50 Creatives Whose Brilliant Ideas and Beautiful Craft Will Make You Jealous

Meet the top U.S. agency stars from this year's Creative 100

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Last year’s inaugural edition of the Creative 100 featured 40 agency creatives—broken down into 10 chief creative officers and 30 rank-and-file creatives. This year we’ve expanded the agency section to 50 creatives (pairs and groups of three count as one entry)—and put them all together, junior and senior talent, into this one list.

We’ve also dug deeper to find younger talent whose names you might not know, but whose work you’ve undoubtedly seen over the past year. They sit side by side here with some U.S.-based global chief creative officers—showing a full range of exceptional talent from literally entry-level people to global network chiefs.

What unites all of them is a passion for the work, an incessant curiosity about the world and marketing’s evolving role in it, and some serious creative chops—from wonderfully unique, clever, business-changing ideas to remarkable executional ability. (Also, they are honored equally on this list—the order does not indicate a ranking.)

Congrats to all the honorees, whose work is the envy of the agency business.

John Matejczyk

Executive Creative Director
Muh-tay-zik Hof-fer, San Francisco

A veteran of Y&R, Goodby Silverstein (twice), Fallon, BBH, TBWA\Chiat\Day and 180LA, Matejczyk in 2009 opened Muh-tay-zik Hof-fer, which has produced breakthrough work for Google, Netflix, Audi and AAA. “There is always a way,” he says. “A way to pull it off, a way to make a brand fresh, a way to solve a problem. The best work is always the result of persistence.” That dogged approach crosses styles and mediums, from the Super Bowl (for SoFi) to the murkier corners of the internet. Recent hits include turning wifi network names at the New York Auto Show into Audi attack ads on BMW; holding a 24-hour video-game auto race on Twitch for Audi (synced to the real-life Le Mans race); celebrating glorious messes for cleaning brand Method; and Periscoping a guinea pig whose movements in a cardboard box amusingly advised college kids whether to study or watch Netflix.

Rohan Cooke and Laura Petruccelli

Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

This Australian pair arrived from Grey Melbourne in 2014 and have been integral to several remarkable GS&P campaigns. They dreamed up Sonic’s exquisite “Square Shakes”—milkshakes designed for, and sold on, Instagram. They also worked on the sobering “Unacceptable Acceptance Letters” campaign about sexual assault on campus. They like to take cultural tensions and flip them to find something new. “Instagram was made for food, so why not make a food for Instagram? Students upload happy films of the moment they open their college acceptance letters, but would they be this happy if they knew that one in five [college women] would be sexually assaulted?” Petruccelli says. Adds Cooke: “We challenge ourselves to collect insights every day in everything we do. There’s really no excuse when the internet shares millions of them every second. When you match the right one with the right brief, you get the rare opportunity to make a little piece of culture yourself.”

Susan Credle

Global Chief Creative Officer

Advocate of the everlasting, enemy of the ephemeral, FCB’s new global CCO is steering her agency toward what she calls “Never Finished Ideas.” “I am most proud of ideas that endure,” Credle says. “Too often we define success one creative execution at a time. That’s a very short-term measurement considering what our amazing industry is capable of.” A “Never Finished Idea” is one that can be expressed in a multitude of ways over long periods of time, creating richer equity and lasting returns for brands. “The comedic ensemble that is the M&M’s characters, Secret deodorant’s ‘Mean Stinks’ anti-bullying work and Allstate’s Mayhem campaign are all examples of this kind of thinking,” Credle says. “At FCB, our work for Nivea Sun is becoming a Never Finished Idea. Never Finished Ideas are all around us. As an industry, we need the vision and the patience to invest in them.”

Alexander Nowak and Felix Richter

Group Creative Directors
Droga5, New York

These two GCDs are enjoying a creative run perhaps unmatched in U.S. advertising today. Their Under Armour campaigns with Gisele Bündchen and Michael Phelps won Grand Prix at successive Cannes festivals (and has also won a gold Clio), and “The Piccards” for Hennessy is one of the most visually beguiling spots of the decade—a mix of “complex storytelling and transcendental undertones,” according to Richter. “We enjoy the executional part of our job just as much as the conceptual one,” he adds. Nowak says the goal is simple: “We always try to make work that makes you feel something.” That mix of craft and emotion has made them stars at an agency that isn’t short on talent. “Alex and Felix are two of my favorite thinkers and instigators,” says David Droga. “Not just for their pure creativity but for their incredible intellect and relentlessness. Good people who make good things for good reasons.”

Jaime Robinson

Chief Creative Officer
Joan Creative, New York

Robinson—who started out as a writer at Mad Dogs & Englishmen, got famous at Pereira & O’Dell (for Intel and Toshiba’s multiple Grand Prix winner “The Beauty Inside”) and rose to lead Wieden + Kennedy New York’s creative department—has enjoyed a new challenge lately: opening her own shop, Joan Creative, with Lisa Clunie. “Picking the name and creating branding for our new agency has been one of the most thrilling things ever,” she says. As they get the place up and running (General Mills is their first account), Robinson has a simple philosophy for creative management: “A little warmth and generosity can really help bring out maximum creativity in others. And it pays dividends—the more open and optimistic people you can bring into the process, the more you new and exciting things you can discover. That’s why a lot of the work I’ve been involved with has had some kind of participatory element.”

David Littlejohn

Chief Creative Director
Humanaut, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Littlejohn caught the invention bug as a CP+B copywriter in late ’00s, working on brand projects like Domino’s Pizza Tracker and Best Buy Twelpforce. He opened Humanaut in 2013 as a “brand invention agency” to invent products and help other brands launch things the world has never seen. Among its more notable projects: introducing SodaStream’s newest bottle-saving home sodamaker during the Super Bowl, and crafting hilarious viral spots for Organic Valley, including “Save the Bros.” “If you want to be truly innovative, you have to assume you don’t already know the answer to the problem,” says Littlejohn, who pushes his team to “experiment, fail and learn as quickly as possible.” He adds: “Getting to help brands innovate that are actually doing good in the world, like Organic Valley, is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”

Avery Oldfield and Adam Wolinsky

Art Director and Copywriter
Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco

A grad school professor told this young pair that everything they make should surprise or delight. “We try not to disappoint him too badly,” they say now. Their recent work has been particularly undisappointing—including REI’s smash hit #OptOutside, the anti-Black Friday campaign that won the coveted Titanium Grand Prix (and a Promo Grand Prix) at Cannes last month. “Being in advertising, it was a pretty amazing and bizarre experience to work on a campaign whose sole purpose was to not sell anything,” Wolinsky and Oldfield say. In addition to making Thumbtack’s first national TV and out-of-home campaign, the pair are also proud of their 2015 Google spot about a gym for transgender men in Kansas City. Their approach to most projects is simple: “We just throw stuff out until we hit a wall. Then we either go for a walk, or look at dogs on Instagram. Sometimes both.”

Margaret Keene

Executive Creative Director
MullenLowe, Los Angeles

“Who needs Tinder when you’ve got tasty food? It’s always been the best aphrodisiac.” That trusim led Keene to make one of 2016’s most viral ads, Knorr’s “Love at First Taste.” And it wasn’t her only food-themed triumph this year. During the Super Bowl, she had client California Avocados post Twitter videos showing how avocados can pair with food and drink brands advertising on the game (from Budweiser to Snickers). Keene, who started her career as the switchboard operator at Chiat/Day (and was once Lee Clow’s creative assistant), also works on Acura and Patrón. Among her tips for creatives: “Try hard to find out what makes people tick, and build something real from that. Don’t be precious about the work. Be willing to beat it up to get to a better place. Make something your mom, your dad, your kid, your dog likes. Make work that matters to real people.”

Keith Cartwright

Executive Creative Director
Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Sausalito, Calif.

Earlier this year, BSSP acquired Union Made Creative, the shop Cartwright had founded and run as chief creative officer four years earlier, and no wonder. The boutique was doing top-notch work for clients like GE, eBay, Nike, Chipotle and Lego—for which it made the fantastic girl-power anthem “Keep Building” in 2014. Cartwright himself brought a history of working on other top brands, including Jordan at Wieden + Kennedy. At BSSP, he’s been part of a major creative win on Uber and helped the agency add work from Allergan and PowerBar. “Part of our responsibility is figuring out how to infuse culturally relevant thinking into what our clients make and do,” he says. “So how do we do that in a way that’s nimble and current and doesn’t ignore the basic principle of our business, which has been and will always be about narrative, stories and ideas?”

Jose Ripol and Samantha Salzano

Copywriter and Senior Art Director
DigitasLBi, New York

Failure as a kind of success is a cliché in the creative arts. But for this young team, it was suddenly and literally true—they turned a big disappointment into an even bigger triumph. The Orange Rose they created as a symbol of maternal health fell short at Cannes Young Lions in 2015, but was picked up and used this past Mother’s Day by Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit run by Christy Turlington Burns. “It was an idea we thought would never become a reality. Being able to bring it to life was a big deal for us,” says Salzano. “The idea of using my skills for campaigns that can truly impact the lives of others was something I dreamed of ever since I was in college,” adds Ripol. To use another cliché, these two creatives rely on both inspiration and perspiration. “There’s something to be said about your subconscious … Sometimes sleeping on it really pays off,” says Ripol. Adds Salzano of her approach: “Make things that people want. Stay weird. And work really fucking hard.”

Ferdinando Verderi

Creative Director
Johannes Leonardo, New York

An Italian based in New York, Verderi sees the audience—which is constantly reinterpreting and reappropriating ideas—as a medium and not a destination for advertising. “For that reason, I am attracted to ideas that act as open questions as opposed to closed statements, that expose contradictions as opposed to selling self-proclaimed truths, and that provoke a paradigm shift in how we look at things as opposed to reinforcing the perspective we wish to believe in,” he says. Expressions of this approach include Verderi’s “Future” campaign for Adidas Originals, which challenges the status quo of a dystopian future. Self-taught, and with an academic background well outside advertising, Verderi subverted typical publishing with another recent project—a book about Jefferson Hack that he co-edited, art directed and designed in a limited edition of 5,000 copies, each with its own unique cover. “I saw it as a challenge to the idea of creative control that the fashion industry usually imposes on its image making,” he says. “We did the opposite of what a retrospective project is expected to do: Instead of respectfully placing these precious images from archives on the cover, we disrespectfully let a machine hack them to create something new, and instead of talking about one person’s past, we talked about the future of a generation.”

Jess Greenwood

VP of Strategy
R/GA, New York

An ex-journalist, Greenwood takes a story-driven approach to help brands navigate the chaotic intersection of brand strategy, content and creativity. She has overseen strategy for clients like Nike, Verizon, Tiffany and Samsung and now leads R/GA’s 40-person activation strategy team. In the past, strategists mostly had to be clever, she says. Today, they have to be helpful, in ways that are ever changing—using constant learning and collaboration to keep up with “the platforms, the behaviors, the cultures and the currencies” that clients need to know. Aside from brand work, Greenwood is also a founding member of Papel e Caneta, a global creative and strategy collective for social good, through which she co-created #asktransfolks, a social video project where anyone can ask a question about the trans experience and get a personal reply. The end game? “To create a world that’s a little kinder and safer for all of us,” she says.

Chris Adams

Chief Creative Officer
Phenomenon, Los Angeles

Adams and his agency were the creative force behind the rollout of one of the year’s most fascinating tech products—the Wilson X Connected Basketball. Phenomenon named it, developed the graphic ID on the ball, and designed the packaging, website, UX/UI for the mobile app and the ad campaign that launched it. “It’s all the stuff we love to do, all brought together in one beautiful and incredibly fun-to-use product,” Adams says. The TBWA and Saatchi veteran ran his own boutique, adams&partners, before the jump to Phenomenon. “I’m a pretty optimistic person, so I’m never looking to kill ideas,” he says of his creative approach. “I’m always looking for ideas I can fall in love with. When I see them, whether it’s a fully formed idea or just a scrap, I can usually see the potential for how the conversation will play out across all kinds of media.”

Paulo Ribeiro and Nilesh Ashra

Co-Directors of The Lodge
Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

The coolest part of one of the world’s coolest agencies? It might just be The Lodge at W+K. Its 20 rogue experimenters, led by Ashra and Ribiero, are rethinking how creativity and technology meet—via things like hardware engineering, experience design, CG, VR and AI. Their work often just feels magical. For example: the functioning Verizon network they built inside the video game Minecraft; the musical-paper project Soundsketch; their Slackbot named Mimic; or their little furry robot, Needybot, that roams W+K talking to people. “We’ve been trying [innovative tech] for years with some amazing successes—Chalkbot, Old Spice Responses. Now in The Lodge we are focusing on just that,” Ribiero says. Ashra adds: “We’ve assembled curious-minded experts in machine learning, interaction design, real-time graphics, architecture, sensor technology and other emergent parts of technology that we think could blow up how everything in the world works.”

Nichole Geddes

Associate Creative Director
Heat, San Francisco

A little humor goes a long way—at the agency, and in the work—according to this ACD, whose “Be Slightly Adventurous” campaign for Hotwire and “Madden: The Movie” idea for EA showed formidable comic chops. “People remember the things that made them laugh, things that entertain them,” Geddes says. “So often, advertising can get to you, but as long as we know we are making commercials and not trying to win a Nobel Prize, we can keep it all in perspective.” The five-year Heat veteran—whose extracurriculars include mothering “a sassy 80-pound ball of fur” named Kaiyuh and tending to “a pretty insane stamp collection”—says this year has been all about getting bigger, both for Adweek’s Breakthrough Agency of the Year and the work she’s doing for it. “I feel really lucky our clients keep letting me make the bigger, weirder and crazier ideas for their campaigns,” she says.

Linus Karlsson

Chief Creative Officer, Ming Utility and Entertainment, New York
Creative Chairman, Commonwealth/McCann

More than 25 years into his career, Karlsson is enjoying a creative renaissance. He and Paul Malmstrom, aka “the Swedes,” stormed America in 1996, electrifying Fallon before co-founding Mother New York. After serving as McCann’s global CCO for several years, Karlsson is now creative chairman on its global Chevrolet business—and has started Ming, a creative shop at the intersection of design, technology and entertainment. He is thrilled to be writing again, and Ming is finding its identity with clients like Swire Group, Ikea, Polaroid and Smith Optics—for which he produced an amusing series of anti-marketing fishing spots. “To some of my blue-collar friends back home I am a ‘fantasizer.’ I love that,” Karlsson says. “Imagination is the most important thing in the world. Combined with stubbornness and a drive to get things done, [it’s] what changes the world.” He adds: “I haven’t felt stronger, clearer and more creative in my entire career. My head literally explodes every day, thinking of what’s possible.”

Bianca Guimarães

Associate Creative Director
BBDO, New York

Like so many talented creatives, this young Brazilian—a rising star at BBDO following five years at JWT—is often driven by insecurity. “The truth is that every time I’m done with a project, there’s that feeling that there is something I could’ve done better, but that pushes me to keep improving my ideas and the way they’re executed,” she says. Her ideas and executions have been top-notch lately. Triumphs include “Invisible Faces” for the NYPD Missing Persons Bureau, which put actual missing people’s faces on storefront mannequins; “Fit Nesting Dolls” for CrossFit chain Brick to show how you’ll slim down; and particularly, her Autism Speaks work—including the gorgeous 3-D stop-motion “World of Autism” animations. As for her downtime? “I like to play volleyball as a way to distract my mind and give it a rest,” she says. “That definitely helps me stay creatively fresh.”

Chris Avantaggio

Associate Creative Director
The VIA Agency, Portland, Maine

A former pro snowboarder and onetime CP+B intern, Avantaggio has been with VIA since 2007. This year he won his first One Show Pencil (a silver) for art directing a series of Greenpeace illustrations of tuna fish—filled with graphic scenes of unsustainable fishing practices and human rights abuses. “I like to approach every project with a strong consideration for striking visuals and concise messaging,” he says. Among his other favorite work of late: a website redesign for Maine Beer Company that put stories first and the beer second; a full branding and identity project for Portland’s Press Hotel; and a TV campaign for Perdue Chicken featuring real employees in a real chicken house. He also runs a successful side business as founder and creative director of the Maine lifestyle brand LiveME, whose clothing and other merchandise are becoming ubiquitous across the state.

Pum Lefebure

Chief Creative Officer
Design Army, Washington, D.C.

Lefebure, who came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student from Thailand, opened Design Army with her husband Jake in 2003. From the beginning, they were extremely selective about the clients and projects they take in. “I believe you can’t do epic shit for basic people,” Pum says. Among the epic shit she’s produced lately is the gorgeously hip and quirky “Our Family Knows Glasses” spot for Georgetown Optician. “At Design Army we are known for our unique point of view, and the best combinations of beauty and wit,” Lefebure says. “Every single element in this film was carefully planned. Beauty IS the detail. Design IS the idea.” Of her creative approach, she adds: “It has always been vital to keep reinventing myself over and over and to never loose sight of the aesthetic/vocabulary that I have built. As a designer, you have to have a distinct point of view.”

Colin Jeffery

Chief Creative Officer
David&Goliath, Los Angeles

Few car guys have had as much advertising success as Colin Jeffery. After overseeing Volkswagen at Arnold, the South Africa native moved to D&G in 2006 and soon created the Kia hamsters, which have starred in some of the most viewed spots of all time (and have won multiple Effie awards). The ex-TBWA Hunt Lascaris and Saatchi Singapore creative is also proud of Kia’s “The Truth” campaign, which had LeBron James respond directly to tweets skeptical that he drove a Kia (he does); and the world-record 80-foot-tall Jack in the Box coupon he hung from a building on on Sunset Boulevard. “I ask lots of questions. The more questions you ask, the more likely you are to discover something truly unexpected,” he says of his process. “People aren’t sitting around waiting for your next ad. Be surprising. Tell them something they don’t already know. Show them something they haven’t seen before.”

Click below to see the rest of the 50 Creatives list:

Kimberly Linn
Creative Director
Pitch, Los Angeles

For Linn, it’s all about the visuals. “As an art director by trade, the creative process for me, nine out of 10 times, begins with a single key image that will help tell a story,” she says. The former Dentsu and FCB creative has been telling stories at Pitch since 2013, and is particularly fond of her work for Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and Pepsi’s 1893 soda. For the OITNB spots, “everything was shot first-person POV to put viewers in the shoes of Litchfield’s newest inmate. We hid Easter eggs in each spot for superfans that led to some pretty great digital activations,” she says. For 1893, she created the Soda Sommelier character, who “elevated the product while making fun of the artisanal/craft foodie trend.” The most compelling ideas, Linn says, “are generally the ones that can be explained in a sentence or two. For me, it just so happens to begin with an image, and then a sentence.”

Karen Costello

Executive Creative Director
Deutsch, Los Angeles

Costello pulled off one of the great high-wire acts in advertising this year—Deutsch’s live music video for Target starring Gwen Stefani that aired in real time on the Grammys. “The bravery that idea took to execute is staggering,” Costello says. “It was unbelievably hard. Unbelievably risky. And unbelievably rewarding. … I’m lucky, honored and pinch myself every day that I get to partner with clients like Target.” Costello, who also works on Zillow and the Georgia-Pacific brands Angel Soft and Vanity Fair, was the 12th employee hired at Deutsch L.A. office, back in 1997. She’s seen it all at the agency, and found a balance in the work. “Be brave but not reckless,” she says. “I love doing things that haven’t been done before. But ideas should always be grounded in a true human insight and based on real consumer needs or desires. That’s the ‘not reckless’ part.”


Anselmo Ramos

Chief Creative Officer
David, Miami

Ramos’s remarkable run of Burger King work includes 2014’s “Proud Whopper” (which last year won a Grand Clio Award) and this year’s “Whopper Sign,” which got fans to come up with sign language for the Whopper on National American Sign Language Day. David also contributed to Y&R’s world-beating “McWhopper” campaign, and got into the Super Bowl with the adorable Heinz Ketchup weiner dogs. Other hits include the “Man Boobs” PSA, made with David’s Buenos Aires office. “We look for firsts,” Ramos says. “Firsts are uncomfortable, time-consuming and don’t come with any guarantees. … At the same time, firsts generate stronger emotional connections and more views and clicks.” The agency doesn’t wait for client briefs, either. “Each brand is an open brief,” Ramos says. “We can sometimes become a pain in the ass to our clients, and sometimes they tell us to get lost. But at the end of the day, they appreciate it. I just want to do something my Aunt Maria Lucia will understand and forward to her friends.”

Marissa Shrum

Strategy Director
Mother, New York

Shrum is a cultural excavator, tapping into movements big and small—everything from female body image to the convergence of dance subcultures in New York and New Orleans—to inform her creative and strategy work for clients like Microsoft and Target’s Style business. Recent successes include Target’s #NOFOMO self-love and personal confidence campaign for summer, and Microsoft’s “One Million Square Feet of Culture” creative community building project. “Love comes first,” Shrum says of the work. “Loving people, loving culture. Being fascinated by, curious about and obsessed with the ugly, embarrassing parts the weird parts just as much as the fun, silly and pretty parts of people and society. Loving people enough that you want to use your resources to help them. That Mary J. Blige real love. For your team, for the community you want to connect with, for the brand.”

Pete Harvey

Executive Creative Director
barrettSF, San Francisco

Harvey’s background is partly in entertainment (he launched Arnold’s branded entertainment division a decade ago), and few recent ads have been as entertaining as barrettSF’s “Sports Alphabet” for Bleacher Report—26 differently styled animations, one for each letter, set to a rap song about sports by Blackalicious. His work has also gotten amusingly weird—including ads for the California Redwood Association with a talking plank of wood as spokesman. Harvey’s advice is simple: Be curious, and have fun. “This isn’t rocket surgery,” he says. “Our job is to fill up a blank page with a unique thought. As far as jobs go, that’s about as good as it gets.” He’s also added some levity to the current election season—creating “Pieces of Shit For Trump,” which involved placing tiny pro-Trump signs in piles of actual dog shit around San Francisco. “Unfortunately,” he says, “the campaign was wildly successful.”

Daniela Vojta, Priti Kapur and Susan Young

Executive Creative Directors
McCann, New York

Who better to help close the gender gap in science than three talented advertising women—from Rio de Janeiro, Delhi and Minneapolis—working together on Microsoft? Their “Girls Do Science” and “Make What’s Next” campaigns for the tech giant, as well as the “Why can’t girls code?” spots for the nonprofit Girls Who Code, are insightful, inspiring manifestos for the cause. “I enjoy stereotypes being busted, whether gender, racial, cultural or in advertising,” says Kapur. “It probably has something to do with the fact that I am a foreigner, a woman in advertising, left handed and seriously nocturnal.” Adds Vojta: “Between the three of us, we can pretty much run a little global agency. We work incredibly hard and set the bar really high, but it doesn’t feel like work because we really enjoy each other’s company and ideas flow really well.” “Creative endurance is what we preach,” says Young. “No matter what kind of obstacles get in the way, we’re all about finding new solves that we love just as much as the original idea. Or at least, almost as much.” • Photo: Katie Henry, McCann NY

Joey Ianno and Matty Smith

Creative Directors
Barton F. Graf, New York

Barton F. Graf’s Supercell work has been supercharged for years. But Ianno and Smith, five-year veterans of the shop, stepped things up this year with a 360° video for Clash of Clans and an integrated campaign and media takeover for Boom Beach that began offline and culminated with the reveal of a super weapon inside the game itself. The pair’s creative philosophies are certainly intriguing. Says Smith: “Always listen to that little creative voice inside your head that’s telling you what to do. For me, that voice is [VCU Brandcenter professor] Mark Fenske’s, which means I usually start the creative process by grilling bratwursts and watching a White Sox game. Once I’m done doing that, then I get to work.” Adds Ianno: “Try to do a blimp execution first. Everybody hates campaigns centered around blimps. Then in the second round, when you come in with something that is not blimp related, it seems like a big step up.”

Stacy Milrany

Creative Director
Publicis, Seattle

T-Mobile added 11 million new customers and jumped from fourth to third in the wireless category over the past year, much of it thanks to the “Un-carrier” campaign, which Milrany leads at Publicis. “We make 30-40 spots a year,” says the ex-Goodby Silverstein creative, who credits her team for bringing “the same problem-solving creativity to round 19 as they do to round 1, and that makes all the difference.” A self-described “recovering perfectionist,” Milrany has learned the value of mistakes. “I have a quote taped to my wall that says, ‘Make 100 things. 50 you have to like a lot. 50 you have to hate,’ ” she says. “I apply that quote to every creative arena in my life—including advertising. You’ve got to fight for the ideas you love, but it’s good to remember the crap ideas are crucial to uncovering the great ones. Plus, it makes the creative process more fun. And having fun is something else that’s crucial if you’re going to create something that’s worth anything.”

James Rogala and Corel Theuma

Creative Directors

These two CDs spearheaded a pair of fascinating projects this year. For “Canon Photo Coach,” they put up digital billboards in highly photographed areas and gave real-time tips—based on light, weather, time, etc.—to the amateur photographers taking pics there. For the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, they invented Adaptoys, the first adapted versions of popular toys that allow people with paralysis to engage in active play with their families. It’s not just about having a great idea, they say. “Good things come to those who hustle. Great work rarely just falls out of an assignment. You have to keep finding little nuggets to turn into great ideas.” Also, they add, rethinking an approach because of constraints can actually make the work stronger. “The challenge is to avoid complicating a smart, simple idea just to make it feel more expansive.”

Toygar Bazarkaya

Chief Creative Officer of the Americas
Havas Worldwide

The longtime BBDO exec joined Havas last year to strengthen its creative work and help its North and South American offices collaborate better in a changing business. “One thing will never change—we are an idea-driven industry that solves problems,” he says. “What has changed dramatically is the tools at our disposal. Data, cognitive technology, entertainment and a new breed of talent demand a new way of collaborating that our industry has not seen yet. There is no doubt that those who don’t embrace it will fall behind.” Among the recent Havas projects he is proud of: the Most Interesting Man in the World’s farewell for Dos Equis and the Sony project “Bob Dylan: Studio A Revisited.” “We made a legend relevant to a younger generation that couldn’t care less,” he says. “We created everything within the four walls of Havas New York. Fast, inexpensive and great. Yes, it’s possible.”

Carissa Levine and Jose Eslinger

Associate Creative Directors
Innocean USA, Los Angeles

Making your first Super Bowl spot is exciting. Seeing it hit No. 1 on USA Today’s Ad Meter is ridiculous. Eslinger and Levine enjoyed just such a charmed life this winter with Hyundai’s “First Date” starring Kevin Hart, selected from 600 concepts at the agency. “When we sold our idea through, it already felt like a major victory. When it went on to win first place, our minds were blown,” Levine says. The pair have been together for five years across four agencies. “It’s hard to find someone you can stand being around for 10-plus hours daily. Day after day after day,” says Eslinger. “When you find your creative soulmate, you’d best hold on to them. Because that’s when magic happens.” And for these two, magic often means comedy. “I think it’s in our DNA to try to make it funny,” they say. “I guess deep down inside we must’ve been clowns in a past life. Not the creepy kind.”

Paula Maki

Managing Creative Director
mono, San Francisco

Maki’s first employer, Ken Pentel, lost the 1998 Minnesota governor’s race to a pro wrestler, but Maki didn’t sour on sports as result. In fact, she likens creative leadership in advertising—she’s since worked at Fallon and mono in Minneapolis—to being a personal trainer. “Creativity, like fitness, is a journey and doesn’t just happen overnight,” she says. “Not everyone is at the same skill level and shouldn’t be treated as such. But with a little coaching and focus, everyone has the potential to do things they never thought possible.” Maki is proud of award-winning projects she’s done for Blu Dot (“The Real Good Experiment” and “Swap Meet”), Target (“The Everyday Collection Tweet-to-Runway Show”), Holiday Inn (“The Business Guys”) and MSNBC (“Lean Forward”). “But the work I’m most proud of right now is opening and growing mono’s first outpost in San Francisco,” she says.

Jay Benjamin

Chief Creative Officer
Saatchi & Saatchi, New York

Benjamin’s openness to change might account for the impressive range of work Saatchi New York is doing these days. “If you are curious, and if you want to keep getting better, your [creative] philosophy evolves every day,” he says. “At the moment I would say mine is this: Find the truth. Be brave in how you tell it. Dive headfirst into the unknown.” Recent highlights include Pampers’ #BetterForBaby platform, Walmart’s “Greenlight a Vet” movement, and the Lucky Charms “Marshmallow Only” contest—offering 10 boxes of the magically delicious cereal with only marshmallows, no toasted oats. Benjamin also likes a little chaos in his department. “I try to leave room for people to bring their own unique perspectives to all the work we do,” he says. “That’s what makes creative departments really interesting. Clashes of culture, taste and senses of humor keep the work from getting dull.”

Nikki Baker and Leslie Shaffer

Creative Directors
GSD&M, Austin, Texas

Baker and Shaffer, who lead creative on Southwest Airlines and Walgreens Beauty, try not to take themselves, or the job, too seriously. “This should be fun,” they say. “We all just want to make good stuff, so we try to put our heads down, do that, and not be assholes about it. Don’t get us wrong, we definitely get moody, but wine usually helps.” And the work? “We aren’t making art. We are hired to create work that drives business, and that isn’t going to be a pure artistic process.” Luckily, they have side projects (a weekly podcast called Last Week’s Balls, a screenplay and TV pilot in the works) and fun client work—including the Southwest rebrand (comically, each claims to have coined the word “Transfarency”) and the Walgreens Beauty web series “Kate & Heather,” which is produced entirely by women. That latter fact wasn’t intentional. “That said, you definitely feel the absence of males in the work in the best way—these insights are real,” the say. “Women watch these videos and tag their friends: ‘This is so you!’ ‘This is so us!’ Doesn’t get much better than that.”

Laurent Leccia

Creative Director
Fred & Farid, New York

Leccia was the creative lead on one of the most intriguing campaigns of 2015—a movie sponsored by Remy Cointreau, shot by Robert Rodriguez and starring John Malkovich that won’t be seen for 100 years, when the brand’s Louis XIII cognac bottled today is finally ready to be opened. It’s an audacious idea, but fully in keeping with Leccia’s creative approach. “Big ideas are always built on a universal/human insight, supported by solid storytelling,” he says. “We built our communication on a universal insight: inaccessibility, and how it creates curiosity, desire and sometimes envy. Louis XIII cognac takes 100 years to be crafted. We thought its communication should do the same.” The Corsica native adds: “Without showing a single image of the actual movie, we got the world’s attention. … We created a unique brand platform based on a product truth. We knew everybody would be interested in something they can’t see, as it’s terribly human.”

Corinna Falusi

Chief Creative Officer
Ogilvy & Mather, New York

A native of Germany, Falusi spent a decade at StrawberryFrog before arriving at Ogilvy, where she was named New York CCO last year. “I am a delusional optimist. I believe anything is possible. Every time, again and again,” she says of her approach to creativity. She’s proudest of three recent campaigns—Coke Zero’s drinkable advertising, offering product samples through everything from billboards to TV and radio spots; Philips Norelco’s videos with stylist Mark Bustos giving free haircuts to the homeless; and TypeVoice, created for the Webby Awards, which allows users to make a custom typeface simply by speaking. All of it required the chaos of collaboration. “Everybody wants to find ideas that are different,” Falusi says. “The best way to get there is working with a wide mix of talent and personalities. Combine a neurotic typographer with an egocentric coder and wonderful things can happen.”

José and Joaquin Mollá

Chief Creative Officers
the community, Miami

The Molla brothers opened their cross-cultural agency in 2001 (they sold it to SapientNitro in 2014) and currently work with brands including Verizon, BMW, Google, Converse, Corona and Modelo Especial. Their strength, first and foremost, is knowing what they don’t know. “Yes, we have experience, but if you pretend to know everything you’ll never get to the unexpected,” they say. “It’s not about having all the answers, but asking the right questions to get to what’s happening culturally right now. That’s how you keep brands interesting.” Their favorite recent work includes a Verizon campaign to make prepaid cool for millennials, and Corona’s “Dear Summer” work. Oh, and a little campaign called “Never Stop Riding” for the City of Buenos Aires’ 24-hour bike program—which happened to win a Grand Prix at Cannes, as well as multiple golds at the Clio Awards. “We’re just hungry minds, fed by curiosity,” the brothers say. “We celebrate intuition.”

Hannah Fishman

Executive Creative Director
DDB, New York

Passionate about making work that moves society forward, Fishman had a big hit with her #SelfAcceptanceSpeech campaign for Johnson & Johnson’s Clean & Clear during MTV’s Video Music Awards last August—with real teen girls talking about how they love themselves. “Literally within moments after the spot aired, teen girls started creating their own self-acceptance speech content on Twitter and Instagram using our hashtag,” she says. “Nothing gets me more excited than making work like this that inspires an audience to evolve and own a conversation that we started.” The ex-Edelman Digital creative, who also oversees creative for Electrolux, not only wants to tap into culture but create it through the work. “I love how the channel lines have blurred,” she says, “and a brief for a TV spot can actually be an incredible opportunity to activate a powerful social movement.”

Gustavo Lauría

Chief Creative Officer
We Believers, New York

Lauría and his 2-year-old agency became instantly famous for the edible six-pack rings they invented for Saltwater Brewery—a biodegradable replacement for plastic six-pack rings, made with by-products of the brewing process, which feed marine animals instead of killing them. The case study was an enormous hit on Facebook (150 million-plus views in two months), and the project won four Lions in Cannes, included a coveted Innovation Lion. Lauría, who spent eight years at la comunidad and is also president of the U.S. Hispanic Creative Circle, opened We Believers as a hybrid between an ad agency, consulting firm and innovation company. “We create work that is as good for the clients as for the agency; if it is good for real, it will bring bright results for both,” he says. “To make that happen, it is key to believe truly in what you do, because good things and people will follow you.”

Mike Costello and Pete Lefebvre

Associate Creative Directors
Leo Burnett, Chicago

Your first trip to Cannes Lions is always memorable. These guys made theirs singularly epic, winning 14 Lions last month for their amazing full-scale replica of Van Gogh’s bedroom, rentable on Aibnb, promoting an Art Institute of Chicago exhibit. The idea was inspired; the craft, stunning. “The one-of-a-kind nature of that experience made it special. We like ideas tactile like that, and feel they really make stronger connections with people,” Costello and Lefebvre say. Also this year, the pair had Allstate’s Mayhem character re-enact real-life DIY fails found on Twitter—part of their effort to use tech “in weird, maybe subversive ways.” “We want to create ideas that make genuine, purposeful connections, ideas that feel authentic to the brand and relevant to culture,” they say. “Those most always begin with a human insight. And if we can’t find that, we just get a banging track.”

Click below to see the rest of the 50 Creatives list:

Lora Schulson
Director of Production
72andSunny, New York

Schulson sees producers not as facilitators but as makers and creative problem-solvers, helping to craft great work “at speed, at volume, effectively and affordably.” “When you look at budgets and timelines as creative challenges instead of constraints, and look at the production approach itself as a creative deliverable, it can make the difference between the work being awesome, or just OK,” she says. Case in point: 72andSunny’s “ANTIdiaRy” work with Rihanna for Samsung, or a host of Smirnoff projects—like the #KeepItMoving campaign with deaf dance teacher Chris Fonseca, and the Smirnoff Drinks Engine ecosystem of social content, which Schulson calls “artistic, nimble, utilitarian and cost-effective.” Oh, and also Seventh Generation’s “Vajingle” video. “Maya Rudolph singing a jingle about chemical-free feminine care and her vajayjay,” says Schulson. “Nothing could make me more proud.”

Donald Chesnut

Global Chief Creative Officer

Technology informs much of Chesnut’s work, but it’s a means to an end. “The work must always demonstrate how technology is being used to empower consumers and make her or his life better, not just sell more product,” says the longtime user experience specialist. He’s also a champion of varied, user-first solutions that are highly crafted. “When you are looking at a client problem—be it communications, sales or customer experience—a diverse approach that includes a wide variety of people and capabilities such as communications, design, technology and user experience can frequently unlock an innovative way to solve the problem,” he says. His favorite recent work at SapientNitro includes a new app for the Miami Heat that enriches the fan experience and is also a vehicle for commerce, ticketing, media, and marketing partnerships; and the Ad Council’s “Save the Food” campaign, showing a strawberry’s life from farm to table.

Patrick Figueroa

Creative Director
Fallon, Minneapolis

The TBWA and KBS veteran originally wanted to design video games, and he’s also made digital experiences for Universal and Paramount Pictures. That entertainment background is a good reminder that advertising has to be just as likable. “Don’t try to hide the ad,” he says. “Just make it so disarming and charming that people are all like, ‘Hey, brand, please advertise to me some more.’ ” In four years at Fallon, Figueroa has led work on Cadillac, H&R Block, Talenti, Faribault Woolen Mills, and most recently, WhiteWave Foods brands including International Delight and Silk’s Nutchello. “The hardest thing about being a creative director is to refrain from creative directing my 5-year-old daughter’s artwork,” he jokes. “I just want that giraffe drawing to be the best giraffe drawing a drawing can be, you know? But sometimes you just have to let that giraffe head look totally disproportionate to its body. I’m OK with that.”

Debbi Vandeven

Global Chief Creative Officer

It’s no wonder VML’s award-winning “Super Bowl Dunk” Snapchat filter for Gatorade is among Vandeven’s favorite projects lately. It lives in that VML sweet spot between creativity and technology, between communications and experiences. It was also beloved by the target, fulfilling the agency’s goal of “driving a human connection between brands and their consumers,” says Vandeven. Having worked on global brands including Colgate-Palmolive, Dell, Ford, Kellogg, MasterCard, PepsiCo, QuikTrip, Sprint and Wendy’s in her 16 years at VML, she is also particularly fond of VML’s recent work for the International Olympic Committee leading up to the Rio Games, showcasing the Olympics as a force of good that can build a better world through sport. “I am very proud of VML’s involvement in celebrating Olympic values,” she says, “and what we can all learn by coming together.”

Bobby Hershfield

Chief Creative Officer
SS+K, New York

Hershfield worked on the account side for years before switching to copywriting and enjoying great success at Wieden + Kennedy, Ogilvy & Mather and Mother—before becoming SS+K’s CCO in 2012. Along with President Obama’s re-election campaign and HBO Go’s famous “Awkward Family Viewing” ads, he’s also proud of SS+K’s work for Fusion, Comcast and Jet.com, which included making 50 live commercials on a single day. Hershfield believes in uncovering real insights rather than using devices or “ways in” to make something interesting. He also empowers his staff. “My creative philosophy is to get out of the way and let the creatives feel it is their voice that is being expressed,” he says. “I really try to give people the freedom to see their ideas realized, even if they might be wrong. I just want them to experience failure or success on their own terms.”

Lixaida Lorenzo

Creative Director
Mistress, Los Angeles

Lorenzo started her career working for U.S. Customs, searching for drugs. Now she searches for “something even harder to find”—great ideas. She worked her way up from intern at JWT San Juan to creative director at Mistress, where she works for the clients including the Oakland Raiders, IMAX, World Surf League and Netflix. Recent highlights include a gorgeous global brand film for IMAX and the award-winning #Cokenomics campaign for Netflix’s Narcos, quantifying the scale of the cocaine trade in fun, illuminating ways. “For me, the idea is king and everything else falls below it,” Lorenzo says. “The simpler the idea, the better. Great ideas solve the client/brand’s business problem, engage the consumer and can take the form of experiential, social, digital and traditional. But importantly, the final product should be something people really want to spend their time with.”

David Povill and David Cuccinello

Creative Directors
180LA, Los Angeles

“The Daves” first met (fittingly enough) at David&Goliath in the late ’00s. Povill soon jumped to Deutsch, where he wrote “The Force” for Volkswagen, and later Wieden + Kennedy. Cuccinello headed to Grey, where his Cannon spot “Inspired” won an Emmy. They reunited at 180LA early last year, where they run Asics—and also created the “Unfairy Tales” campaign for Unicef, about refugee children, which won the Grand Prix for Good at Cannes. “As you hear the stories of these children, your heart breaks. Then you realize that there are 7 million more like them out there,” says Cuccinello. Povill’s approach is all about strategy and finding a killer insight. (“I probably should have been a planner, but I can’t pull off the British accent,” he jokes.) Their creative philosophies are pretty streamlined, too. Povill: “K.I.S.S.—Keep it smart, stupid.” Cuccinello: “Always try your hardest not to suck.”

Josh DiMarcantonio

Executive Creative Director
Zambezi, Los Angeles

A veteran of Wieden + Kennedy, CAA and Deutsch (where he enlisted a dozen Ronald McDonalds to try Taco Bell’s breakfast), DiMarcantonio is leading Zambezi’s evolution from sports marketing specialist to creative collaborative following the buy-out of majority owner Kobe Bryant last year. He’s proud of recent Zambezi work including the Star Wars collection of Stance socks (a Gold Lion winner at Cannes) and the #HopeForOurDaughters initiative around the movie Suffragette. DiMarcantonio aims for simplicity and honesty, particularly in advertising to young people. “We have to be transparent with them or they will call us on our bullshit,” he says. “It isn’t that they hate marketing. It’s that they hate being treated as wallets instead of people.” It’s also key, he says, to remember that “technology is never the idea. Instead we want tech to help tell whatever story we want to tell, better.”

Adam Chasnow

Executive Creative Director
CP+B, Boulder, Colo.

Chasnow led one of the cleverest campaigns of the year—the “World’s Largest Blind Taste Test” for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Kraft changed the recipe last December, removing the artificial flavors, preservatives and dyes—and marketed the change by not marketing it. Only months later did CP+B tell consumers they’d been sampling the new product—and clearly they already loved it as much as the original. The stunt was original yet consistent with the brand voice—both of which Chasnow values highly. “The best work doesn’t remind you of other work at all. It kind of scares you. You aren’t pre-programmed to like it. That’s why the most important thing we can do is be original,” the former 180 exec says. “We have to surprise, but at the same time, people need to feel that it makes sense that something is coming from brand X. It takes a lot of discipline to stay true to a brand voice and do it well, over and over again.”

Daniel Grech and Eamonn Dixon

Creative Directors
AKQA, San Francisco

This Australian pair came to San Francisco in 2013, where they quickly made a mark on AKQA’s Anheuser-Busch business, creating a platform for friends to share beers cross-country with “Buds for Buds” and a one-tap beer delivery app “The Bud Light Button.” Later, they shifted to Jordan Brand and had an enormous hit with “The Last Shot,” an interactive basketball court with 10 million pixels of surrounding screens that let users re-enact some of Michael Jordan’s greatest shots. “Our creative philosophy is simple: We don’t really have one,” Dixon and Grech say. “We just try to surround ourselves with fun, talented and hard-working people who share a passion for creating work that’s insightful, real and resonates with its audience. And always keep ourselves honest with ideas, by asking: ‘Would I do/like/share/watch/read/download/try that?’ If the answer’s no, then the job isn’t done.”

Check out the rest of the Creative 100 honorees by category:

20 Content Creators
20 Creative Celebrities
10 Visual Artists

Also, see the full list of honorees in alphabetical order here.


This story first appeared in the July 25, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.