and others. Also, I find it incredibly rewarding to hear from listeners how the podcast has affected them. For instance, I’ve had people write the show saying how they were going to give up on the business after getting fired, but a few guests’ personal stories, and my own story of getting let go early on and persevering, inspired them to keep going with passion and optimism.” —David Griner
Based in: Dublin
Recent work: “JFK Unsilenced,” on which he was the copywriter and creative director. “It was an activation for The Times UK & Ireland’s ‘Find Your Voice’ campaign. The idea used AI and a lot of sound design to allow JFK to finally deliver the speech he was on his way to give when he was assassinated.”
Advice to aspiring creatives: “Never give up. Whether your goal is trying to land your first job in an agency or its trying to convince a client to see why your idea is right for them, or maybe your goal is to win a Cannes Lion—whatever it is, never, ever, ever, give up. Ever.”—David Griner
The vast majority of directors, writers and editors in Hollywood will struggle their whole lives in a futile search for even one Oscar. Cuarón, meanwhile, has played all those roles and more—and been honored time and again for them by the Academy Awards. His movies have been nominated an astounding 34 times and have taken home a total of 13 Oscars.
Unquestionably one of today’s most visionary and hands-on directors, Cuarón most recently was honored by the Academy with Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography for 2018’s Roma, which he wrote, produced, directed and edited. He previously directed influential hits such as 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth and 2013’s Gravity—winner of seven Oscars, including Best Director.
Shot entirely in black and white, Roma was inspired by Cuarón’s childhood nanny, Liboria “Libo” Rodríguez, portrayed in the semi-autobiographical film as the character Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez. The film follows the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma neighborhood through the lens of Cleo’s care and personal struggles.
To bring a level of realism often lacking in Hollywood dramas, Cuarón insisted actors not be given scripts farther in advance than necessary for each scene, encouraging them to ad lib and discover the unfolding plot of the film, which was also shot in chronological order.—David Griner
Alice Chiapperini and Matteo Capaldi
Based in: Portland, Ore.
Originally from: Italy
Recent work: “Unstatus Quo,” the new Palms branding. “How often do you get to completely relaunch a brand—especially one that has Cardi B and Ken Block as partners?” Capaldi says. “As the leading team on the project, we came up with the campaign idea and followed every step of the production—from conception to delivery. I led the copy aspects across the whole project, including crafting the campaign tagline, brand manifesto, film scripts, headlines and social copy.”
“Las Vegas had been offering the same clichés for ages,” Chiapperini says. “To prove that Palms is different from any other destination in town, we literally coined a new phrase, rallying a motley crew of Palms partners—all known for breaking conventions—to bring a feast of different to the Vegas routine.”
As Giphy’s director of creative strategy, McAlpine oversees the delicate art of weaving brands into the reactions, clap-backs and other evocative interactions communicated through GIFs. Having honed her branded content chops over four years in BuzzFeed’s creative department, McAlpine brought a thorough understanding of the internet’s visual vernacular when she came on board in 2016.
But Giphy offered a bigger challenge than sponsored listicles: How does one cram a brand narrative into a few soundless seconds of animation—which might be used to convey a complex range of emotions?
“You run the risk of it really becoming a banner ad if you are just too explicit with your branding,” McAlpine said. “You really want it to have that magic that GIFs have.”
McAlpine has become a deft practitioner of that magic. Her top two rules: “Keep it simple, stupid,” and, “Always ask yourself how you would use [the GIF] in a conversation.”
Some recent projects she is particularly proud of include series of GIFs for the Google Pixel 3 that featured Donald Glover dancing alongside an animated version of himself, as well as a SXSW gallery of fan art around Jordan Peele’s new horror film, Us. “It’s been really creatively fulfilling,” McAlpine said.—Patrick Kulp
Based in: Chicago
Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia
Recent work: “Prescribed to Death” for the National Safety Council. “It’s the type of work that lives at the intersection between innovation and storytelling—which is something we really strive to do. Plus, it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to save a life and with this project, we did.”
What else he’s worked on: Jeep, while at BBDO Puerto Rico; Ford and SC Johnson while at Zubi
The most rewarding part of the job: “The people. There’s nothing better than feeling the energy of the people around the work and seeing their faces when ideas are out and recognized.”
Side hustle: “Running. I try to run at least 5 days a week because it clears up the mind.”
Personal mantra: “Always trust your gut. It knows what your head hasn’t figured out yet.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Get into this because you love it, because it makes you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a line, because the world is full of stories that you want to turn into something. And never forget that, while you’re at it, you have the chance to make this world a better one.”
Andrew Hunter and Doug Murray
Hometowns: New Orleans, La. (Hunter) and Fayetteville, Ark. (Murray)
Recent work: The Unexpected Tour Guides for Visit New Orleans. “Our new IGTV series for New Orleans is an absolute riot,” says Hunter. “Unexpected Tour Guides with the Caramel Curves follows a group of stiletto-wearing, pink-smoke-burning, badass biker girls as they take traditional travel influencers off the beaten path to underrepresented neighborhoods in New Orleans. It’s a Netflix-quality show shot exclusively for Instagram.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “The opportunity to lead creative for my hometown is an honor,” notes Hunter. “Tourism marketing only works if it works for locals, first, and we’re shining a light on those who bring out the best in our city.”
“It’s always rewarding to see your work in the real world, whether coming across it on TV or going out of your way to see a poster series takeover a subway station,” adds Murray. “The tactility of what we produce on a daily basis keeps me going.”
Personal mantra: “Just listen. It doesn’t matter if it’s your boss or creative partner or client…if you don’t know what those around you are saying, you’ll never be on the right path,” says Murray.
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Be a glutton. Watch, read, eat, drink, visit, listen…just consume absolutely as much as you can,” suggests Hunter. “Our output is a product of our inputs. You’ll never know how that Wikipedia hole will inspire you until you’re in it.”—Minda Smiley
Anita Fontaine and Geoffrey Lillemon
Based in: Amsterdam
Hometown: Communities in Texas and North Dakota (Lillemon), and Brisbane, Australia (Fontaine)
Recent work: The duo’s Department of New Realities, which they co-founded nearly three years ago, creates a range of tools and activations that blend creativity and emerging technology. In 2018, they launched LAVA, an augmented reality platform that turns vinyl records into spinning, ever-changing 3D art displays. “LAVA uses technology that allows us to detect what song is playing on a turntable and relay that to specific 3D artwork that is overlaid on top of the spinning record,” Lillemon says. “It was a dream project for us to pair music and technology in new ways, earned the agency its first patent and put us on a trajectory of developing our own I.P.”
Advice to aspiring creatives: “Approach advertising in an unconventional way,” Fontaine says. “Consumers have fatigue around advertising, so can we just make beautiful uplifting experiences than enhance our reality?”
Personal mantra: Fontaine: “Love everyone, and don’t get angry.” Lillemon: “Are the cats happy?”
Source of inspiration: “I have many inspirational outlets, as I don’t seek relaxation but instead seek expression,” Lillemon says. “I’ve turned my house into a theatrical playground with interactive antiques that respond to your presence; in this way I’m transforming my physical home into a piece of art that has a presence and a behavior.”—David Griner
Austin Paramore and Alexander Arroyo
Hometowns: Chicago, Ill. (Paramore) and Skokie, Ill. (Arroyo)
On breaking into advertising: ”After college, I worked in insurance for about a year while writing poetry and screenplays on the side,” recalls Paramore. “Those projects led to an internship at Leo Burnett Chicago. My team won that year’s intern competition and I started full-time shortly after.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “I absolutely love seeing an idea come together,” says Paramore. “We work on so many projects in pieces – from concepts to scripts to boards to filming to edit to color to audio. It’s incredibly rewarding to see all of those pieces come together.”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Be more than your job title,” Paramore says. “Do more than your job description.”
Dream celeb collab: “I’d most love to work with Daniel Day-Lewis,” says Arroyo. “He’s phenomenal in every role he chooses. I think it’s a true testament to not only his talent but also his work ethic. Hopefully, he comes out of retirement.”—Minda Smiley
Kaufman has always thought outside the box. In high school, he invented what has become Mophie, a company designing portable chargers for phones, and created a company, Quirky, to crowdsource new product ideas. At BuzzFeed, which he joined in 2016, he’s led some of the company’s most innovative product lines for its brands, including licensing deals that have put a slew of BuzzFeed products in hundreds of stores throughout the country.
“Making these products not only has a great benefit to us financially, it puts our brands in consumers’ hands in a completely new way and is great marketing for our media brand,” Kaufman says.
His reach also extends beyond the BuzzFeed newsroom. He’s created a new retail experience for children, called CAMP (of which BuzzFeed has a small stake), that brings experiential shopping to kids. Next up, Kaufman says he’ll work with the team at BuzzFeed designing more products and “having fun with the brand again.” Separately, he’ll look to expand CAMP with more stores throughout the country. “So much of this work is problem-solving rather than innovating,” Kaufman says. “It’s trying to find a way to get it done.”—Sara Jerde
Benjamin Marchal and Faustin Claverie
Based in: Paris
Hometowns: Avignon (Marchal); Paris (Claverie)
Recent work: “Rain” campaign for McDonald’s delivery. “It’s an outdoor campaign showing urban landscapes shot through dripping windows. It’s a very simple idea that doesn’t need a line. When it rains, you just don’t want to get out. We both have an art director background, so it was very rewarding to work on a piece of work where photography and craft matter so much,” Claverie says.
Also: “Harmless Guns” for 3D printing brand Dagoma. “We asked people to send us all the gun blueprints they could find. Then we slightly modified the blueprints to make the guns useless and flooded the dark web with these harmless guns.”
On the side: “We take time to direct music videos or short films once or twice a year. Ben is also writing animated films. We decided to restart our heavy-metal band this year—advertising has become too soft!”—David Griner
Billy Bogiatzoglou, a.k.a. Billelis
Billelis uses the latest technology to create complex 3D images for clients like Nike, Netflix and Lionsgate. He describes his unique style as “dark, yet elegant romantic fusion.”
Heavy on both gothic themes and classic sculptures, his designs pop off the page and draw towards the center while taking detours through the details. His personal artwork brings you a myriad of ways to see the human skull, and he delivers that same style to his clients.
“I feel like I am at this stage of my career mainly because of the work I do for myself,” Billelis said. “I am personally connected and invested in what I do every day and as a result of that process, my clients get the same love as my personal work.”
His favorite project is the poster work he did for John Wick 3: Parabellum, the recently released action movie starring Keanu Reeves.
“It was an honor to be asked to work on it and provide my vision,” he said. “The feedback was minimum which helped us create something unique as I felt personally connected to the brief.”—Mitch Reames
At only 17 years old, Billie Eilish has already accomplished something most people her age can only dream of: she met her idol, Justin Bieber, at Coachella (an event where Eilish performed for the first time). It was a moment that felt gratifying and so uniquely 21st century; fans of Eilish knew how important this moment was for her because of social media and then celebrated the moment on social.
Born two months after September 11, 2001, Eilish—known properly as Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell—has seemingly come out of nowhere to become the first artist born in this century to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 list. Her career started in 2015 through a Soundcloud link; she recorded the vocals for “Ocean Eyes,” a song her older brother, Finneas O’Connell, was producing for his own band. They uploaded it to Soundcloud, where it traversed through the internet as things do, until it reached the ears of Zane Lowe on Beats 1. The rest, as they say in modern times, was viral history.
In 2017, Eilish released her own EP, and earlier this year she debuted her first album. Along the way, Eilish has collaborated with the likes of Vince Staples and Khalid, as well as having her own Beats 1 Show and providing the sweet melody for Apple’s 2018 Holiday ad:
Unlike the pop stars dominating the music charts in the year Eilish was born, Eilish has the unique ability of knowing how much influence and power she wields to her fans. With 23.5 million Instagram followers, she’s begun using platform to advocate for mental health and has openly talked about her issues with depression, living with Tourette’s syndrome, and grappling with her own body image.
While she seems reluctant and apprehensive about all the fame that’s come for her, she’s leaning into it too, telling The New York Times, “I’m realizing the place I’m in right now is kind of my time, though—my moment.” With more than 4 billion on-demand streams, according to Nielsen Data, and a sold-out tour, it’s definitely more than her moment—it could very well be her era.—Ann-Marie Alcántara
Casey Rand and Karen Land Short
Based in: New York City
Hometowns: Montreal (Rand) and Austin, Texas (Land Short)
Recent work: “Class of 0000,” created by agency coalition Potential Energy, is a student-led campaign promoting climate action with graduation speeches demanding action from political leaders. “Essentially, we’re getting high school and college valedictorians across the country to work the same speech into their commencement addresses, all pledging to vote for political candidates who have a plan to get to zero emissions,” Rand says. “I’m most proud of this because, as we all know, the world is ending and our leaders refuse to take action. Karen and I are leading the project with a team at Droga5.”
Also, they’ve helped launch g5, “a small, female-identifying collective at Droga5 that will do free creative work for female-founded start-ups.”
The most rewarding part of the job: “Seeing a really good idea get made,” Rand says. “So many stars have to align for a great concept to make it into the world, so when that happens it almost feels like a miracle.”
Personal mantra: Land Short: “Breathe.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Advertising is by nature an invasion of people’s privacy, a major contributor to our consumerist culture and outrageously wasteful. So, make sure when you interrupt someone, you do it by making them laugh or cry or think deeply about something.”
Based in: Bucharest, Romania
Recent work: “Bihor Couture,” a fashion brand created by the agency in partnership with magazine Beau Monde. “Big fashion houses have been using inspiration from the local cultures of many countries and regions of the world, without giving credit to the locals, the original creators. The same was the case for a small Romanian region, Bihor, that created an amazing coat used as a model by a big fashion brand and sold for a lot of money. Working with Beau Monde, the fashion magazine that supports beauty and authenticity, we created Bihor Couture, a fashion brand with designs created by the locals, that serves as a model to bring money in the community and keep the traditions alive.”
Most rewarding part of his job: “I love it when I see the pieces of work I created entering pop culture. We need to break the advertising bubble and people need to perceive our creations as something that is enriching their lives, not as something that just needs to sell them products.”
On creative leadership: “I think leaders need to create and develop the right context for people to make the most of their qualities. This means not being stuck on job descriptions, titles and formality; it means creating a context that enables each person to grow in their unique way.”—David Griner
Hometown: Plymouth, Mass.
How she got started: “I started my career at Y&R New York and then moved over to The Community in Miami before landing in L.A., where I worked at 180 for 3 years. I then freelanced between 72andSunny and Anomaly L.A. for another three years.”
Brands she works with: “I’ve been working with HP, Spotify, the Rémy Martin brand Louis XIII as well as a rebrand for Tsingtao beer in the U.S.”
Recent work: “I’m really proud of the new work we’re creating for HP’s Premium PC brand. Their new product line has some cool features that we were able to showcase in a fun and stylish way. That campaign will be released this summer. But I think what I’m most proud of from the past year is helping to open the FF L.A. office and working with Fred to build an amazing team. We’re just getting started!”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “‘It’s OK to say no,’ and, ‘Value your producers—they make your ideas happen.’”
Where she finds inspiration: “I love spending time outside. I think that’s a good way to recharge. Working in the garden or hiking with my two dogs, Cooper and Roo.”
Personal mantra: “Don’t complain. Fix it.”—Minda Smiley
“It’s media in 2019, and you’ve got to do everything. Which makes it the best challenge.”
That’s how Gayomali summarizes his current roles with GQ, which include overseeing content across the magazine’s website while still writing and editing.
Through this interwoven role, Gayomali has helped prioritize garnering a diverse array of contributors to enhance GQ’s platform, making sure the brand is covering what modern-day masculinity looks like from all angles and incorporating more voices on the website to make “masculinity better and more inclusive.”
“When so much of it is toxic and bad and gross,” Gayomali says of topics centered on men, “we see an opportunity to reach men in a unique point of their lives, a rare position that we don’t take lightly.”
Christene Barberich and Piera Gelardi
When Refinery29 turned 10, its founders had an idea for an epic birthday celebration: partner with artists, brands and nonprofits to bring the publication to life in 29Rooms. About 10,000 people came to that first event, but more astounding was its social reach—one out of every six Instagram users saw it. Four years later, 29Rooms is a juggernaut that’s expanded to five cities, set trends in experiential marketing and cemented Refinery29 as a progressive media brand, both in content and business strategy.
Co-founders and longtime creative partners Piera Gelardi and Christene Barberich are major forces behind the company’s success. Their partnership began 20 years ago at design and fashion magazine CITY, where Barberich was the editor and Gelardi was a photo intern. Now the lead editor and creative chief of Refinery, respectively, the two say they caught lightning in a bottle by giving readers a voice.
“So many events place you into the role of spectator, and 29Rooms puts the audience at the heart of this wondrous, interactive world where they can touch, hear, smell, taste, create and truly be the experience,” Gelardi says. “It’s truly a living, breathing expression of the topics we cover on Refinery29, but where the fans become the authors of the content.”
Complementary skills and shared goals have fueled their collaboration for 20 years. “The most important and special aspect of our partnership is our admiration and curiosity for each other’s skill sets, and our respective disciplines have really rubbed off on each other as a result,” Barberich says. “We trust each other and mutually put Refinery29 as a brand ahead of any other personal agenda.”
As with any successful franchise, the bar gets higher and competition multiplies every year. Gelardi says her game plan is to stay focused on one thing: purpose. “Anything you create that’s worthwhile will have imitators—that’s a sign that it’s resonating,” Gelardi says. “When we root our creation process in purpose, things continue to expand and we never exhaust our imagination.”
Based in: Los Angeles
Hometown: Appleton, Wisc.
Most rewarding work: “This past year, we helped launch ‘Behind the Mac,’ a global platform that celebrates the stories of the passionate creators who get behind their Mac to make something wonderful. The platform shined a light on the creative process passionate users go through to make the world a better place. I also led the iPad group over the past couple of years. iPad has always had a special place in my heart, since I’ve been working on it in one form or another from the beginning.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Every brand has a truth; no matter what it is, there is a reason it exists beyond all the others. Finding it and telling its story is what we’re here to do.”
How he recharges: “I love to cook. This business can be so subjective, and you can get lost in second-guessing. I love the act of cooking. To roast a chicken and, after two hours, there is no debate: That is, indeed, a roasted chicken.”
A celeb he’d love to work with: “Greta Thunberg is probably my favorite person in the world right now. I am in awe of her conviction and her power at such a young age. Climate change will reshape our world, and we need to be serious about it. Knowing she exists gives me hope for the future.”—Doug Zanger
Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin
Represented by: Furlined
Based in: Los Angeles
Hometowns: Rockford, Ill. (Lindsay); Seattle (Martin)
Recent work: “The Truth Is Worth It” for The New York Times and Droga5. “The most rewarding part was the collaboration,” Lindsay says. “That allowed us to create a process that was a bit unorthodox, something much more fluid than any other commercial we have done.”
On awards: “If your intention is to win awards,” Martin says, “then you are most likely not doing good work, and you’re certainly not creating art.”
Advice to aspiring filmmakers: “Take time to live a life outside of your work or discipline,” Lindsay says, “so you actually have something interesting to say about the world around you.”
Source of creative inspiration: “I just designed my friend’s album cover,” Martin says. “It does nothing for me career-wise, but it gives my brain some breathing room and an opportunity to flex different creative muscles.” —T.L. Stanley
On her rapid rise to the national stage: In the span of a month, she went from taking photos with a point-and-shoot for her Etsy shop to landing three major magazine covers, including Diddy and his family for Essence. “This past year has been the most affirming of my life—not just as a person but also as an artist. It took over six years of struggle and constantly feeling anonymous in this industry before I got to this point.”
Publications where her work has appeared: ESPN The Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, Town & Country, Rolling Stone and New York magazine, among others.
On balancing work and passion: “I hope people learn that there doesn’t have to be a difference between personal work and commercial work. My commercial jobs are fun because I’m being hired for my vision and aesthetic. For me, there’s no separation. All of my work is personal.”—Shannon Miller
Known for: Creating Women Photograph out of a “deep frustration of gender inequality in my industry. Eighty-five percent of newspaper photography above the fold is taken by men. It started as a hiring community, a list of women photographers. Now it’s over 900 women, transgender and non-binary individuals.” Recently launched We Women, a project to “elevate voices of other photographers.” Applicants can apply for cash grants, exhibitions and mentorship programs.
Being self-aware at a young age: “I wanted to be a journalist since 11 or 12. I grew up in the D.C. area and left to go to NY as quickly as possible.”
On her passion for education: Zalcman likes to teach and be inside a classroom as much as she can. “There are many political and social infrastructures on the planet. I encourage the audience to see the infrastructure.”—Amy Corr
Desus and Mero
Showtime’s Desus & Mero is not for background viewing. Viewers have to strain to listen, to make sure they’re not missing the latest throwaway joke or tangent from Desus Nice (Daniel Baker) and The Kid Mero (Joel Martinez), who host the premium-cable network’s first late-night talk show.
The duo keeps you on the edge of your seat, and that means everything in this high-stakes world of distracted viewers. It’s the same in real life: They finish each other’s sentences, jump in when one feels the other is rambling or quickly pick up on a riff, raising their voice to match the other’s enthusiasm.
Desus and Mero first crossed paths as teens in summer school in the Bronx (though they weren’t close then) and reconnected six years ago on Twitter, which they both used as an outlet to complain about their day jobs (a small-business reporter and junior high school paraprofessional, respectively). Their witty online banter quickly got them attention. “People really enjoyed any time we interacted with each other on Twitter,” Desus says. Complex noticed too. The media company offered them a podcast, Desus vs. Mero, and soon after developed a web series around the pair. By 2014, they were joining the cast of MTV’s The Guy Code.
Craving creative control, the pair launched their own podcast in 2015, dubbing it Bodega Boys. It was an instant success and hurtled them into a whole new league of stardom complete with merchandising, acting opportunities and a late-night show four nights a week on Viceland. Last year, Showtime announced it was producing its first late-night weekly series, and it would be hosted by, well, you know who.
Now Desus and Mero’s legacy includes their regular podcast, a soon-to-be-published life-advice book from Random House and a gig hosting the Television Critics Association Awards this August. Desus & Mero, their Showtime series, recorded live in front of a studio audience in New York, has been so successful with the Bodega Hive (their nickname for their passionate fan base) that the network announced in April it was giving the duo two weekly slots for the summer.—Sara Jerde
Learn much more about their journey in Adweek’s interview with Desus & Mero, this year’s Creative 100 cover stars.
Represented by: Falkon, an agency he recently founded
Based in: Los Angeles
Hometowns: Santa Monica, Calif., and East Harding, England
Recent work: The documentary Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1, about the cultural impact of Air Jordan sneakers. “It was one of those rare projects that have all of these profound meanings, synergies and alchemies born out of it, but going in it was all hunch and instinct.”
Also: “Own the Game” for Nike Basketball and the Jordan Brand. “It was the two brands’ first joint advertising effort in almost two decades, starring both LeBron James and Michael Jordan. I got the brief from the brands about three weeks out from when we needed to launch the campaign. There was no time to further flesh out the strategy, create the concept, shoot, finish and deliver, all while featuring the top stars in basketball from both brands. I had to wrangle audience insights and shape that into a concept that fit the breadth of a campaign worthy of NBA’s All-Star Weekend, within a very small, fixed box of possibilities. And as any true creative will tell you, that’s when you’re tested and challenged to break that box open.”
Advice for aspiring directors/filmmakers: “Trust your instincts. Spend time on yourself as much as your craft. When you know who you are, what you stand for, what you believe in and what you really think and feel, then your feelings can guide you very clearly, and anything that gets in the way of them at their true and most authentic core is a distraction or misdirection.”—Doug Zanger
Hometown: Los Angeles
How he got his start: “I started my career as a designer at Apple and really credit my time there with my success. Not only did it make me obsess over every detail and to just ‘ask questions,’ it also taught me that collaboration is going to get the best work.”
Client work: “I have spent the better part of the past year working with our clients at Beats by Dre, and it’s been a great partnership.”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “I truly believe that unless you immerse yourself into a brand and their product, you simply cannot tell an effective story. Reading a brief won’t make you an expert, but using and studying the product, and sitting down with the teams behind it, is a good first step.”
Where he finds creative inspiration: “Outside of work, I love to travel. Being in a foreign country can teach you a lot and helps to provide a better view on global culture. With that, art—of all types—is a big part of my life, and I try to go to as many museums, galleries, exhibits, and movies as I can. It’s inspiring to see what people are capable of creating and their individual perspectives. I also have two hobbies that help me disconnect a bit: cooking and golf. Luckily, they balance each other out, calorically.”
Personal mantra: “Can it be better? OK, now simplify.”—Minda Smiley
Doug McGray and Chas Edwards
McGray and Edwards have always had a fondness for storytelling—McGray, as a longtime reporter, and Edwards as a longtime media executive. Coming together, the two have rethought what a reader’s relationship to a magazine could look like and launched an in-person event, called Pop-Up Magazine.
The ticketed show includes themed performances that draw parallels to what you might find in a magazine and reimagined ways of reaching that audience with advertising. “We were really inspired by the idea of a classic general interest magazine, the metaphorical magazine,” McGray says.
It started as a hobby but has quickly grown, now selling out performances at its stops throughout the country. In all, the show is being performed to 45,000 people a year.
Next, they’ll continue to tackle big topics during the show’s performances that advance the production’s journalism further. “We will continue to push the creative ambition of the show,” Edwards says. —Sara Jerde
Emily Wengert and Emil Lanne
Based in: Brooklyn
Hometowns: Philadelphia (Wengert) and Norrköping, Sweden (Lanne)
Favorite recent work: “Hands down its the popup shops I’ve designed for SK-II in Tokyo,” Wengert says. “I think it’s the highlight of my whole career±not just the past year—because I get to play with so many cutting edge technologies: eye tracking, facial recognition, robots and more.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Don’t hold back,” Lanne says. “Get in there and show that you care and have passion and conviction for your ideas and approaches. It might not always be spot on, but that drive will be noticed and harnessed by people around you with the ability to shape it together with you.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “Playing with bleeding edge technologies,” Wengert says. “You’re often at the mercy of their limitations since they’re still evolving. So I love the moment when an execution just clicks.”—Doug Zanger
Fernando Pellizzaro and Jean Zamprogno
Hometowns: Curitiba, Brazil (Pellizzaro); Vitória, Brazil (Zamprogno)
Recent work: “This Coke Is a Fanta” for Coca-Cola. “The world is full of homophobic expressions such as ‘He plays for the other team.’ In Brazil, people say, ‘This Coke is a Fanta.’ Not in a nice way,” Pellizzaro says. “So Coca-Cola decided to take a stand. To celebrate International LGBT+ Pride Day, we launched a limited-edition Coca-Cola can with Fanta inside and a message: ‘This Coke Is a Fanta. So What?’ The idea had zero media investment and got 1 billion media impressions.”
Dream celeb collaborator: “Salvador Dalí,” Zamprogno says, “but I must have the creative control.”
Personal mantra: “Be humble,” Pellizzaro says, “and don’t give up until you make it.”—Minda Smiley
Gabe Jardim and Guto Monteiro
Hometown: Porto Alegre, Brazil
Recent work: “The Runaway Pub” for New Balance. “To support runners training for the London Marathon 2019, we created a pub in London where runners can exchange their miles for pints,” Monteiro says. “A card was automatically downloaded to their Apple or Google wallets, collecting miles as they run and turning them into currency in real time, the only currency accepted at the Pub. During 3 months, more than 20K wallets were downloaded and 62K pints were earned.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “Our industry is in a moment where brands that are not culturally relevant are more likely to be out of the game,” Jardim says. “As creatives working in the ad industry, we’ve never had so much opportunities to impact people’s lives as we have right now.”
How they find inspiration: “I love the North Face tagline: Never Stop Exploring,” Monteiro says. “So when I want to recharge my batteries, I get out of the agency and go travel. I try to connect with other people, discover different cultures, get to know a young artist, devour a new book or watch a weird movie.”
Hometown: Parkland, Fla.
Recent work: “Price on Our Lives” and other campaigns for March for Our Lives. “As an alumna of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., I was deeply affected by the mass shooting at that school on Feb. 14, 2018. Not willing to consign myself to ‘thoughts and prayers’ or accept that in others any longer, I set out to work on projects that would expose gun violence in various national and global campaigns.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “Successfully bridging my career and the causes I care most deeply about.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Never be afraid to ask. Ask for advice and guidance. Ask to take on new work or pitch crazy new ideas on your own. Ask for raises and promotions when you feel deserving.”—Doug Zanger
When most people think of IBM, content probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. George Hammer wants to change that.
As he nears the end of his third year as IBM’s chief content officer, Hammer has left his stamp on IBM’s offerings.
“I named my team IBM Originals because creativity is about originality, and originality is the DNA of the people,” Hammer said. “I’m a firm believer that creativity will solve challenges—like plastics in the ocean—faster than governments can.”
While the content Hammer produces for IBM is polished, his creative background is rooted in improvisation. On a dare, he walked onto stage at a Second City, and the performance never stopped.
“Thanks to improv, I’ve tried to bring fun to work, and that fun brings out the creativity,” he said.
One product of the creativity is Cod3rs. In partnership with Vox Creative, IBM Originals launched the Cod3rs campaign to elevate another one million female coders by 2020.
IBM created a pathway for grades 9-14 to accelerate the infusion of female and at-risk students into computer science programs. Cod3rs is one of the many ways Hammer – and IBM – are using creativity to positively impact the world.—Mitch Reames
Harry (Bee) Bernstein
Based in: New York City
Hometown: Queens, N.Y.
Recent work: “The First Ad in the Blockchain” for TD Ameritrade. “It was the first piece of work after taking the job that really exemplifies what I came here to do. I like to push an idea into unique executions beyond ads. TV commercials are still important and can really deliver a brand message, but when you can act in a unique way as a brand, I think it really gets people to think about you.”
Also, at SXSW 2019, Havas New York and ADP created an activation letting women literally smash a glass ceiling with hammers.
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Have a craft, and master it. In the creative industry, there are two lanes: words or images. Pick one, and then be the best.”
Heather English and Marques Gartrell
Hometown: Philadelphia (Gartrell), and Asheville, N.C. (English)
Recent work: “In the Busch #Car2Can campaign, we turned Nascar driver Kevin Harvick’s historic season No. 4 car into collector’s-edition cans of Busch beer,” English says. “It took us over a year to sell Busch on the idea and then had a fast and furious five months of anxiety, more meetings than we can count, and sweating it out with multiple vendors to get the cans made in time for fans to win them during the Daytona 500.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Always find the undeniable truth in the insight,” Gartrell says. “It’s what makes your audience react.”
Dream celeb collaborator: “Donald Glover,” Gartrell says. “Name the last uninteresting thing he did.”—Doug Zanger
Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power
Their growing empire: Former editors at Elle, they launched Who What Wear as a newsletter in 2006. They now have offices in Los Angeles, Minnesota, New York and London. Their Clique Brands, which includes Who What Wear, Who What Wear Beauty and wellness vertical The Thirty, target millennial and Gen Z women. Investors including Amazon have contributed nearly $28 million.
Divide and conquer: Power manages the company’s business, while Kerr oversees editorial creativity. The editorial team has grown to include 46 full-time staffers.
Expanding the conversation: “When it comes to wellness, oftentimes it can be very ‘fancy white lady,’” Kerr says. “We are really trying to democratize wellness and bring different perspectives and price points to that conversation.”
Their focus: “Our strength,” Power says, “has been sticking to what we’re great at and not diverging from it—making style look accessible and guiding users through trend discovery and purchases.”—Sara Jerde
Ivan Cash may work on behalf of tech companies like Facebook and Airbnb, often in digital media, but the idea behind much of his output celebrates more analog human connections. The San Francisco-based interactive artist and filmmaker said he’s always been drawn to projects that cut through the atomized, screen-addicted sub-reality of modern life.
That theme is best exemplified in art projects like “Snail Mail My Email,” in which he and 2,000 volunteers transcribed 30,000 emails into handwritten letters and mailed them for free, and “Selfless Portraits,” which invited people to create physical portraits of a random stranger’s Facebook profile picture and received more than 50,000 submissions.
The theme can also be seen in the “IRL Glasses” he co-created to block users from seeing screens.
“I find that tensions or problems, whether they’re personal or societal, can be really valuable in terms of creative ideation,” Cash says.
That notion might sound disconcerting for conflict-averse marketers, but Cash Studios has managed to cultivate a client list that spans blue-chip brands like Nike, Google and L’Oreal while remaining selective about working with companies that align with Cash’s values.
The studio’s branded output has included a new photo series that seeks to connect generations of the LGBT community around the Stonewall Uprising for Airbnb and a video for encryption company Silent Circle that asked random people on the street to recite aloud seldom-read app terms and conditions, then filmed their reactions.—Patrick Kulp
Jaclyn Ruelle and Greg Fischer
Based in: Richmond, Va.
Hometowns: Richmond, Va. (Ruelle), and Baltimore, Md. (Fischer)
Recent work: Building The Martin Agency’s Cultural Impact Lab
Why they’re proud of it: “A seedling of an idea to bring earned media further into the creative process, we’ve made The Lab three times greater than its original vision by merging comms strategy, earned and paid media teams together—creating a trifecta of disciplines partnering to enhance the creative process and deliver more impact in culture,” Ruelle says.
The most rewarding part of the job: “I get to be at the forefront of inventive storytelling every day,” Ruelle says. “It’s such a rush to see raw creative ideas get electrified with shareability—being passed around by consumers in such a way that inspires and creates culture.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Live your life in beta mode,” Fischer says. “Keep trying new things and don’t be afraid to evolve as you go.”—Erik Oster
While most of the travel content out there is about dropping into a place, Airbnb Magazine has spent the past two years trying to get people to “live like a local.”
With Kahn’s leadership on editorial strategy, the publication—which began in 2017 through a partnership with Hearst—has collaborated with regional photographers and illustrators to ensure each issue puts “the local lens on a place.” Sometimes that means featuring most-searched-for destinations, but often the content is about off-the-beaten-path locales adored by locals.
“With Airbnb Magazine, we’re looking to flip the script on traditional travel-centric content,” she says. “That means positioning travel as accessible instead of exclusive, and prioritizing people over places. The magic of Airbnb comes from human connection and creating a space for belonging, and we wanted that to be at the heart of our magazine.
That focus has helped Airbnb gain traction. Along with increasing the publication’s frequency from four to six issues per year, circulation through newsstands and subscriptions has skyrocketed from 350,000 to 1.2 million. Much of that has been driven by the company’s decision to mail copies to Airbnb hosts, which now comprise 85 percent of its subscriber base. (It’s even been a finalist for a James Beard Award.—Marty Swant
Represented by: Hound Content
Based in: Brooklyn
Recent work: The Bevel Mirrors series, which features bathroom-mirror confessionals from men of color. “I take a lot of pride in the Bevel Mirrors films. Young men that look like me rarely have a dignified space to speak for themselves. It was rewarding to give their voices a spotlight and then to find the poetry editorially in each unscripted conversation.” And Welcoming America, for which he directed two films, one about a Mexican-American DACA artist and another about a grassroots anti-hate group in a Somali neighborhood in Minnesota. “The films wrestle with the complexities of American identity and immigration.”
On industry awards: “As long as industry awards like Cannes Lions keep their ear to the ground for emerging artists and don’t become an echo chamber for established voices, I think they’ll benefit the creative industry.”
Advice for aspiring directors/filmmakers: “Make personal work. Everything else follows.”—Amy Corr
Artist and comics creator Jen Bartel’s career began with a love of creating fan art. As she paid homage to some of her favorite characters, she used that time to fine-tune her distinctive style and locate her voice as an artist.
A large part of her journey has included centering marginalized women in her inclusive work, which has led to projects like Marvel Comics’ World of Wakanda. Now, she’s the co-creator of Blackbird, a neo-noir fantasy comic book written by Sam Humphries that is currently on its sixth issue.
“Doing creator-owned storytelling is still quite rare in most industries, but especially within comics,” Bartel tells Adweek. “[As] a woman, to be visible within a very much male-dominated industry is probably the thing that has been the biggest accomplishment for me this past year.”
While Blackbird may be her crowning accomplishment to date, it is certainly not her only victory this year: Bartel recently partnered with Adidas to design a line of Marvel-themed sneakers (inspired by Captain Marvel and Thanos) exclusively for Foot Locker, just in time for the cinematic releases of Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.—Shannon Miller
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
How she got her start: “I started my career as a copywriter at a small agency in Cincinnati, Ohio, working on a slew of P&G brands–from Pringles to Bounty, Charmin and Puffs.”
Recent work: “Wishes Delivered” for UPS. “Wishes Delivered [was] a brand storytelling campaign for UPS where deserving people throughout the world were surprised with a life-changing wish. The stories we created gave real people a platform to bring their message of good to a larger audience. I partnered with our Group Creative Director, Aaron Cacali, to oversee all of the storytelling components. That included everything from finding people with an amazing story to tell, planning the wish delivery, providing creative direction on set, and overseeing all of the creative output—totaling 100-plus assets (from long-form video to social-first content).”
How she recharges: “I do some writing on the side, which allows me to keep my mind fresh and meet people who have a totally different perspective of the world.”
Dream celeb collab: “Reese Witherspoon. She’s a fantastic storyteller and huge advocate for fellow women artists. I love that she saw a problem with the way females were represented in her industry and, instead of complaining about it, she did something about it. That’s badass.”—Minda Smiley
Represented by: O Positive Films
Based in: Los Angeles
Hometown: Portland, Ore.
Recent work: “Morningmorphosis” for Ikea and Ogilvy. “We were given freedom to cast thoughtfully and then play around with different lines and performances. It’s rewarding when I know the team is walking into their edit with an abundance of legitimately funny options. I also got to work with DP Maryse Alberti. She’s a pro and a joy to learn from.”
Advice to aspiring directors and filmmakers: “It’s OK to say the words, ‘I want to be a director.’ If people don’t hear you say it, how will they be able to give you advice, to mentor, to help and to have an eye out for opportunities? And if you don’t hear yourself say it, how will you know how much you want it?”
Favorite source of creative inspiration: “I’ve been a sketch comedian, hip hop dancer, food writer, burlesque world champion, improviser, screenwriter, lactation educator, Krav Maga member, NFL cheerleader, mock-fashion Instagrammer and jingle singer. Each little life I’ve lived has added to my creative arsenal.”
Personal mantra: “Think it, do it.”—T.L. Stanley
Jillian Goger and Laura Wimer
Hometowns: Montclair, N.J. (Goger) and Kansas City, Mo. (Wimer)
Advice for aspiring creatives: “This is not rocket science,” explains Goger. “You just need to think harder than you’ve ever thought before. To go from thinking linearly to laterally isn’t easy, but the truth is, anyone can do it.”
“Dan Wieden once told me to ‘thrive in my confusion,’ and it’s advice I use every day,” recalls Wimer. “No matter how you interpret it, it’s useful.”
Work they’re proud of: “This year I had the great fortune to work on It’s On Us, a project supported by Civic Nation (a nonprofit founded under the Obama/Biden administration) to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses,” says Goger.
“Working with the folks at Method Home is a really gratifying experience,” adds Wimer. “A brand that stands for good, and keeps their company diverse is wonderful. We worked on social, OOH, print and media —but the definite highlight was filming a musical at the Method factory with actual employees.”
Most rewarding part of job: “Working with younger creatives and helping them unlock a big idea is the best part of my job,” says Goger. “And then working together to get it out into the world.”—Minda Smiley
As the host and producer of ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast—the audio arm of the award-winning sports documentary series—Avirgan was tasked with taking the renowned visual storytelling of 30 for 30 and shifting gears.
“ESPN tossed me the keys to a Lamborghini and told me not to drive into a ditch,” he tells Adweek. “Our creative bar is doing something with audio that resonates with the audience in the same ways the films did.”
Lamborghinis lead the pack thanks to their attention to detail, a place where creativity shines. Often people associate creativity with grand sculptures and intricate paintings, but Avirgan—who spent eight years at WYNC before moving to FiveThirtyEight and eventually landing at ESPN—says the best creative solutions are often the simplest.
“All the great people I know sweat the small stuff,” he says. “They do a ton of big thinking, but it comes down to, ‘Is this pause three or four seconds?’ ‘What will the tone of my voice be here?’ Focus on the little thing in front of you, and the big stuff will take care of itself.” —Mitch Reames
His executive producers on Hustle: Alicia Keys and chef Marcus Samuelsson.
How he defines hustle: “Some people think about hustle and they think that means overwork yourself to death. But that’s not how I see it. To me, hustle just means aspiring toward what you see for yourself.”
His path to success: Henry started his first business (an on-demand dry-cleaning service for the film industry) after dropping out of school at 18. He soon sold that business and turned his focus toward uplifting other entrepreneurs.
On creativity in business: “Becoming an entrepreneur was the most creative thing I had ever done. I left the traditional path and took a chance. Creativity taps every part of your being. It’s mental, physical and emotional.”
His approach to being a venture capitalist: “When I’m looking for companies to invest in, two of the main things I want to see are hustle and creativity.” —Mitch Reames
Represented by: Serial Pictures
Based in: Los Angeles
Hometown: Communities across Australia, England and the U.S.
Recent work: “Corazón,” a nearly hour-long film created by Montefiore Health System and agency JohnXHannes to encourage organ donation. “I’m especially proud of Corazón. The fact that we could make a long-form advertising piece that is also a serious drama that tells a human story and touches on themes like immigration, social justice and healthcare was really exciting. But, most importantly, we made something that actually moves people to go as far as actually becoming organ donors. From a very limited release, we managed to effectively save 30,000 lives by people signing up to become donors after they saw the film.”
The value of awards: “Of course it’s always nice for people to be acknowledged for the work they do, but I’m not that focused on it. For me, it’s always about the work, the people I’m working with and maintaining quality in what we’re doing. Awards are the last thing I can ever focus on.”
Advice for aspiring directors and filmmakers: “We are at an all-time high in terms of the amount of stuff we’re constantly being bombarded with–it’s the attention economy. Amongst all that noise, it’s crucially important to hang on to and maintain quality. I feel like quantity at the moment has beaten quality, and it’s got to be the other way around.”
Personal mantra: “Don’t let the fuckers get you down.”—Doug Zanger
Jon Williamson and Leigh Browne
Hometowns: Houston, Tex. and Montgomery, Ala.
Recent work: “Emotional Support Chicken” for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. “Last year, emotional support animals were all over the news with fliers abusing the rules, airlines banning ‘animals with tusks,’ and Congress weighing in,” says Browne. “So during stressful holiday travel, we offered a new kind of emotional support animal—one you could eat: the Popeyes Emotional Support Chicken. My partner and I came up with the idea and hustled it into existence. The project died a couple of times, but we knew we had a great idea, so we never gave up on it.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “What I love most is that first time you hear an idea or think up something and it just takes your breath away at how insanely smart and great it is,” Williamson says. “Seeing that idea come to life is definitely a huge moment too, but honestly, for me, it’s that lateral thinking, deep work, really sitting down and connecting the dots conceptually that gets me excited to go to work every day.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “You are not your work,” Browne says. “You have to be able to separate your ego from the work and not take criticism personally if you’re ever going to make something great.”
“Fight with your partner,” says Williamson. “It will make you both better creatives. Leigh tells me I’m stupid daily. And vice versa. But that’s a good thing.”—Doug Zanger
Based in: Los Angeles
Hometown: Phelan, Calif.
Recent work: Building up Anomaly’s creative department in Los Angeles into “the weird, dangerous, creatively inspiring place it’s becoming.”
Why he’s proud of it: “A year ago, we were down to a literal handful of uncommonly resilient creatives, and since then we’ve built a crew of over 20. And not a bad one in the bundle. We’re a building full of hyper-talented freaks and weirdos who make each other giggle and occasionally shape the world. Helping them express their creativity in its loudest form and making sure this place stays worthy of their time and talents is the most difficult and most rewarding project of my career.”
What else he’s worked on: Uber Eats and Allbirds
Personal mantra: “I don’t have one. I’ve stolen a thousand. The one that first comes to mind I took from Eric Hirshberg: ‘Care the most.’ About the work. About each other. Do that, and pretty much everything else will figure itself out.”—Erik Oster
Friends thought Schollmeyer had come unhinged when he took a job several years ago at the nascent MEL magazine, an independent editorial project launched by Dollar Shave Club about a year before the razor subscription service was acquired by Unilver.
“I told people I was hoping to build a 21st century Esquire,” Schollmeyer says. “And they said: ‘From the cheap razor company? Don’t think so.’”
In short order, Schollmeyer put his ambitious plan into action, growing MEL into a critically lauded site with nearly 2.5 million unique monthly visitors. He calls it “an investigation into modern masculinity” and a male counterpart to publications he admires like Jezebel, The Cut and Broadly.
“I felt like men’s lifestyle content was badly in need of re-imagining,” says Schollmeyer, a legacy media veteran who created a SFW version of Playboy on Kinja and co-produced a feature doc on Roger Ebert called Life Itself.
He knows for certain what MEL isn’t: a place that’s fixated on sports cars and single-barrel Scotch—or a branded-content mouthpiece for Dollar Shave Club.
Its content, including investigative deep dives and an upcoming quarterly print pub based on “the archetypal guy,” will continue to evolve, finding its own way to talk about abortion, immigration and other hot-button issues, asking where masculinity is going and “embracing the messiness with an intelligent rigor.”—T.L. Stanley
Based in: New York City
Recent work: “Shop Small” for American Express’ Small Business Saturday. “It was a movement created 10 years ago that is still going so strong. It’s inspiring to see how much it means to these business owners to have backing and support and to feel and experience how much they are an integral part of their communities. I helped to launch Lin-Manuel Miranda as AmEx’s ambassador for Small Business Saturday in the U.S.”
Scelzo, who previously built and led the in-house agency at Pandora, also created a Pride Month campaign for American Express for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.
The most rewarding part of the job: “Shaping and mentoring talent, especially young women creatives. There is nothing like the feeling of watching someone you have helped to grow really succeed in their careers.”
Based in: Bangkok, Thailand
Hometown: Chachoengsao, Thailand
Recent work: “Friendshit” (about the struggle to make new friends) and “Face Off” (about adjusting to updates to your favorite apps) for KBank. “I am proud of my clients, my whole team and our way of creating and producing these campaigns. We were so synchronized, experimental and trusting.”
On the side: “I have been taking care of street animals for more than 20 years. It started with stray dogs. Now I have 70 cats in my place and 30 outside. I’m planting forest trees and doing organic agroforestry on a farm in Chiang Mai, in the northern part of Thailand, on 150 acres adjacent to the forest.”
Personal mantra: “This is what my mom told me and I always tell myself: ‘Everything will pass. Hold the flag, be in the present, and let go.’”—David Griner
Based in: New York City
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
How she got started: “I was answering the phone at McCann-Erickson Brisbane in 1998 and wrote funny all-staff emails about timesheets and kitchen etiquette. A creative director told me I was a copywriter.”
Recent work: “Right On Tracks” for Cheerios. “I love it when big, real brands put something on the line and let people know what they care about, and when our work can do something good in the world, not just be good for business.”
Also: “Ice Cream for Adults” for Halo Top. “I also love it when clients just want to get noticed and they let us lean into a dark truth.”
The most rewarding part of the job: “Lately, it’s watching people grow. I’m lucky to work for a company that puts a lot of focus on growing you into the next version of yourself.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Enjoy being new to it. Make mistakes. Experiment all you can. Don’t worry about titles and status; fall in love with the work.”
Secrets of being a good creative leader: “You have to love people, you have to really believe in them, and they have to feel it from you. Big innovative ideas can come from anyone; the leader’s job is to make people believe they can do something they haven’t done before.”—Doug Zanger
Represented by: Somesuch
Based in: London and Los Angeles
Recent work: “Dream Crazier” for Nike and Wieden + Kennedy Portland. “It really connected with me as a female director. It felt almost autobiographical.” And “Viva La Vulva” for Libresse and AMV BBDO. “This project was genuinely brave—the concept, the execution and all the people who worked on it. Everyone worked incredibly hard, but it came together in a very smooth and collaborative way, and that was a real joy.”
On awards: “Awards inspire us all to make great work and highlight other great work that we may not know about. They help push the creative forwards.”
Advice for aspiring filmmakers: “Don’t try to mimic anyone else’s work. Your own voice will be way more interesting.”
Personal mantra: “Bite off more than you can chew, and then chew like crazy.” —David Griner
Based in: Los Angeles
Hometowns: Ontario and Newfoundland, Canada
How she describes her career path: “Drive-in movie theatre popcorn maker, fast-food hamburger flipper, camp counsellor, Pant-o-Rama jeans seller, sex toy and lingerie seller, dump truck driver, gardener, teacher’s assistant, knife seller (door-to-door), drag queen backup dancer. German restaurant server, writer at advertising agencies in Toronto: The Hive, john st., Doug&Partners, BBDO, FCB Toronto, FCB/SIX.”
Recent work: “Live Life Comfortably” for La-Z-Boy, starring Kristen Bell. “For me, this project is a great example of what advertising should do for people: It makes them feel good and makes them think about something in a new way.”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Be yourself, no matter what. If the place you’re working doesn’t like who you are, go someplace else. Find a place that loves you for everything you are.”
K.T. Thayer and Quinn Katherman
Hometowns: Richmond, Va., and Colorado
Clients: Katherman is creative director on Hotels.com, while Thayer is a lead on Fruit of the Loom.
On breaking into the industry: “I wrote greeting cards and put all my rejected jokes onto Twitter and that’s how I got my first job as a creative in advertising … by failing at a different job,” Katherman says.
Recent work: “We did a campaign for Fruit of the Loom where we hid piles of cash in NYC to see if anyone would notice,” says Thayer. “This was an outrageous idea because, in many ways, it was an indictment on advertising, the thing we are in the business of making, by calling attention to the fact that no one pays attention to it. Fortunately for us, the social experiment as a whole got a lot of attention and we didn’t look like idiots … on that specific occasion.”
Also: “Hate-like” for Hotels.com. “We introduced the idea of a hate-like, which is when you ‘like’ someone’s vacation photo even though you hate it,” Katherman says. “I’m really proud of what the work has done for the brand and that we were able to bring Captain Obvious back to a place where he gets to have a punchline.”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Always have a side hustle,” Katherman says. “Find other outlets to exercise and validate your talents so you’re not only seeking it from advertising. If you’re not creating, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing, you’re probably really bored.”—Doug Zanger
Represented by: Park Pictures
Based in: Los Angeles and Bolinas, Calif.
Hometown: Fairfax, Calif.
Recent work: “Dream Crazy” for Nike, featuring Colin Kaepernick. “Brands like Nike have shown again and again their power to influence political/social discourse. It was great to have the opportunity alongside Chivo Lubezki and Christian Weber to direct a project where moral and ethical considerations outweighed more straightforward corporate interests. Nike sells plenty of sneakers day in and day out; no one forced them to wade into those waters.”
Advice for aspiring directors/filmmakers: “Make stuff. Filmmaking is different than other art forms in that sometimes the sheer complexity and need for collaboration makes it hard to practice, experiment and make mistakes. Seize every opportunity.”
Personal mantra: “Make inspired choices, and accept a degree of indecision as a natural part of the creative process.”—Doug Zanger
Laszlo Szloboda and Alex Sprouse
Hometowns: Budapest, Hungary (Szloboda), and Toronto (Sprouse)
Recent work: “The Whopper Detour” for Burger King. “I joined the agency as the idea was in its infancy and worked over the course of the year-plus we were evolving the idea, to concept and bring to life each piece of the campaign,” Sprouse says. “It’s been an amazing experience to work with such a relentlessly positive team. There were many pitfalls that could’ve been a deathblow to the idea along the journey, but BK and FCB had so much faith in the idea that we always found a way around any roadblocks in our path.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “I’ve always gotten a kick out of solving puzzles and logic problems since I was a kid,” Szloboda says, “and getting to do something similar as part of my job as an adult makes my inner child happy.”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Try to find the right people to work for,” Szloboda says. “It’s people that constantly do good work that will keep on doing so. This was advice that was given to me by someone when I started out, and it proved itself to be true.”
Lauren Franklin and Wimberly Meyer
Based in: Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Hometowns: Melbourne, Australia (Franklin) and St. Simons Island, Ga. (Meyer)
Current clients: Disney, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Roxy, Vans and more.
The most rewarding part of the job: “Being part of such a dynamic, passionate team and watching everyone learn and grow in their own positions and as individuals,” Franklin says.
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Stay present and in the moment,” Meyer says. “Don’t let your past judgment or future fear define today.”
Secrets to being a great creative leader: “The human comes first,” Franklin says. “You take care of the team by creating an environment of mutual respect and compassion, treating everyone as individuals who support each other. When there is that trust, the best creative ideas come to life—both independently and collaboratively.”
A celeb they’d love to work with: “The future first female President of the United States of America,” Meyer says. “She’ll be the first, and the creative opportunity will be endless.”—Doug Zanger
When James steps onto the basketball court, the country takes notice. But James has used that magnetism and expanded his reach in unprecedented ways, giving back to his community, launching new businesses and working with brands in innovative ways.
James, working with brands like Nike and Beats by Dre, has redefined what an inspirational message to upcoming athletes looks like, paying homage to the hometown where he grew up. And he’s given back to that hometown of Akron, where James opened a school for students who had been determined were showing behavioral issues. He also helped launch Ladder, a company that makes protein powder for high-performing athletes. Through all of these initiatives, James has set a new bar for modern day athletes to give back and stand for something even when they’re off the court.—Sara Jerde
Levi Slavin and Maria Devereux
Based in: Auckland, New Zealand
Hometown: Perth, Australia (Slavin) and Auckland (Devereux)
Recent work: “Pedigree SelfieSTIX,” winner of five Lions at Cannes in 2018. “Pedigree SelfieSTIX will always stand out as a memorable piece of work for me,” Devereux says. “It has been awarded over 80 times at 24 shows, which demonstrates there’s still a place for a simple, well crafted idea. Pedigree SelfieSTIX reinvented the pet treats and care category by creating a simple mobile phone accessory which attached a DentaStix treat to your phone so you could capture the perfect dog selfie. To accompany the clip, we created an app which took your successful dog selfies and added fun filters to them. This app was a unique example of machine vision and a digital achievement in its own right. By training an algorithm with thousands of dog images, we created something Google and Snapchat could not—selfie filters for dogs.”
Source of inspiration: “My passion for craft extends beyond advertising and into needlework,” Devereux says. “My ‘Craftivism’ exhibition is due to open in July and features large cross stitched guns. This exhibition highlights the need for stricter gun controls and questions the glorification of guns in society. The guns chosen are associated with the worlds’ most brutal mass killings. My current piece is a life size AR-15, the weapon used in New Zealand’s recent terrorist attack in Christchurch. The scale and detail of these pieces mean they require both time and patience. My largest piece has taken me nine years to complete.”—David Griner
Lizzo’s debut album only dropped in April, but the musician has already shot to the top of the public’s consciousness. It’s hardly a surprise—the songs off of that debut, “Cuz I Love You,” are the sort that make you want to roll down your car windows and sing along. And brands are taking notice: Long before “Cuz I Love You” was released, companies like AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Cadillac, Weight Watchers (now known as WW) and MillerCoors were using her tunes as the backdrop to their ads.
“We were looking for music that could be so closely tied to the brand—something that could be a character in the spot,” Daniel Kuypers, Energy BBDO’s senior vp and executive director of music, told Variety about selecting “Juice” to launch MillerCoors’s first ad campaign for Cape Line, its new sparkling cocktail brand. “When we heard ‘Juice,’ all these things formed the whole picture that we were looking for.”
It’s not just her music that’s appearing in spots: Lizzo herself appeared in an ad for Khloe Kardashian’s denim line, Good American, earlier this year—and considering the fact that “Cuz I Love You” hit No. 1 on the iTunes music charts, there will almost certainly more campaigns to come.—Diana Pearl
No stranger to a newsroom, Story has been an investigative reporter at The New York Times and led multiple coverage teams before moving into a strategy role, ultimately co-authoring the Times’ Innovation Report in 2014. She joined The Wall Street Journal last year to lead strategy for the newsroom, a role in which she’s constantly brainstorming ways the 100-plus-year-old brand can innovate for the future.
So far, her insight has informed the newsroom’s overhaul of the comments section on its website and the construction of a number of new teams centered around WSJ’s growing younger audience. Oh, and she’s also the acting chief technology and chief product officer for the brand.
“Any decision we’re making with the strategy we’ve laid out is around understanding what differentiates our journalism from other journalism out there,” she says, “and marrying our understanding with what our audiences—current and future—value.” —Sara Jerde
Represented by: Caviar
Based in: Los Angeles and Bolinas, Calif.
Hometown: Fairfax, Calif.
Recent work: “Guys Night Out” for Progressive and TV episodes for Silicon Valley, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Favorite TV moment: “I was so lucky to direct an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Ellie Kemper is whip-smart and hilarious. The entire ensemble is a comedy dream team–and the writing is top-notch. But the most fun is shooting scenes with these endearing characters right on the sidewalks of New York. I was also fortunate to direct an episode of Single Parents, a gem of a comedy with a talented cast. I had a hysterical script where the kids do this bizarre adaptation of Grease. The comedic chemistry between the actors on that show is other-worldly. I can’t wait to see what they do next season.”
Advice for aspiring directors and filmmakers: “I trained in sketch and improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York, and their ‘Don’t Think’ philosophy is the best advice I’ve ever ignored.”
Recharging on the pitch: “I’m a former Division One athlete and play in a weekly pick-up soccer game. Now that I’m washed up and out of shape, I really have to concentrate on not passing out. It’s a great way to keep your mind off work.”—Doug Zanger
With impeccably clean lines and oddly soothing color palettes, Lo has created an illustration style that feels simultaneously hand-drawn and natively digital. That’s because it is, with her lines being drawn with an ink brush and then the colors added later through software.
The resulting look has become increasingly popular in recent years, with Lo being commissioned to create a promotional video for Berkeley’s GLAS Animation Festival 2019. She’s also worked with the famed design agency Pentagram and created illustrations for Bloomberg Businessweek, The New Yorker, The New York Times and more. “
My approach to drawing and painting has its roots in East Asia, influenced by Chinese comic masters such as Youzhi He but also Belgian and Japanese animated films,” the London-based artist tells U.K. design site ItsNiceThat. “It also takes inspiration from sequential art, cinematography and the Ligne Claire style.”—David Griner
Based in: Los Angeles
Recent work: What Diversity Gives Us for the ACLU. “The project allows people to learn more about the contributions underrepresented groups have made to society, which is becoming more important in the face of growing xenophobia and nationalism. It’s under a year old, but we’re proud of the attention it continues to receive.”
The most rewarding part of the job: “It’s amazing when you feel really passionate about an idea. And, when it eventually goes out into the world, it’s great to see that same reaction when other people experience it.”
Side hustle: “I’m in the process of creating a graphic novel. I’m chipping away, but it allows me creative freedom.”
Personal mantra: “Borrowing from Teddy Roosevelt: ‘Dare mighty things.’ The best work comes as a result of taking risks.”
Best advice:“In the beginning, don’t focus on the salary and title. Go where you can do the best work. Go where the culture of creativity is healthy and thriving. Go where you can have fun. The money will come.”—Doug Zanger
Martin De Thurah
Represented by: Epoch Films/Academy Films
Based in: Copenhagen, Denmark
Recent work: “Mama Said Knock You Out,” a Droga5 spot featuring Serena Williams for Chase, captured the athlete’s resilient return (don’t call it a comeback) to tennis after a difficult childbirth and a litany of critics doubting her ability to regain the top spot.
Also: “Space Station,” for Macy’s and BBDO New York, captured an astronaut mother’s Christmas away from her family.
De Thurah was voted Commercials Director of the Year by the Directors Guild of America in 2014 and 2018, with a nomination in the category for 2019.—Amy Corr
Based in: Boulder, Colo.
Hometown: Glendora, Calif.
Career path: “I always liked to write, but I never considered it a viable career path. I went to college for engineering and discovered I didn’t love it, so I finished early to buy myself some time to figure out what I did want to do. I discovered advertising from some career books and friends, and then took night classes at Art Center and The Bookshop. I was lucky enough to make a TV spot thanks to a generous freelance offer when I had no idea what I was doing and the spot got me a job as a copywriter at TBWA/Chiat Day L.A.”
Current clients: “I work across the entire roster, which includes Jimmy John’s, Village Inn, Kit Kat, Nescafé, truTV, 37.5(R) Technology, and a couple major brands I can’t talk about quite yet.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “I love advertising and I love being an entrepreneur, but the most rewarding part of starting the agency has been building a place other people want to be a part of.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Become a student of advertising. Read every book you can. Books like Hey Whipple, Gossage and How Brands Grow. Learn how advertising works, why it works, and what it is meant to accomplish.” —Doug Zanger
Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine
It’s a truth universally acknowledged middle school is the worst. And yet Erskine and Konkle—creators, writers, executive producers and stars of Hulu’s Pen15—willingly relived their most traumatic experiences to reboot themselves as 13-year-olds in the year 2000.
The result is a love letter—written, of course, with gel pen in an intricately folded note on college-ruled paper—to their younger selves, which taps into a goldmine of puberty-era themes that run the gamut from braces and bras to self-doubt and cruel nicknames.
But Pen15 is also a nod to a bygone era of see-through landline phones, dial-up internet, AIM screen names and layered hair. The details are perfect: Maya cuts out a picture of teen heartthrob Brad Renfro for her binder. Her brother drinks a can of Surge. She and ‘Na wear best-friend necklaces and watch Wild Things on VHS with boys, which, at the time, was pretty much the most risqué thing you could do as a 13-year-old girl. And, of course, despite bowl cuts, rejection and really bad first kisses, each is the other’s biggest cheerleader. (Even though the odds are good they wouldn’t make the cheerleading squad at this point.)
The result is as uncomfortable and devastating as it is joyful and heartwarming, perhaps like middle school itself. And, thankfully, they will return for more in a 14-episode sophomore season.—Lisa Lacy
Meryl Draper and Gaelan Draper
Based in: Brooklyn
Hometowns: Andover, Mass. (Meryl) and Washington, D.C. (Gaelan)
Career stops: Meryl: PR in Washington D.C., then Ogilvy in Bangalore, India. Gaelan: An actor in the film Chocolat at age 10 and founder of the largest fast-casual burrito chain in India.
The most rewarding part of the job: “Honestly, working for myself is the most rewarding part,” Meryl says. “And to have worked through the ups and downs of my career to land here now, five years into running a growing agency, is exactly what I had hoped for.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “There are no rules when it comes to building your career,” Gaelan says. “[We] built our careers on jumping on opportunities we were way too young to have any business doing—and I believe in the same for any aspiring creatives out there.”
The secret to recharging: “As boring as this is,” Meryl says, “I recharge my batteries by sleeping. Avidly. Frequently. As much as possible. I work really, really hard between 9 and 6, and then I crash.”
A celeb they’d love to work with: Meryl: “Meryl Streep. There aren’t many of us Meryls out there, so I’d get a kick out of collaborating with most famous Meryl of them all.”—Doug Zanger
As a promotion for Netflix’s hit political drama House of Cards last fall, Monroe and his team at Atlantic’s Re:think branded content studio created a deeply reported piece of journalism, complete with real-time election tracker, that chronicled the unprecedented numbers of women running for office in the U.S.
It was a way of “putting Claire Underwood into context,” he says of the series’ fictional star, played by Robin Wright, and giving the advertiser and audience some unique, journalistic content with the indomitable Atlantic stamp.
That caliber of branded content has defined Monroe’s three-year tenure at Re:think, which put Hans Zimmer in a Range Rover to score a scenic mountain drive; explained the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for Netflix’s thriller, Fauda; and recreated a New York couple’s Miami Beach honeymoon 57 years after the fact for Trivago.
Monroe, newly transplanted to Los Angeles, has just taken the reins at the Sundance Institute as its chief marketing officer, a role in which he’ll help the nonprofit celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Focusing on the well known Park City, Utah, festival and year-round programs, priorities for this next professional chapter include “making sure young filmmakers are as drawn to this brand as ever and emphasizing that the spirit of independence remains strong.”
Michelle Lamont and Rose Sacktor
Hometowns: Los Angeles (Lamont); New York (Sacktor)
Recent work: HBO’s “The Inspiration Room,” an experiential campaign tied to the network’s #BecauseOfHer project. “We’re so proud of the Inspiration Room,” Lamont says. “In the process of creating it, we spent hours every night reading over 800 diaries submitted to us by real women, and it was such a labor of love finding a way to bring those stories to life that felt like it did them justice.”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Don’t compare your career and your path to other people’s,” Lamont says. “There is no comparison between the sun and the moon. They shine when it’s their time.”
Personal mantra: “It’s just advertising,” Sacktor says. “I mean this in the best way possible. No matter how big you screw up, no one will die over it.”—Doug Zanger
Based in: Portland, Ore.
Hometown: Beirut, Lebanon
Recent work: “Make Room” for Netflix. “Netflix rarely does brand work, but felt it needed to stand up and stand out as a company that can disrupt culture (and the film industry) as much as it’s disrupted the technology with which we watch films and shows. We wanted to talk to everyone marginalized by the film industry (women, POC, LGBTQ, etc) to show how Netflix’s inclusiveness results in amazing stories.”
The most rewarding part of the job: “Being able to connect with, inspire and empower millions of people I will never meet.”
Secrets of being a good creative leader: “Making room for people with different POVs—women, people of color, people from different cultures, LGBTQ, etc. Not being afraid to fail. Being brave. Pushing people, internally or externally, outside of their comfort zone. Enjoying the process.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.”
Personal mantra: “As you worship, so you become.”
Nanette Wong had every reason to stay at her 9-5 job, including good benefits. It was perfectly fine, comfortable work, but the lack of a real challenge left her wanting more. Determined, Wong quit her job to work as an editorial intern, where she turned her interest in social media into a keen knowledge about consumer engagement and online brand presence. Years later, she is now the director of global, social and integrated marketing for one of today’s biggest tentpole brands in cosmetics, Rihanna-founded Fenty Beauty.
What makes the Fenty brand stand above the rest is just how comfortably it’s been able to fold millennial social media culture into its overall communications. It takes more than deploying the occasional viral meme to connect with today’s target audience; Wong (and, by extension, Fenty) has shown a keen understanding of the importance of inclusion in marketing.
By including different skin tones, body types, genders and ages in its branding, Fenty has been able to authentically place itself at the top of its market while other brands are just beginning to follow suit. “I hope to ensure that we’re always creating a positive impact on our industry and continue to challenge everyone to do more,” Wong tells Adweek. “The Fenty Effect is real!”
Nobody is more shocked—and delighted—about Natasha Lyonne’s recent achievements than the actress herself. Though many might recognize her as an inmate from the hit series Orange is The New Black, recent months have seen the star take her chops behind the camera—most recently in Russian Doll, where she not only plays the sardonic and inexplicably immortal lead character, but also was one of the show’s creators, writers, directors and executive producers.
That larger role behind the camera is one she’s clearly embracing, teaming up with fellow comedic powerhouse Maya Rudolph to head Animal Pictures, a new production house that puts inclusivity “front and center,” according to Lyonne—whether that means making people “laugh hysterically,” “feel seen on a deep level” or hopefully both. Since starting the company, the duo have already inked a first look deal with Amazon to create series for its Prime streaming network.
“I think the dream for all of us at this point would be to end the days of people asking, ‘Oh, what’s it like being a woman in film, a woman in comedy, a female director?’” she tells Adweek. “I think my ultimate goal is to transcend these sorts of arbitrary markers.”
A bold ask? Certainly. But Lyonne is the last person to shy away from these things. “There’s no reason to not be fearless and continue jumping off of creative cliffs,” she says. “We all know what the end game looks like, so we may as well try.”—Shoshana Wodinsky
As Square’s social media lead, Dimichino has generated online attention both for clapping back a troll named “SandwhichofFarts” and for telling powerful, positive stories about a city that had grown used to be being discussed solely for its struggles.
That is the duality of today’s social media—and what Dimichino must balance as he monitors Square’s accounts.
“Sharing emotional stories about our sellers and also fighting off trolls in the same day is a balancing act that comes down to authenticity,” Dimichino said. “The best brand work across social media happens when the brand’s voice is a human’s voice.”
One of those emotional stories is “Forged in Flint,” an uplifting look at the Michigan city that has endured years without consistent access to clean water, all while facing a range of economic hardships.
The series profiles people like Sara Johnson, a camp director of Girls Rock Flint, empowering the next generation of women in the city.
“Forged in Flint” is part of Square’s “For Every Dream” series that has moved from Flint, to Native American reservations, to refugees’ new businesses. Each stop shares a common theme: people in need that use Square as a vital part of their business.—Mitch Reames
Nicholas “NickyChulo” Fulcher
With a crisp, black-and-white checkered outfit against a vibrant turquoise backdrop, mod-like shades, shocking yellow finger waves, and a determined lick of her lips, Cardi B.’s Invasion of Privacy album cover looks like modern-day pop art. It’s a look that is so emblematic of who she is as an artist—daring, fearless, self-assured—that it has the potential to transcend her own era. It takes a bold, thoughtful creative mind to understand their subject and fashion something that is fitting, eye-catching and enduring.
Meet NickyChulo, the designer who has lent his talents to a number of Cardi B.’s now iconic album covers—including Invasion of Privacy—as well as artists Wiz Khalifa and Kodak Black. Inspired by the album art of Linkin Park, Lupe Fiasco, and Jay-Z, NickyChulo’s work reflects a polished DIY element that tends to draw the New-York based art director’s own attention in other projects. And while you would think the industry’s migration to digital would paint designers into a corner, it has only evolved his talent.
“When working on an album or single, a handful of digital content must be built around said project,” he says. “You can’t just have a static cover anymore if you’re looking to stand out. It must be animated to promote on socials and catch attention. It’s beautiful to stretch and mold concepts these days.”—Shannon Miller
When DreamWorks reached out to Stevenson to pitch a new She-Ra adaptation, “It felt like one of those moments where you’re in the right place at the right time,” she tells Adweek.
For someone whose previous work explored “subversion of classic fantasy and sci-fi tropes, especially as they relate to female characters,” it was a natural fit.
Adapting such an iconic character was a daunting task she took seriously, but Stevenson also “didn’t want myself and my crew to feel constrained by that.” Instead, she wanted the show to evolve in a new direction, apparent in the show’s title—She-Ra and the Princesses of Power—reflecting its increased focus on She-Ra’s relationships to all the other characters.”
“This show is about friendship, but I also wanted to show that sometimes friendship can be hard, sometimes relationships can be messy and difficult and you can rise above that.”
The show moves beyond stereotypical portrayals of women in animation, with a diverse array of character ethnicities, body shapes, sexual orientations and gender identities. That diversity is reflective of a diverse and collaborative cast and crew, including an all-female writers room that is a welcome change from experiences “being one of the only women in a room” full of male writers.
“I was really excited to explore as many different ways of showing female characters as possible,” Stevenson said. “I think it’s really important to have certain shows where different points of view are centered in a way where they don’t often get to be and that creates new stories that we might not have necessarily seen before.”—Erik Oster
Wilde puts her heart into everything she does. When working with a brand, she does her own research about the company’s work and ethos, making sure that what it’s doing aligns with her own values. That preparation has led to several partnerships centered around sustainability, from online thrift store ThredUp to non-toxic beauty brand True Botanicals.
But brands tell only part of the actress-filmmaker’s story. Her directorial debut, Booksmart, is about two soon-to-be graduates making up for lost time after spending their high school years buried in textbooks. It hit theaters last month, and she tells Adweek that her move into directing “comes from the same place of wanting to have more control over my impact on the world and to use my voice effectively.”
And though she’s spent nearly two decades on the other side of the camera, starring in shows like House and Vinyl, along with movies like Disney’s Tron Legacy, directing was a natural fit from the beginning. “Once I stepped into the role of directing this film, it was clear to me immediately that I would be much happier in this role,” she says. “There’s truly no better job in the world.”
That’s not to say she’s prepared to give up acting entirely: “The amazing thing about being an actor or director is that I get to continue my film school education while moving forward as a director. So I relish the opportunity to act in other people’s films and continue to do so that I myself can get better at directing.”—Diana Pearl
While most of us are numbly scrolling through our social media feeds, Rochat keeps giving his followers a reason to press down their thumbs. He’s spent the past year making Instagram his “public sketch book,” using it to develop surreal animations, digital illusions and the occasional twerking Thomas the Tank Engine.
“I like to think of the work that I make as lo-fi, high fun,” he says. “Its first job is to entertain people and not be so precious.”
In the process, he’s become one of the most creative people on Instagram, and brands have noticed. A former art director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Rochat has recently worked on social media for Nike, Adult Swim, Chipotle, illustrations for The New York Times, and music videos for the DJ Dillon Francis. (He even designed a series of barf bags for Lyft to give drunk passengers something beautiful to look into during a miserable moment.)
“I think of brands like people at a party,” he says. “Let’s say you walk into a party and each person represents a brand. I pose the question: Who do you actually want to hang out with?”—Marty Swant
Based in: Los Angeles
Hometown: Saint Kitts (West Indies)
Recent work: Experiential campaign for The Happytime Murders. “We created a tattoo parlor-meets-speakeasy sugar den in the heart of Hollywood, complete with unfiltered puppet characters. I was the executive producer on the project. It was amazing to work with puppets for the very first time– nevermind Jim Henson puppets. Learning about the logistics of working with them is not something that people think about, but there’s a myriad of things––from audio and video logistics to their choreography––that had to be coordinated, in addition to the everyday tasks that come with experiential production.”
What else he’s worked on: Working with NBC at Giant Spoon. Produced the inaugural Food Network in Concert at Ravinia and activations for entertainment brands including NBC, AMC, and Nickelodeon while at Conde Nast’s creative and experience marketing agency Pop2Life
The most rewarding part of the job: “Seeing guests’ joyful reactions and hearing them express satisfaction and gratitude. It validates why we do what we do.”
Side hustle: “I find creative inspiration by constantly trying new things, whether it be food, art exhibitions, theatrical productions or experiences.” —Erik Oster
What he’s helped redesign and relaunch: Maxim, Marie Claire, Men’s Journal and, in 2016, Fortune’s logo. In the past year, he’s redesigned Travel + Leisure and Departures for Meredith.
Why he decided to make Travel + Leisure entirely black and white, except the photography: “We use some of the best photographers from around the world. The decision to put the photography up front gives the reader a chance to really immerse themselves in the visuals.”
How his skills extend beyond design: “He has reinforced what a great creative brings to the table: diligent problem solving, excellent curatorial taste and high-level visual communication,” says Christine Bower-Wright, design director for Travel + Leisure and Departures. “His ability to tap into the power of clean, elegant design is one of his many strengths and is almost a personal mantra.”
Raina Telgemeier has been drawing comics since age 9 but didn’t know she wanted to make graphic novels until she hit her 20s.
“I read Bone by Jeff Smith. It was all the elements I love in a long-form story. Shortly thereafter, I teamed up with Scholastic. I have been drawing comics my whole life. Most of my work was short form. I didn’t know if I could do it.”
Telgemeier’s work adapting and illustrating four beloved Baby-Sitters Club books into graphic novels gave her the confidence to write the fiction graphic novels Drama and Ghosts and pen memoirs Smile and Sisters, based on real-life events from Telgemeier’s childhood.
“When I wrote Smile, I thought telling my own story was odd but people relate to it. It’s opened me up to a world of conversation. Parents can relate as much as kids can.”
She recently published Share Your Smile, an interactive journal that helps kids organize and achieve their goals of writing and drawing comics; Guts, a follow-up memoir to Sisters that tackles anxiety, comes out in September.
“I dealt with it personally. I wondered if it was ok to share.”
Telgemeier is currently doing publicity for Share Your Smile, and catching up on life.
“I get together with friends, watch movies. I have a camping trip in a few months. I get a chance to read books. I like the memoir genre and graphic novels for younger readers. I just finished Kiss Number 8.”
Kayla Lott and Roseanne Overton
Hometowns: Bartlesville, Oklahoma (Lott) and Chicago (Overton)
Recent work: Reality Bar for Xfinity
Why they’re proud of it: “This past January, we opened the Xfinity Reality Bar — a Miami sports bar that we transformed into the first space designed for reality TV fans,” says Lott. “Roseanne and I first pitched the idea over two years ago so we were insanely thrilled to see it finally come to life. We were super involved in every aspect of the project from the idea to the fabrication to the content. It was the most fun experience and I’m super thankful Xfinity trusted us to pull it off.”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Don’t ignore your 401(k)! And never pass up a chance to present your work,” encourages Overton. “Getting comfortable with presenting early in your career will give you a big advantage later on.”
Dream celeb collab: “Rhianna. She stands in her truth and doesn’t apologize for how she presents herself,” says Overton. “She’s created brands that make women feel good about who they are, as they are.”—Minda Smiley
Reynolds knows passion sells. That’s why his clear obsession and love for his Deadpool character and Aviation Gin make him a marketing tour de force.
“[Marketing] is creatively satisfying,” Reynolds tells Adweek. “I really enjoy it. I’m a huge believer that necessity is the mother of invention. That old idiom is never truer in the marketing space.”
Reynolds tag teams Aviation Gin’s creative strategy with his partner-in-crime, George Dewey, who worked with Reynolds on the massively successful Deadpool campaigns that included a Bob Ross spoof and taking over entire the DVD section at Walmart. Reynolds looks to leverage his love of pop culture, which is a “huge part” his daily life, into Aviation’s marketing.
Often, ideas begin with text messages to Dewey, and Reynolds says they like to keep it simple, “It’s not like there isn’t some gigantic white board with conspiracy yarn linking different ideas to each other.”
Because Aviation Gin is still relatively small, Reynolds says he focuses on earned media instead of paid media, thinking up stunts that will gain attention—but also convey his authentic love for the brand.
“How can we tackle something that is culturally relevant, have fun with it and be self-deprecating,” he says, “while also creating a certain level of brand awareness?” That’s led to partnerships with Richard Branson and a resolution of his “feud” with Hugh Jackman, as well as an ongoing series of out-of-office emails and a hilarious spot about Aviation’s mystical distilling process.—Jameson Fleming
After less than a year in his role, Bergen was tasked with leading creative for one of Beats by Dre’s newest products: the Powerbeats Pro. The resulting spot, “Unleashed,” and its related content brought together more than a dozen star athletes, with direction from Hiro Murai and a new track from Beck.
Bergen—who recently finished an MBA focused on creativity—thinks “music can be almost as strong as a performance-enhancing drug.
For us, the desire of making work has never been to just be edgy,” he says. “That’s not a good comms strategy for any brand. You have to be original. Otherwise, you’re going to be derivative.”
Bergen says the playbook for audio marketing was in some ways invented by Beats. However, it’s something others have now adopted. And while Beats was a disruptor earlier on, he knows “you can’t sleep on that.”—Marty Swant
What’s she’s written: Frequent “Eat” columns in The New York Times, the 2017 best-seller Salt Fat Acid Heat (winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Best General Cookbook) and the four-part Netflix miniseries inspired by her book.
How she brings contagious enthusiasm to cooking: “My skill is sort of seeing something and translating it for people. I wanted to reach, empower and encourage home cooks.”
How she approached her Netflix show: The culinary scholar traveled the world to thoroughly break down the four basic elements of cooking and bridge ancient lessons with modern cuisine.
On cooking as a social act: “The food is almost peripheral to the act of gathering around the table. People think, oh, well I don’t have fancy plates; I don’t have tablecloths; I don’t have a table … so I can’t have people over. That’s not what’s important. What’s important is getting together.”—Shannon Miller
Sarah Dembkowski and Georgia Taylor
Based in: Chicago
Hometowns: Chicago (Dembkowski) and Wellington, New Zealand (Taylor)
Recent work: “The Flip” for McDonald’s. “On International Women’s Day, we flipped the McDonald’s Golden Arches logo for the first time ever in honor of women’s contributions,” Dembkowski says. “I was a copywriter that was part of the core team who was responsible for figuring out how to bring this campaign came to life: what we would do in the hero store, what we would do across the country, where we would do this, how social and digital would be used.”
Also: “The Shamrock Shake Rainbow” for McDonald’s. “McDonald’s Shamrock Shake returns during the gloomiest period of winter,” Taylor says. “So we created the ultimate beacon of positivity: a green rainbow that at its end delivered not gold, but golden arches.
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Be prepared for people to tell you no,” Dembkowski says, “and then figure out how to do what you want regardless.”
Based in: San Francisco
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Recent work: Living Wine Labels’ augmented reality platform. “The Living Wine Labels mobile app has become a highly shareable platform for brand storytelling, reaching our millennial shoppers wherever they are—at home, in store or on- premises.”
The most rewarding part of the job: “Working with passionate clients to better understand their business challenges and goals— and partnering with them to develop compelling creative that drives growth.”
Source of inspiration: “I love to travel, which has sparked my interest food culture, turning me into a foodie that loves to cook. Thank you Mr. Bourdain. Cooking for my family and friends, exploring cultures through food is my way of staying inspired.”
Personal mantra: “Stay weird.”—Erik Oster
Represented by: Academy Films and Park Pictures
Based in: London
Recent work: “The Boy and the Piano” for John Lewis & Partners and adam&eveDDB. Here’s how the client described Edwards’ selection for the high-profile project: “Chosen for his strong cinematic storytelling, Seb is known for unraveling complicated tales in a very simple and beautiful way. His directorial style lends itself perfectly to our advert which captures the life of an icon within just a few minutes.”
Edwards’ older catalog includes two epic Lacoste ads: “The Big Leap” in 2014 and “Timeless” in 2017.—Amy Corr
Based in: São Paulo, Brazil
Hometown: Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
Recent work: Budweiser “Tagwords,” which used cryptic words in print ads to send fans Googling, resulting in pictures of celebrities drinking Bud. “It was a purely data insight that brought us those amazing images of rock stars having a great time, mostly holding a Bud. Rock stars and beer—what a combination! Then it was easy. We just had to do two things: Choose the right words, and call a good lawyer.”
Also, Telefonica’s “My Game My Name,” in which male gamers tried using female names, discovering the rampant harassment against women in gaming. “Sexual harassment is a big issue in the digital gaming world. I found out my two daughters were being harassed. So we created a movement against such terrible behavior.”
Personal mantra: “Never take anything for granted. Always try to look at something with fresh eyes.”—David Griner
Bugbee was first tasked with overhauling New York magazine’s fashion-oriented website into a “multi-dimensional” destination eight years ago. Since then, The Cut has elbowed its way to the top, maintaining a unique voice in an otherwise cluttered media landscape and expanding its reach in diverse revenue streams like you might see with a standalone publishing company.
Under Bugbee, the brand has grown that reach into podcasting, events, a T-shirt line, reimagining the content as a digital magazine, as well as publishing fiction. Some of those initiatives, in part, led Adweek to name The Cut Website of the Year in 2018 and recognize its nonfiction reporting chops.
Through it all, The Cut has maintained its unique voice covering topics that are especially important to women, particularly though the #MeToo era, a place on the Internet that Bubgee doesn’t plan on giving up as the country heads into the 2020 election.
“I’ve just been carving out a space for women to hear ourselves speak,” Bugbee says, “not necessarily dictating what that conversation is all the time, but giving us a space to have those conversations is really important to me.” —Sara Jerde
Based in: Lagos, Nigeria
Hometown: Kabba, Kogi State, Nigeria
Recent work: World Cup campaign for Go. “Go is an African telecommunications brand. We told the story of African participation in the last World Cup using iconic African football players from the past.”
His agency’s philosophy: “Shapeshift or die.” Unveiling the mantra recently for the X3M Ideas’ sixth anniversary, “we imported a fabricated dinosaur fossil from China, we buried it somewhere and it was ‘discovered’ by some ‘archeologists.’ The discovery was seeded on social media before we later used the dinosaur as an example of an animal that refused to shapeshift and became extinct.”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Check your ego at the door. If you don’t, it will be crushed sooner or later.”
Leadership philosophy: “Give the team what they need to create magic, and stay out of their way.”—David Griner
Recent work: “I came to R/GA to lead the launch of [PepsiCo’s] bubly sparkling water. R/GA developed the brand from start to finish, which is something I was so lucky to be a part of. bubly was the first new brand to launch on Giphy—ever. That launch completely upturned everything I learned from traditional agencies.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “The fact that I get to feed my curiosity every day and learn so much from colleagues, clients, and other brilliant minds in the industry is so rewarding.”
Personal mantra: “Stay childlike.”
Tahira White, Whitney Headen and Nicole Januarie
Hometowns: Hampton, Va. (Headen), Queens, New York (White), Swakopmund, Namibia (Januarie)
Recent work: “We recently worked on StreetEasy’s first commercial campaign in collaboration with Alldayeveryday and Lighting Orchard, which captured the essence of living in New York City,” White says. “As a native New Yorker, I had a blast recreating Cheryl Dunn’s archived street photography of moments one only truly sees when they step foot into the Big Apple.”
Most rewarding part of the job: “I really love watching the company grow,” Headen says. “I enjoy being a mentor and helping our staff achieve things that they didn’t think were possible. The most rewarding thing from a creative execution standpoint is the sale. I love coming up with creative concepts and convincing a brand to trust us enough to bring it to life for them. That never gets old.”
Personal mantra: “Even Google has extensions—meaning shortcomings are a part of any great process,” Januarie says. “Your initial coding will get you to a certain point, and updates are needed beyond. So don’t look at it as shortcomings. Look at it as added extensions.”
Based in: Singapore
Hometown: Ipoh, Malaysia (“a quiet little town…until Lonely Planet rated it one of the best places to visit”)
Recent work: While Lim is modest about his role in the Dentsu network’s award-winning campaigns from across the Asia-Pacific region (which he describes as “teamwork for which I won’t take personal credit”), one especially notable campaign is BWM Denstu Sydney’s “Project Revoice” for the ALS Association. The effort to create a naturalistic voice replacement for Pat Quinn, co-founder of the Ice Bucket Challenge. This year, “Project Revoice” has already won a best-of-discipline at The One Show and a Black Pencil at D&AD. Also: “Dead Whale,” a 73-foot whale carcass sculpture made from the types of plastic debris that endangers ocean life, created for by Dentsu JaymeSyfu in the Philippines for Greenpeace.
On the role of creativity in marketing: “People don’t buy advertising, people buy relevance. We are in the business formerly known as advertising and marketing in the digital economy has to be more relevant and personalized to move people and business. Data tells us where the customer is. Media gets us there. What we do when we are face-to-face with the customer, that’s creative. That’s the moment of truth. Creativity moves the people we have spent so much data and media money to reach.”—David Griner
The McElroy Brothers
Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy aren’t exactly expert advice-givers, but the three brothers have proven they’re more than capable of running a media business together.
The siblings have expanded their side-splittingly funny advice and comedy podcast, My Brother, My Brother and Me, from a side project created to keep in touch with each other into a veritable podcasting empire. About a dozen different programs—which star the brothers, their spouses, their father and their friends—have been downloaded half a billion times.
MBMBaM, distributed through the podcasting network Maximum Fun, has expanded from a weekly series into a live show and a brief TV series on Seeso. Another spinoff podcast, The Adventure Zone, which chronicles the brothers and their dad playing tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, has grown to include a live show and graphic novels.
Perhaps their greatest professional achievement to date has been a successful campaign to get themselves cast in the upcoming animated film Trolls World Tour, which they, of course, documented in a podcast.
Through it all, the McElroy brothers have remained best friends.
“There’s a real value in being able to say whatever to your creative partners and not worry about them getting so mad at you that they quit,” says Justin McElroy, the eldest. “We listen to what each other says, but we’re brutally honest with each other. I think it makes the whole thing work really well.”—Kelsey Sutton
When Titus Kaphar decided to move back to New Haven around a decade ago to build a life for his family outside the cramped chaos of New York, friends told him the distance from the art world’s power center would cripple his career.
Instead, the award-winning painter built his own vibrant art scene in the Connecticut college town centered on an incubator for underserved young artists called NXTHAVEN. “It is a dream that I’ve been working towards for over five years now, and it’s finally been realized,” he said.
The gallery space and mentorship program is just one example of how Kaphar has sought to break free from the conventions of the art establishment. Much of his work also aims to subvert and recontextualize art history and classical art to shine a light on otherwise unseen or unnoticed African American subjects and the legacy of racism underlying their omission.
Some of his most notable pieces have included a 2014 oil painting commissioned by Time Magazine in response to police violence protests in Ferguson, Mo., and, more recently, a partnership called “Redaction” with poet Reginald Dwayne Betts that turns legal documents into poems superimposed on portraits of incarcerated people.—Patrick Kulp
Based in: New York
Recent work: The “Drive On” campaign re-launching the LPGA brand. “As the oldest women’s professional sports organization, it was time they give voice to the women who paved the way for so many others. As the creative lead, I put together a small team of smart, passionate, driven women that, along with our fearless client launched ‘Drive On.’ With so much ‘girl washing’ these days it was an honor to work on a brand that has been creating opportunities and supporting women before it was trendy. It was a small yet scrappy team that put every ounce of heart and soul into the work and it shows.”
The most rewarding part of the job: “Supporting and guiding young creatives.”
Side hustle: Writing the upcoming ‘Im/perfect,’ “a story about my crazy journey to who I am today.”
Best advice: “Speak up more. The more questions you ask, the more you participate, the better the work will get. Instead of just taking the direction make sure you understand why it was given. Then push, challenge or build on it. Bring your experience to every situation, it will only make the work and the culture better.” —Erik Oster
Based in: Lexington, Ky.
Hometown: Lexington, Ky.
Recent work: “I’ve been really proud of some of the content we’ve been creating for VisitLEX, Lexington, Kentucky’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. We dropped a video called Neigh-SMR—aka horse-eating ASMR—that’s really fun and has been well received. We also created a new product for VisitLEX’s Visitor Center called “Bourbon Camouflage” that’s been a big hit. I was creative director on both projects.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “I know it’s cliché to say you’ve got to take a lot of swings to get the big hits, but it’s so true. Learn to rebound quickly from the misses and keep on swinging—and swing often—until you start getting those hits.”
Secrets to being a great creative leader: “Coming up with a great idea is half the battle. Selling that idea to the client is the other half. Teach your team how to sell and fight hard to sell those ideas.”
Personal mantra: “I’m a big fan of saying ‘Hell yeah’ when big absurd ideas come my way. Recently, a friend came to me with this idea of selling turds from a Kentucky Derby Winning horse, encased in epoxy resin. While most people might say ‘Hell no’ to selling horse turds, I immediately said ‘Hell yeah.’ It totally hijacked the Kentucky Derby news. Hell yeah!”—Doug Zanger
Yadira Harrison and Shannon Simpson Jones
Based in: New York City (Simpson Jones) and Los Angeles (Harrison)
Hometowns: Baltimore (Simpson Jones) and Arlington, Texas (Harrison);
Recent work: “One of the most rewarding was the CRWN Magazine activation in partnership with Netflix at [Brooklyn music fest] Afropunk,” says Simpson Jones (pictured left). “We built an integrated content campaign, engaging influencers and the broader CRWN community in a very authentic, unapologetic way celebrating the beauty and creativity of black women.”
Secrets of being a great creative leader: “Celebrating diverse ideas and perspectives is key to being a good creative leader,” Simpson Jones says. “It is equally as important to communicate a standard of creative excellence and pushing people to do better and think bigger.”
Personal mantras: Simpson Jones: “What’s the best that could happen?” Harrison: “A sword in the hand of a coward is useless.”
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
How she got started: “After graduating from the University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts, in Sydney, Australia, I moved to New York City to kick-off my design career. I worked as an intern in two small NYC design shops, Tronic Studios and Maker Is, before getting a full-time job at the digital agency, Createthe Group.”
The most rewarding part of the job: “Whether it be design support, career advice, or helping other females navigate a male-dominated industry, the most gratifying part about my job is mentoring designers. Having benefited from strong female mentorship throughout my career, I want to be able to offer the same support to others. I am constantly in awe of the talent and drive of the next generation of our industry.”
Side hustle: “I co-own a clothing brand, Don’t Worry Baby. It is a side hustle founded on the love of fashion, design and friendships. We make ‘play clothes’ for grown women, tailored to the fun-spirited and environmentally conscious crowd.”
Personal mantra: “Don’t do it for the money.”
Dream celeb collab: “Aminatou Sow and her best friend, Ann Friedman. These are two wonderfully witty and opinionated feminists who host the podcast Call Your Girlfriend. Part of their appeal is the die-hard devotion to their bi-coastal friendship.”
Best advice for aspiring creatives: “Make things with your friends, for fun.”—Minda Smiley