Recently, Business Insider asked the major ad agencies—and the more significant boutiques—to name the execs they felt were the most creative in the business.To prevent the nominations from being self-serving, we asked each agency to also nominate two executives from competing agencies—the people they’d hire, given a free hand.
Go directly to the list >
We then pored over recent award winners and creatives who have generated new and exciting buzz.
The result is a ranking of advertising’s creative elite: Their fields range from print to digital, from hilarious “Old Spice Guy” copy to provocative social media campaigns that inspire people to help their communities, to vote, to change.
The list isn’t exhaustive. We know that name-on-the-door industry giants like Lee Clow 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 newest work. Agency size, clientele, and tenure were also taken into consideration since those are factors in which creatives have the freedom to experiment. (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.
We also counted creative teams as one.
Creativity is difficult to measure in an industry that is constantly redefining itself, but here are 25 creatives that you absolutely have to know.
Tell us what you think in the comments.
Sometimes ads actually make the world a better place. Creative partners Hilzinger and Veasey created one of those campaigns and swept every award ceremony this year as a result.
Last year, Michigan's Tory Public Library was at risk of getting shut down when Tea Partiers began to lobby against the library's budget. A vote would determine the fate of the library, which their kids actually use for school projects. To generate buzz and boost voter turnout, Hilzinger and Veasey created 'The Book Burning Party'--a deceptive ploy that invited people to a book burning party on the day after the vote (making people equate voting against taxes with voting for book burning). After putting up signs around town and a Facebook campaign, the community and media were fooled. People showed up in record number to save the library and the hoax was finally revealed.
This video shows how Hilzinger and Veasey's brilliant campaign used reverse psychology to trick people into saving a library:
After spending years working at Wieden & Kennedy, BBDO, and TBWA/Chiat/Day LA, Smith decided to break off and create his own agency. Smith now runs Amusement Park Entertainment, which has a mission to create branded content for everything from film to action figures. Oh, and he has a 'No arseholes Allowed' policy--it's a sign on his door. He's scooped up incredible talent, including Donna Lamar. EXPLAIN
Smith has served as creative director for Motorola, Nike (he wrote the MTV documentary 'Battlegrounds'), and is best known for his work for Gatorade. He oversaw 'Replay,' which allowed high school sports teams to 'relive their glory days,' and re-branded Gatorade as just 'G.' Even though his new company is still developing, Kraft and Nokia are interested.
Rhett and Link have been comedy duo collaborators since meeting in the first grade at Buies Creek Elementary School in North Carolina. The comedic duo also stared in IFC's reality TV show Rhett and Link: Commercial Kings.
Rhett and Link are famous for making hilarious local-style ads for real companies, like Ojai Valley Taxidermy and Red House Furniture, 'Where black people and white people buy furniture.' They seem to have found the key to creating viral videos, Rhett and Link currently have approximately 875,000 subscribers to their YouTube page and supplement their video-making by selling sponsorships on their page.
Duval Guillaume is an 'idea-centric' communications agency that has become famous for its guerrilla marketing campaigns. The stunts merge the ridiculous with the real world, and the videos regularly go viral.
Hantson and Bottez have been the creative directors of many of Duval Guillaume's best viral videos. They are the brains behind TNT's 'Push to Add Drama' stunt (which got 3.3 million views days after it was posted), campaigns for a parenting hot line in which children sang profanity-filled carols in a shopping mall, and Carlsberg's 'Bikers' videos.
Lewis and Fitch have been friends since they were 12 and worked their way from VCCP to BMB to BBH, London.
Lewis and Fitch are the creative force behind numerous big-client campaigns, like last year's outdoor ads for Google Voice Search that showed phonetic spellings of tube stops in stations throughout London. But they've most recently made headlines for the Cannes Lion-winning 'Three Little Pigs' campaign for The Guardian. The epic two-minute spot shows how print, broadcast, online, and social media coverage might shape news coverage of a fairy tale if it occurred in real life.
Born in Milan, Cavallone is an ex-cartoonist, comic book translator, fanzine publisher and rugby player. He worked at Wieden+Kennedy as Nike, EA, Heineken, and Coca-Cola writer for nine years before he moved to Los Angeles to work for 72andSunny in 2010. He is now in the Amsterdam office.
In the words of his employers, 'Cavallone's creativity lacks method. He keeps it quite stupid, naïve and follows his instincts. It is a very emotive process and never a rational one. He hates repetition and always approaches every project in an experimental way, not knowing what will happen at the end. He believes in taking risks and they usually pay off.' His Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions for his work on Benetton's controversial UnHate campaign--featuring various politicians kissing--is proof that the risk is worth it.
Cavallone was a creative director for United colours Of Benetton's UNHATE campaign, which won the Press which won the Press Grand Prix in Cannes.
Before Austria entered the advertising world, he fuelled planes at an airport, collected carts in Costco's parking lot, and helmed the night shift at a security guard. Since then he has worked on award-winning campaigns at R/GA, AKQA, Wieden+Kennedy (building a 20 person interactive team from scratch), and most recently Deutsch LA. But a wild soul can never be tamed: Austria is currently on an advertising break and taking a four month surfing trip around the world. He'll be back in freelance capacity soon enough though.
Colleagues describe Austria as 'easily the best hybrid creative in advertising... Jerome has been able to consistently and seamlessly integrate old school brand storytelling with cutting edge technology to produce some of the most original and innovative creative ideas that the industry has ever seen.' He has worked on Coca-Cola's account, brought Dwayne Wade to Brand Jordan, created an interactive Nike commercial featuring Rihanna, and most recently created Volkswagen's 16 million view Superbowl teaser 'The Bark Side' in which dogs bark the Imperial March. He continues to do great work for VW.
Although Fallon is a Grey veteran, Fogel came to the agency two years ago after working at Devito/Verdi and DDB. They first partnered up for a Dairy Queen campaign.
This creative team is the brains behind the DirecTV ads in which everyone's lives goes completely to hell for not having ordered the television service (don't have a grandson with dog collars, reenacting scenes from 'Platoon' with Charlie Sheen). Heck, they're even Bill Clinton's favourite ads on television. Fallon told Creativity Online, 'The nice thing is we write pretty much everything together. And we both find the same shit funny. We'll feed off each other and keep working until we feel we've got it.'
In the words of his coworkers, 'Rei Inamoto is one of the most influential individuals in the marketing and creative industry today.' He has experience in advertising, technology, and design and has worked in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.
Since joining AKQA in 2004, Inamoto has worked for big-name clients including Google, Nike (featuring Lebron James), Kraft, Xbox, and Visa. But he has also made a name for himself by giving back to the community. He oversees the annual Future Lions global student advertising competition, was the driving force behind 'Creatives Unite for Japan' (following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami), and did the creative for nonprofit Pencils of Promises' 'Made with Pencils' campaign.
15. Youna Chung, Yeonjoo Lee, Youbin Bang, and Misu Yi; copywriter and art directors at Cheil Worldwide
These four women make up a creative varsity team at Cheil Worldwide in South Korea. They were the first creatives to bring a Cannes Grand Prix to Korea in 2011.
Together, these women made up a team that came out with 'Tesco's Home Plus Subway Virtual Store' which swept the awards show circuit last year. Basically, the campaign brought the grocery store experience into a subway station by blowing up an image of a super market fridge along with QR codes where the prices should go so that people can make real purchases with their phones. If one buys the items, they will be delivered by the time they get home from the subway. This mixture of ambient design and mobile commerce increased the store's online sales by 130 per cent from November 2010 to January 2011.
Bjorkman has worked at Digitas since 2004--he was previously at Y&R and Brand Buzz--and has been a strong part of the agency's evolution. He has a list of over 30 clients and his colleagues told us that 'creative: An all-around creative, strategic athlete, Lincoln is a welcome disruptor and admired leader.'
Bjorkman has developed work for clients including GM and Comcast, but one of his most recent claims to fame is his role as CCO (with Rob Reilly and Jeff Benjamin) on American Express' 'Small Business Saturday' campaign, which effectively mobilized consumers to frequent stores owned by small businesses. 'Small Business Saturday' won Facebook's inaugural advertising prize along with a Lions Grand Prix at Cannes.
Formerly at CP+B, where he worked on award winning campaigns for Burger King (remember 'Simpsonize Me' and the 'Whopper Sacrifice'?), VW, and Coke Zero, Heymann moved to Droga5 in 2009 to do digital work.
Heymann was the creative director of Jay-Z's campaign for his book, Decoded. Heymann 'hid' blown up pages from the book in cities across the U.S. and, with a cross-promotion with Bing, set up an interactive treasure hunt which led fans to the pages. The winner got a lifetime pass to Jay-Z concerts. Heymann's colleagues told us that 'Neil's background in interactive and years spent at advertising agencies has made him an industry leader in cross-media integration. That, combined with his belief in the power of interactive media to connect emotionally with an audience, has seen him develop award-winning campaigns.'
Jeffery has hopscotched from agencies around the world--Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore, King James Cape Town, TBWA Hunt Lascaris Johannesburg, Arnold in Boston--before settling in as executive creative director at David & Goliath.
If you've seen the ad with the Party Rocking hamsters driving Kias, then you're familiar with Jeffery's work. He's won a slew of Clios, Cannes Lions, One Show, and Effies. Jeffery's creative goes beyond traditional advertising and into user engagement. During NBA All-Star Weekend, he was responsible for Blake Griffin slam dunking over a Kia Optima.
Nicholson joined McKinney as a proofreader in 2004--a year later, she was creating integrated campaigns for Travelocity and Sony. Her colleagues told us that Nicholson's work 'often blurs the lines between campaign and conversation, whether she's inviting consumers to sexy text with Virgin Mobile or challenging people to play a game about homelessness.'
Nicholson is all about creative multimedia campaigns. She has put the Travelocity gnome on Chatroulette, created a Twitter enabled 'Terrible Towel' that spun around whenever a fan tweeted #steelersnation, and created 'promiscuous txt' training sessions called 'Let's have Txt' for Virgin Mobile on Valentine's Day. Nicholson says, 'Along with a team of trained operators, I personally spent 14 hours a day for almost two weeks posing as the fireman, the housewife, the nurse, the secretary, the plumber and the cowboy. As a result, I've got a vocabulary of euphemistic puns you wouldn't believe. Let's just say, it's quite sizable.'
She most notably created a Clio award winning interactive game for the Urban Ministries of Durham called SPENT which tests users' abilities to survive homelessness and poverty.
Sokoloff's colleagues told us that 'Jose Miguel is of that rare breed -- a creative leader who is also a great business leader. He is brave and constantly innovates.' He goes beyond creating traditional ads and is dedicated to big picture campaigns to achieve social justice.
Sokoloff headed a campaign called 'Operation Christmas' for the Colombian Ministry of defence that aimed to fully demobilize the FARC guerrilla terrorists from a war that has was waged over 60 years). He got investment from the Colombian government to launch a clothing line called 'Chance' that would be made and designed by former guerrilla fighter. The line launched at Bogota Fashion Week in May 2012. 'Jose Miguel made Operation Christmas one of the most awarded campaigns in the world in 2011 and 2012, winning more Grand Prix in effectiveness and creativity than any other agency in the world,' his colleagues said.
Mark Gross started his career in 1990 designing movie titles and logos in New York City. He was a junior art director at Chiat/Day in 1991, creating work for MTV, Reebok, and American Express, and then landed a gig at DDB Chicago as an art director in 1994. Oh, and he flies a Cessna in his spare time.
Gross currently oversees the creative on Skittles (you know, those strange ads where kids have skittles growing off their bodies?), Starburst, Cars.com (he did the Superbowl ad that starred a guy with two heads), and Bud Light. The creative famously penned Bud Light's 'Real Men of Genius' radio ad and has won almost every award in the book from Clios, to Grand Prix, to an Emmy for 'Outstanding Commercial.'
Karlsson has already had an illustrious career in the advertising agency. He began in a Swedish start-up agency called Paradiset that later got acquired by DDB. He then moved to Fallon and then opened the doors of Mother NY as a co-founder in 2003. He joined McCann from Mother, named Creativity's 2009 Agency of the year, in 2011.
His colleagues told us that 'Linus Karlsson leans into the future with his big conceptual vision about how brand experience needs to be created in today's technology world.' He has a reputation for transforming creative shops and has done innovative work for big name clients including: Target, Stella Artois, Coke, BMW, MTV, and NBC. Karlsson made waves as CCO on the first K-Y ad to star a lesbian couple (normalizing, rather than tantalising, their sexual preference) while at Mother, and he more recently put Charles Barkley in a dress for Weight Watchers at McCann.
As CCO, Law is responsible for the creative vision of R/GA. He has two decades of agency experience in the United States, UK, and Asia and has assumed many roles, from design to traditional advertising to digital marketing.
Law blended the aesthetically pleasing and artistic with the technologically advanced when designing the Nike+ Fuelband, a social platform that allows users to track their fitness goals and progress on cool-looking wristband. This earned R/GA two Grand Prix at Cannes.
Goldblatt moved from doing creative at Goodby to making award winning social at EVB 'while still rocking traditional creative' his colleagues mentioned.
While at Goodby, Sliverstein and Partners, Goldblatt did the creative for Subway, Comcast, Saturn, and HP--for which he co-created HP's award-winning 'hands' campaign starring Jay-Z, Jerry Seinfeld, and Serena Williams. More recently, he has done particularly noteworthy social work for Skittles ('Mob the Rainbow'), Altoids ('Curiously Strong Awards'), and Juicy Fruit ('Serenading Unicorn'). These did well at Cannes as well as Facebook's inaugural advertising awards.
Fitzloff and Hoffman helped push W+K Portland to be the critically aclaimed advertising house that it is today, reeling in some of its biggest clients yet.
We can all thank Fitzloff and Hoffman for one of the best known ad campaigns to date: Old Spice's 'The Man Your Man Can Smell Like.' They (along with Iain Tate, now at Google Creative Labs) are the reason why Isiah Mustafa was in the spots and is now a household name. 'The executive management team in Portland oversees every piece of creative from our office,' their colleagues say. That includes Chrysler's poignant 'Imported from Detroit' Superbowl campaign as well as Levi's 'Go Forth.'
When three separate big agencies nominated Graf as one of the most creative people in advertising, we knew he had secured this spot on the list. The veteran has spent time at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, BBDO NY (on two separate occasions), TBWA/Chiat/Day, and Saatchi & Saatchi NY--until he left his job as CCO to start his own shop. Graf takes creativity seriously. So seriously, in fact, that when Colleen Decourcy was on a panel with him at Creative Week and announced that she thought 'creative departments are shit' (but she's cool with the people), he stormed off the stage, never to return.
The entire advertising world is watching what BFG9000 is up to. Graf is known for his absurd, laugh out loud work. He created the 'It's time for E*Trade' campaign (remember the monkey?), did the Skittles ad where everything a man touches turns to Skittles, and has done work for FedEx, Red Stripe Beer, Kayak, and Mayor Giuliana's 'New York Miracle' campaign spot after 9/11.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.