26 Agency Leaders You Should Be Watching

Meet the innovative executives on Adweek's Creative 100

From left, Madwell co-founders Chris Sojka and David Eisenman, Saturday Morning co-founder Jayanta Jenkins and Spark & Riot founder Ana de Diego.
Headshot of David Griner

Leaders of the agency world used to be seen as names on doors, authors of books and fonts of quippy, quotable wisdom. Today’s best leaders, however, can be found operating at the ground level each day, leading by listening so they can stay in tune with the needs of their teams, their clients and the ever-evolving culture around them. Here are 26 names you should know when it comes to excellence in modern agency leadership.

Jayanta Jenkins
Co-founder, Saturday Morning
Based in: San Francisco

Recent work: Procter & Gamble’s “The Look,” created in partnership with Geoff Edwards, Keith Cartwright, Kwame Taylor-Hayford and Deja Cox. “It was an initiative that shines a light on the struggles of Black men and continues Marc Pritchard’s efforts to champion conversations around inclusivity,” says Jenkins. “My specific role in the project was as a creative lead.”

The personal impact of quarantine: “This quarantine period has given me pause to reflect how to ‘be with me’ and place a higher value on compassion,” he says. “I also have a 2-year-old son named Phoenix, and the way he looks at our world is a gift. Phoenix has been teaching me so much about myself during this period, and it is changing the way I think of myself as a creative leader and the brands I want to support.”

Advice for rising creatives: “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

Adrian Belina and Pablo Vio
Founders and global creative directors, Jam3
Based in: Los Angeles (Belina) and Toronto (Vio)

Recent work: “We crashed last year’s Coachella for Adidas Originals to do a super-sneaky product launch for the not-yet-released Donald Glover sneaker collab,” Belina says. “Ahead of his headlining set as Childish Gambino, our producers and creatives were walking the campgrounds with iPhones renamed to ‘Donald Glover’ and AirDropping unsuspecting concertgoers with his unreleased shoes. It was our smallest activation of the year, but the one with the biggest amount of buzz.”

Advice for rising creatives: “Never lose sight of what gets you out of bed every day. Your passion and love for what you do will drive you to your next track and beyond. If the track you’re on is not getting you there, find a new one,” says Vio.

Personal mantras: “There are two sayings we have that you might see plastered on our walls and on our swag,” says Belina. “‘The Relentless Pursuit of Better’ and a not-so-subtle, ‘Give all the fucks.'”

Barney Goldberg
Ecd, Innocean USA
Based in: Huntington Beach, Calif.

Recent work: Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” Super Bowl ad. “This year’s spot was a perfect blend of entertainment and actually selling something,” says Goldberg. “It’s pretty much a product demo with movie stars. From the cast to [director and Creative 100 honoree] Bryan Buckley to how it was received, it really was a special spot.”

On the lessons of quarantine: “Now that we’ve all had to work from home, we can see it does work. I can see agencies being more open to it in the future.” But, he adds, “I do think we’re missing out on the culture-building and creativity of being together.”

Personal mantra: “Work hard, and be nice to people. Nice doesn’t mean you lower the standard. The standard is always high. Nice just means people will feel good about the work and themselves when it’s all over.”

Elaine Cox
Ecd, Heat + Deloitte Digital
Based in: San Francisco

Recent work: Let’s Get Consensual, a campaign educating the public about physical and sexual consent. “This was a passion project, start to finish,” she says. “An ACD team brought this idea to me, to use technology to make consent common sense. Consent is a sensitive and stigmatized topic that too many people avoid or run from. So we set out to change the way this conversation was brought up by leveraging familiar tech to deliver ‘ah-ha’ moments in the places where consent awareness matters most. Together, we crafted the ideas and recruited a few other passionate people around the agency to bring these ideas to life. I sold the work through the rest of our leadership team, pushing for funding to bring this to life. After quite a bit of persistence, we got the funding we needed to really make an impact. And it kept growing from there.”

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."