Recently, Business Insider
asked the major ad agencies and the more significant boutiques to name the people they felt were the most creative in the business.
To prevent the nominations from being self-serving, we asked each agency to also nominate someone from a competing agency — the sort of person they’d hire, given a free hand.
We then pored over recent award winners and creatives who have generated new and exciting buzz.
The result is a ranking that we feel represents advertising’s creative elite.
The list isn’t exhaustive. We know that name-on-the-door industry giants like Dan Wieden and Jeff Goodby will always make this type of list, due to their decades of consistently high-level output.
Our list therefore looks at who’s hot right now, based on their more recent work. Agency size, clientele, and tenure were also taken into consideration. (Small agencies with small clients often get to take risks because there’s less at stake. It’s more difficult to do off-the-wall work at a large agency with gigantic packaged goods clients.)
We mixed advertising giants with creatives who are newer to the game. All of them are generating interesting and inspirational ads.
Creativity is difficult to measure in an industry that is constantly redefining itself, but here are 25 creatives that you absolutely have to know.
John Montgomery started his career in the 90s as a fashion designer for brands like Hot Topic and Dr. Martens before eventually gravitating to creative services at the beginning of the new millennium. He founded Media Arts Group and merged with Threshold Interactive in 2005.
Now he oversees creative campaigns for Nestlé brands like Butterfinger, Hot Pockets, and Poland Spring, among other clients.
Montgomery has helped build the Hot Pockets brand's caché among the hard-to-reach male youth demographic with a steady stream of first-rate goofballery. He's the one responsible for last year's 'Pocket Like It's Hot' collaboration with Snoop Dogg, as well as the brand's bizarrely entrancing new video that also features model Kate Upton. He also signed up YouTube star Tobe Turner to create similarly silly Hot Pocket branded videos for Turner's nearly 5 million subscribers.
Farkas and McCauley have been two of the most important minds behind the excellent work RPA has done on behalf of its chief client, Honda. What sticks out about Farkas and McCauley's work for Honda is the creative ways they come up with to help Honda make a difference in people's lives.
Most recently, the pair helped Honda raise enough money for nine drive-in movie theatres to purchase digital projectors, without which they would be forced to go out of business when the major movie studios phase out analogue film in 2014. The Project Drive-In campaign allowed people to vote for their local drive-in to win one of nine projectors Honda purchased for struggling theatres and created a crowdfunding page for people to donate money.
Previously, they helped the car company arrange a prime gig for a band that recorded a music video in a Honda and created a campaign for Honda employees to show love to customers who'd gone to great lengths to show their affection for the brand. It's hard to forge a sincere connection between a brand and a person, but somehow McCauley and Farkas have been able to hit the right tenor.
Here's how the owners of drive-in movie theatres reacted when Honda told them they'd be getting new projectors
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As chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi's Team One, Chris Graves has spearheaded a movement to allow consumers to augment print ads with their mobile devices. This has allowed Team One to help Lexus target its technology-loving core consumer with innovative advertising that plays to their interests.
Graves' work for Lexus has matched the brand's reputation for cutting-edge technology. For the 2014 Lexus IS, Graves made the first collaboratively created stop-motion film using Instagram photos. Team One helped Lexus target straight men with several cross-brand promotions involving the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, and blew us away with the CinePrint magazine ad, which allowed users to place a tablet behind a print ad to make it look like the page was moving.
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Cavallone worked as a comic book translator and as a writer for Leo Burnett and Wieden+Kennedy before coming to 72andSunny in 2010. As executive creative director of the agency's Amsterdam office, Cavallone has made a name for himself with campaigns for the fashion brand Benetton that mobilize socially conscious youth by aligning the brand's goals with those of its target audience.
Cavallone won a Grand Prix Lion at Cannes in 2012 for his work on Benetton's Unhate campaign that showed male world leaders kissing. The brand followed up that success by tapping into the frustration of millennials destabilized by the global financial crisis with its 'Unemployee of the Year' campaign, which celebrated the out-of-work dreamers and offered 100 unemployed young people 5,000 Euros to work on a project they cared about.
Benetton's 'Unemployee of the Year' ad expressed the frustration of young people struggling to make it in a rough economy.
Chau established himself as one of the giants of Chinese advertising with Cannes Lions wins in 2008 and 2011. The Thai creative is known for the intricate, 3-dimensional artistry of his print advertisements, like the highly acclaimed 'Heaven or Hell' ad he made for Samsonite in 2011.
Chau added more Lions to his mantel in 2012, with a toothpaste campaign encouraging people not to let germs settle in their teeth. The ads showed the wonders of ancient civilisation embedded in a blown-up photo of a tooth.
Gordy Sang and Brian Siedband specifically requested we use the photo you see here, so we suppose they would like you to know they drink alcohol sometimes. When sober, Sang and Siedband have been on something of a creative roll over the past year and change, working together on well-received Deutsch LA projects for Taco Bell and Playstation.
The duo worked together on Taco Bell's popular 'Viva Young' Super Bowl commercial that featured senior citizens sneaking out of the house and making mischief as the band Fun sang a poorly-accented version of their hit 'We Are Young' in the background. They also came up with the simple but effective 'World's Most Obvious Idea' ad for the hotly anticipated Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco.
Our favourite, though, was last year's 'Cubs Win' for Playstation's 'MLB 12: The Show' video game, in which the Chicago natives imagined how the Windy City would react if the Cubs ever won the World Series. The ad perfectly captured the intense emotions of sports fandom, but Playstation transferred the account to BBH New York shortly afterward. Genius is never understood in its own time.
Here's how Deutsch LA rendered the Chicago skyline to make it look like the Cubs had just won the World Series.
Having joined Chipotle in 1999, Espey has seen the company grow from a regional chain centered in Colorado to the massive international behemoth it is today. But despite the company's rapid growth to more than 1,500 locations, Espey has used smart messaging to help Chipotle's brand maintain its independent feel.
In the past several years, Espey and Chipotle have commissioned two terrific animated films that have been huge viral hits and burnished the brand's image as one committed to using natural products and having a positive impact on the world around it.
Last month, Chipotle introduced 'The Scarecrow,' a visually stimulating short film from the animation studio Moonbase that shows a scarecrow's journey from the inhumane factory farm he worked at to a new store he opens himself using natural ingredients.
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Of all the nominations we looked at in assembling these rankings, Whit Hiler was far and away the person we most wanted to be friends with. The proud Kentucky native went viral last year with an outrageously funny campaign to change the Bluegrass State's motto from 'Unbridled Spirit' to 'Kentucky Kicks Arse.'
You can also thank Hiler for inventing an unorthodox ad unit called the 'Beardvertisement' that was ultimately used by the Dollar Shave Club.
In addition to cracking up the internet with viral goodness, Hiler's creativity has also helped his agency, Cornet-IMS, grow its business. Hiler helped Cornet become A&W's agency of record by devising something called a LinkedIn Bomb, through which he and his co-workers coordinated to flood the A&W marketing director with messages describing their personal relationships with the soda and fast-food brand.
Cornet-IMS had no prior relationship with A&W, but the stunt helped convince A&W to name the firm its agency of record shortly after.
After initial reluctance, the state tourism department ultimately sent Hiler a letter commending him for his enthusiasm.
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The Squirrels are a team of four creatives who worked together on Oreo's extremely successful Daily Twist campaign. In honour of Oreo's 100th birthday, art director Mike Lubrano, senior art director Jared Isle, senior art director Jackie Anzaldi, and senior copywriter Noel Potts created a different Oreo-related design to share on social media for 100 days straight.
The Daily Twist became a huge success, with some of the more popular designs (you might remember the rainbow Oreo tower in support of gay pride parades) going massively viral, and even gaining mentions on late-night talk shows. Asking a team for 100 straight days of great design is a tall order, but the Squirrels rose to the challenge.
Perhaps nobody embodies the integration of hip-hop culture into the mainstream than Steve Stoute, whose book 'The Tanning of America' covers that very subject. Stoute started his career as a record executive, working his way up to president of urban music for Interscope Geffen A&M Records. Stoute moved over to marketing and later founded the multicultural agency Translation in 2004 before broadening the agency's mission as hip-hop's appeal became universal.
Stoute's contacts in the hip-hop business give him a leg up over practically anyone else in the advertising game, a fact made clear by his close relationship with his partner at Translation, Jay Z. Together, they launched the Budweiser Made In America Festival, which features performances from artists across a range of genres every year in Philadelphia.
The pair also handled the branding, design, and advertising for the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA team that moved from New Jersey last year. Using stark black and white colours and smart appeals to Brooklyn's pro sports and hip-hop history, Translation's 'Hello Brooklyn' campaign worked to forge an emotional connection between Brooklynites and the Nets in the wake of a bitter fight over the arena constructed for the team.
The Nets became the first major pro sports team to call Brooklyn home since Walter O'Malley took the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957.
Since leaving his job at Saatchi & Saatchi to strike out on his own in 2010, Graf has consistently made irreverent, funny ads for clients like Dish, Kayak, and Little Caesars. The industry veteran has worked to ensure his firm's longterm success by surrounding himself with an array of talent from across the advertising landscape, a strategy that came to the forefront in August, when a man in a horse suit stood outside Wieden + Kennedy's New York office with a sign telling passersby they'd have to be a horse's arse not to want to work at BFG 9000. The agency denied involvement.
Graf's outside-the-box thinking was on full display in an ad campaign for environmental group 350 Action that proposed naming hurricanes after lawmakers who have publicly denied climate change. And after spending countless hours sifting through case studies to assemble this list, we couldn't help laughing at BFG 9000's hilarious mock overview of a fake social media campaign.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was one of several members of congress skewered in Graf's 350 Action ad.
Lucey joined Beresford-Hill at BBDO in the summer of 2012, and the two have been on a roll ever since. The duo won a pair of Cannes Lions for its print and film ads for Foot Locker, and struck viral gold earlier this month with a moving ad for Guinness.
Lucey and Beresford-Hill's versatility on the Foot Locker campaign has aided the company in its ongoing turnaround effort. They used print ads to target hardcore sneakerheads by humorously comparing them to other collectors and made some hilariously funny TV spots leveraging comedic chops of NBA stars James Hardin, Stephen Curry, and Kyrie Irving.
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Childhood friends Mark Lewis and Matt Fitch have fulfilled the dream of 12-year-olds everywhere by working together at VCCP and BMB before coming to BBH London. In the past, they've done innovative outdoor work for Google Voice, and work for Dove that helped pitch the brand to fathers.
Lewis and Fitch are best known for their extraordinary 2012 campaign for the England-based news media company The Guardian. In a richly detailed, award-winning two-minute video, they showed off how The Guardian's print, digital, and video departments would have offered 360-degree coverage of the fictional trial of the Big Bad Wolf (who blew down the houses of The Three Little Pigs).
The video perfectly captured The Guardian's many capabilities in a multi-screen world and even managed to creatively expand on the original story of The Three Little Pigs.
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It's a sign of the times that we just couldn't do this list without anyone from the native advertising/sponsored content field. Chris Baker worked at major ad agencies R/GA, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and BBDO before becoming a creative director producing sponsored content for Buzzfeed alongside Mike Lacher. The duo has since parted ways with the company to do freelance work, but not before doing some of Buzzfeed's most innovative creative work.
In a collaboration between Buzzfeed and Improv Everywhere, Baker and Lacher had 'Seeing Eye People' lead folks around Manhattan while they were busy looking down at their phones so that they could walk safely as they were texting. They also made waves with a sendup of tech culture called the Startup Legitimizer, and the famous/infamous Buzzfeed Listiclock, an app sponsored by Pepsi that allows users to see a different presentation of three Buzzfeed lists for every second of the day.
Since debuting during the 2012 NCAA Tournament, AT&T's 'It's not complicated' campaign has been one of the best on television. Featuring sketch comic Beck Bennett and a cadre of adorable schoolchildren, Stephen McMennamy and Alex Russell's work has done wonders for humanising a telecommunications brand often thought to be impersonal.
The campaign worked out pretty well for Bennett, too. In August, it was announced that he'll be a cast member on SNL.
'It's not complicated' seems to enjoy universal approval among the people we've spoken with, whether they've been advertising industry folks or our own friends and co-workers. As one member of a competing agency put to us: 'My wife and I constantly rewind those commercials. Anyone who can make telecom funny is amazing.'
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Mescall joined McCann Australia as executive creative director in Fall 2011 and has since helped it become one of the most successful agencies in the country. The agency has made a name for itself with fun, playful advertising exemplified by its campaign for the Macquarie Dictionary of Melbourne in which it invented and spread the word 'phubbing,' a term to describe the practice of ignoring someone in person while looking at your smartphone. The campaign sought to show the importance of new words to explain new social phenomena.
Mescall created 'Dumb Ways to Die,' the smash hit campaign of 2012, for Melbourne's public transit system. The campaign was anchored by an impossibly catchy music video where adorable animated creatures name a bunch of dumb ways for people to die before revealing that being killed by an oncoming train because you weren't being careful is the dumbest way of all. The video brought home a ton of awards, and has so far netted more than 60 million views on YouTube.
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Polar is in a rarefied class of creative directors who have won Cannes Lions in three different countries (Colombia, Mexico, and Peru). What's special about Polar is the way his creative works create positive social change, in addition to enhancing the reputations of his clients.
The altruistic nature of Polar's work was on display in two ads he's produced in the past year that were both extremely creative and impressively effective.
In one, Polar helped the Peruvian Cancer Society reach its fund-raising goal by reaching out to an unlikely group of donors: occupants of the country's most dangerous prison. Even more innovative was his work for a Peruvian engineering university, for whom he helped erect a billboard that harvested humidity from the surrounding air to produce clean drinking water.
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Anselmo Ramos has traveled all over the world for his advertising career, working for Y&R in Lisbon, Madrid, and Miami, and for Lowe New York before returning to his native Brazil in 2007.
At the time, Ogilvy's Brazil practice was No. 47 in the agency's internal creative rankings. Since then, Ramos has brought Brazil all the way up to No. 1 , while also founding DAVID, a global agency within Ogilvy that offers a Latin American perspective on creative work.
Ramos is responsible for one of the most viral advertisements of all time, Dove's 'Real Beauty Sketches,' which used an FBI-trained sketch artist to draw portraits of women first based on how they described themselves and then based on descriptions of the women offered by strangers. The result was a heartwarming, if not necessarily true, message that women are more beautiful than they think they are. The video was viewed more than 114 million times worldwide in its first month.
Dove's Real Beauty Sketches showed the difference between how women think they look and how others view them.
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Del Savio and Hoak are two of the creative forces behind some of the best work from Droga5, one of the it agencies in the advertising industry. Though Droga5 is focused on digital work, Hoak and Savio used the throwback medium of the pay phone in an awesome campaign for the New Museum's exhibit covering the year 1993.
They put stickers on every pay phone in Manhattan that advertised a phone number people could call to hear taped recordings of people telling stories about what the neighbourhood they were in was like in 1993. The recordings came from oral histories done by 150 real New Yorkers.
While it's easy to do great creative work for an art museum, Del Savio and Hoak are on the list for their work on the Prudential Challenge Lab, a beautiful, interactive site that made saving for retirement seem totally interesting.
The site used interactive quizzes to teach people about the need to save, and presented videos about the fascinating brain science that explains why people so rarely consider their future well-being when making decision in the present. The project won a Titanium Lion at Cannes for its originality.
In order to tell consumers about the importance of the Intel chip inside Toshiba laptops, Apaliski and his team came up with a remarkable social video series about the importance of inner beauty. The story centres on a person named Alex, who wakes up in a different body every morning, and a woman he falls in love with named Leah. Because Alex was a different person every day, Intel and Toshiba invited the public to try out for roles in the series and to film themselves saying certain lines of dialogue, which were then included in the series.
The six-part, 30-minute video was filled with beautiful cinematography and a compelling love story with a universal message about inner beauty. The videos were extremely creative in telling a moving story that was relevant to a product, the computer chip, that is not always easy to tell stories about.
'The Beauty Inside' was unique in the way it allowed the public to participate in telling its story, helping the film series win an unprecedented three Grand Prix awards at Cannes.
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Prior to rejoining Barbarian Group as a technology research fellow last year, Andrew Bell worked as a creative technologist at The Mill and helped Apple build its iTunes visualizer.
It was during the iTunes project that he realised the need for a creative coding framework to help people more easily develop largescale creative technology projects, which ultimately led him to his current role with Barbarian.
Bell is the lead architect of Cinder, a developing platform that serves as a toolbox for people to make impressive creative projects that specialize in touch response and three-dimensional visuals. His award-winning technology has been used across the digital creative spectrum, from agencies like Wieden + Kennedy to big-time tech companies like Google and Microsoft. Cinder is sort of hard to describe, so you'll just have to click the next slide to see all the things it can do.
Hoffman and Fitzloff's partnership was one of the most fruitful in advertising history, helping build Wieden+Kennedy's reputation as a creative dynamo and making them the most awarded creative directors three straight years between 2010 and 2012.
This past January, Fitzloff was moved to a management role as one of the firm's global coexecutive creative directors, but the work he and Hoffman did in 2012 was so good we couldn't possibly leave them off this list.
The pair worked on two of the best campaigns of 2012, namely Procter & Gamble's incredible 'The Best Job' commercial highlighting the role mothers play in raising Olympic athletes and Nike's 'Find Your Greatness' campaign, which yielded the immensely popular 'Jogger' ad.
'Jogger' received more than 5 million YouTube views and inspired its star, an overweight 12-year-old seen trudging up a hill, to lose more than 30 pounds.
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Geoffrey Hantson and Katrien Bottez made it to the top of our list by rolling out one incredible viral marketing stunt after another for Duval Guillaume. Whether its their work on TNT's 'Push to Add Drama' campaign or the extraordinary Smirnoff Mindtunes, Bottez and Hantson seem to have infinite reserves of experiential advertising creativity that works for the real-life audience, as well as the viral audience watching their work on the internet.
Together, Bottez and Hantson have been behind some of the most successful internet campaigns of the past two years. Last year, they engineered TNT's 'Push to Add Drama' campaign that brought movie-grade stunt scenes to the streets of Belgium and netted more than 47 million YouTube views.
More recently, they put together an obstacle course for commuters competing to win tickets to the latest James Bond movie and Smirnoff Mindtunes, a project that allowed music fans with disabilities to record a song using only their brain waves. Proceeds from the downloads went to a charity that works to help people with physical and learning disabilities gain new skills.
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