Creative All-Stars

By eleftheria parpis and mae anderson

Find it. Grow it. Borrow or steal it. Whether teaching us about a product, engaging us with an unusual story line or simply entertaining us with masterfully crafted work, our seven All-Stars all prove that in advertising, there is no greater asset than creativity. With imagination, determination and good old-fashioned hard work, each of the seven creatives here—a creative director, a copywriter, an art director, a producer, a director, a photography team and our Most Valuable Player—brought us some of the best advertising of the past year.

creative director

Steve Simpson


Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

Out of a merger once described as two garbage trucks colliding came one of last year’s most impressive advertising efforts, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ “+ HP” campaign. Following Hewlett-Packard’s contentious acquisition of Compaq in mid-2002, a corporate-branding push “was going to have to be incredibly optimistic and dynamic, and signal a break with this period,” explains Steve Simpson, the “heart and soul” (as the client puts it) of the $400 million account.

With bold, colorful graphics and visually engaging, unexpected stories about HP’s wide-ranging partnerships, Simpson and his team have turned an account once as gray as the company’s printers into one of the most prolific in the agency’s storied halls. “Everything is possible,” declares the tagline on the campaign, which combines a vibrant print presence—outdoor and multi-page newspaper and magazine inserts—with masterful commercials rooted in business-to-business messaging but executed with a consumer-minded flare.

“We really had to embrace science and technology, and make it exciting and cool again,” says Simpson, 44, who drew on midcentury modernists such as Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen for inspiration in “celebrating the art of science.” “It doesn’t directly apply to the work, but it creates an atmosphere in which people get excited. You have to have an appetite for the category, and you have to have the aesthetic sense.”

Among the standout spots: “Restore,” which explains how the National Gallery in London uses HP to keep its artwork in shape; “Il Postino,” showing how HP helps the U.S. Postal Service through rain and snow, and even a black hole; “Bang & Olufsen” which makes sound waves visible; and most recently “The Next Shift,” a spot Simpson counts as one of his favorites for its “charming” portrayal of how HP helps toys “commute” into Toys R Us.

The plus sign, initially used to symbolize the acquisition, became an unexpectedly valuable graphic device, anchoring both the corporate-branding campaign, which broke in November 2002, and “You +,” the consumer-driven digital-imaging effort that launched in the fall with a spot featuring the Cure’s “Pictures of You.” “We call it the plus that ate the campaign,” says Simpson.

With the HP work, says agency co-founder Rich Silverstein, “we found a way to show our strengths as an agency, and every time we show our strengths as an agency, enhance the HP brand.” Silverstein, who describes himself as Simpson’s “confidante” on the campaign, credits its success to the soft-spoken copywriter’s unflappable demeanor.

“He’s a rock,” says Silverstein of Simpson, an agency partner who has worked on everything from Norwegian Cruise Lines to Nike in his 14 years at Goodby.

“Steve has been the heart and soul of the creative team,” says HP’s Allison Johnson, svp, global brand and communications. “His voice permeates every aspect of the campaign. He is the bard.”

Simpson, in turn, praises his team, which includes group creative director John Norman, design director Keith Anderson and until last fall, former gcd Steve Luker. It also helps that celebrated commercial directors such as Fredrick Bond and Frank Budgen (and even David Fincher, who is contemplating a job) are lining up for a crack at the account.

Next up is a spot promoting HP’s partnership with Fender that will break on the Oscars and a digital-entertainment push, due in June. Beyond that, the team talks about aiming for the kind of long-term momentum that the shop’s “Got milk?” has achieved. “That’s the testament of a great campaign,” Simpson says.

Silverstein notes that Simpson, a long-distance runner who cycles to the office from his home in Marin, is built for endurance. “You look at his body and his mind, and it’s about the long haul,” says Silverstein. “It’s not the 100-yard dash. It’s consistency. And he doesn’t tire.”


Kevin Proudfoot


Wieden + Kennedy, New York

“What I enjoy doing most is truthfully reflecting humanity in the work,” says Kevin Proudfoot, associate creative director at Wieden + Kennedy, New York. He’s achieved that with ESPN’s “Without Sports,” a multidimensional brand campaign offering a cinematic range as broad as the channel’s programming—from documentary- to music-video-style—that any level of sports fan can relate to.

Described by Wieden creative director Ty Montague as “wise beyond his years,” Proudfoot, 30, is a versatile copywriter whose encyclopedic knowledge of all things sports helped the shop produce a powerful campaign that rivals the best of its long-running SportsCenter work. The ads, created last year by Proudfoot and former partner Kim Schoen, range from a soccer-smitten family in Spain—the tagline asks, “Without sports, what would bring us together?”—to hip-hop star Nelly dancing in workout gear, showing that, “Without sports, there’d be nothing to wear.”

“He finds a way to become emotionally invested in anything he does,” says creative director Todd Waterbury. “He created such an interesting way of looking at sports and pointing out in the most economical but profound way the role sports plays in everyone’s life.”

In the “Shelfball” commercials, Proudfoot extended the notion of sports to a fictional office game, sketching out its rules, history and even offshoots in a Shelfball handbook. “I always go into [a project] prepared,” says Proudfoot, who asked the actors in the spots to be just as ready, making them study up on the game. “I really try to film a situation instead of a TV spot or script. It’s kind of scary in some ways, because you are hoping the magic happens.”

Proudfoot has a long history with ESPN—the first ad he created, while an intern at Wieden’s Portland, Ore., headquarters, was for a “Bat Boys” campaign touting ESPN’s baseball-playoffs coverage. Since he was promoted to acd in May with partner Paul Renner, Proudfoot has held creative responsibility for the work.

A voracious reader whose mother is a librarian and father a music teacher, Proudfoot is a Connecticut native who studied psychology at the University of Richmond. He was on his way to Texas to pursue a Ph.D. in social psychology when he had an “epiphany,” returned to Virginia and applied to the VCU Adcenter.

It was there that he met Jelly Helm, with whom he would later work at Richmond shop The Martin Agency in the late ’90s. His other mentors include cd Hal Curtis, who guided him during his internship at Wieden, and Stacy Wall, who hired Proudfoot at the New York agency four years ago. “My hope is that I can use the things I’ve learned from them and bring them to bear now that I’m creative-directing the ESPN work,” says Proudfoot, who lives near the Pennsylvania border in Clinton, N.J., with his wife and their two sons.

He uses his hour-and-a-half commute to brainstorm. “In the early stages of a new job, I force myself to do nothing but stare out of the bus window and think of ideas,” Proudfoot explains. “I rarely write these down.” Eventually he falls asleep, he says, but “the good [ideas] usually resurface later.”

art director

Susan Alinsangan


TBWA\Chiat\Day, Playa del Rey, Calif.

Not long before TBWA\Chiat\Day art director Susan Alinsangan came up with one of the most visually arresting campaigns of 2003, she was sitting in traffic and noticed that a guy crossing the street was acting strangely. “I was a bit concerned,” she says. He got closer, and she saw a dangling white cord and realized “he was just kind of shaking his groove thing across the street.”

Alinsangan, an art director on Apple since the shop won the account in 1997, flashed back to that experience when she and partner Tom Kraemer were charged with creating a print and outdoor iPod campaign. “It didn’t matter whether he was white or black,” she says of the music man. “Nothing about the environment mattered—it was all about this guy dancing, and all I could see was that white string.”

The resulting work—black silhouettes of people dancing against bright backgrounds with white iPod in hand—was a bold move. “It went counter to everything we’ve ever done successfully [on Apple]: It was using color, silhouetting, and there wasn’t a photograph of a product,” notes Alinsangan, 36, known for fearlessly challenging her bosses.

“A lot of people get intimidated by Steve [Jobs]—she doesn’t,” says creative director Duncan Milner. “She’ll tell Lee [Clow] what she thinks, tell Steve what she thinks, and she’s certainly not shy to tell me what she thinks.”

Her bosses championed the work, and Jobs later agreed to extend the campaign to TV. “It was a big leap for everybody who worked on it,” says Alinsangan, whose credits include Apple’s “Think different” campaign and launch ads for the iMac. “Everybody just went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure it was good and stayed good and protected it.”

Alinsangan, who also has worked on ABC, Infiniti and Nissan in her 10 years at TBWA\ C\D, landed in L.A. after a transient childhood as an “Army brat,” living in Japan, Washington, Alaska and Texas. She went to Otis College of Art and Design in L.A., starting out as a graphic designer until realizing that her husband, Brian Doyle, an art director at Team One in El Segundo, Calif., “was making a lot more money and having a lot more fun.”

“She understands the unique demands of Chiat\Day and of Apple,” says cd Eric Grunbaum. “It takes a combination of talent and constitution to be successful on [Apple].”

agency producer

Cindy Fluitt


Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

“A lot of times, producers are categorized as can-do and can’t-do,” says Goodby, Silverstein & Partners creative director Jamie Barrett. “Cindy is the ultimate can-do.”

Nicknamed “Tenacious C,” Cindy Fluitt, 49, has been a behind-the-scenes force at Goodby for 15 years. In the San Francisco shop’s standout production department—led by Debbie King and including Elizabeth O’Toole and Josh Reynolds on Hewlett-Packard, David Yost on Saturn, Barbro Eddy on AT&T Wireless and Cindy Epps on Discover, to name a few—Fluitt has distinguished herself not only for her energy and attention to detail but also for her creative contributions.

“She’s the third creative in the mix,” says Barrett, noting the suggestions she often fires off via e-mail. This year, for example, Fluitt was one of the first (along with the client) to suggest a spoof of the song “On Broadway” for eBay.

But her biggest contribution was the inspired idea to bring in American Beauty director Sam Mendes, who had never done a commercial, to helm the latest eBay spots, which feature people singing about the online auction house as Broadway-like theatrics unfold around them. Fluitt was able to secure Mendes in just 48 hours, after Rob Marshall (Chicago) bowed out unexpectedly because of a film project. Barrett recalls Fluitt mentioning Mendes as a possibility. “We were like, ‘Yeah, sure Cindy, that’ll work,’ ” he says. “The next morning I got in at 9 and she said, ‘You’re booked for a 10 a.m. conference call with Sam Mendes.’ ”

“It was a coup for Cindy to pull that off,” says King, who describes Fluitt as “very detail-oriented, creative and innovative.”

Fluitt, who grew up in a small town in Texas and studied advertising at Texas Tech in Lubbock, started out as a receptionist at Foote Cone & Belding in San Francisco before being nudged into producing by Steve Neely, now head of production at FCB North America. At Goodby she has worked on accounts including Pizza Hut, Isuzu, TiVo and Girls Inc.

Fluitt enjoys the pioneering nature of producing. “To me, an idea is just like a map,” she says. “There’s lots of ways to get to the end of the trail. It’s my job is to scout the possibilities.”

In addition to praising Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein for creating an atmosphere where everyone has the “desire to do smart, interesting things,” Fluitt says King is a major reason why she has worked at Goodby for so long. “People are shocked at the length of time so many of us have been here,” she says. “But Debbie trusts us to go out and do our job.”

And colleagues say Fluitt’s love of the work is infectious. “Cindy has an incredibly warm, energetic and hardworking spirit,” says Shawn Lacy Tessaro, executive producer at Biscuit Filmworks.

“It’s like that Sara Lee line,” Barrett says. “Nobody doesn’t like Cindy Fluitt.”


Noam Murro

Production company

Biscuit Filmworks, Hollywood

Noam Murro doesn’t want The Ring 2 to be your average horror flick. He wants to create something along the lines of what Stanley Kubrick or Roman Polanski would do—not a Friday the 13th. “There’s an intellectual level to it that could be actually very interesting,” he says.

Teasing out the humanity in a character or story—no matter the genre—is a specialty the 43-year-old has perfected in his commercial work. Last year he peaked, directing the most consistently excellent spots across a broad range of subjects. Subtlety and a commitment to realism always shine through.

“No matter whether it’s a funny or serious spot, there’s always an emotional pull to his work that is distinctive to him,” says Shawn Lacy Tessaro, who founded Biscuit Filmworks with Murro in 2000.

“He’s just got a real grasp of human nature and little idiosyncrasies of performance,” says Colin Nissan, acd at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Murro directed “Birthday,” Goodby’s gold Lion-winning “Got milk?” spot from last year, in which a creepy boy cautions a group of kids not to eat the birthday cake. Murro set the scene in an upscale house. “We said at some point that rich people are poisoners, not middle-class [people],” he recalls. “So we decided to go with that tone, because it rang true.”

Last year Murro also brought his truth-seeking style to the elegantly staged Whiskas campaign out of TBWA\Chiat\Day; whimsical Saturn ads by Goodby; broadly comic spots in Lowe’s chocolate-milk campaign for MilkPep; a series of Volkswagen Jetta ads by Arnold, including one that poignantly tells the story of a boy who has one large foot; and DDB’s first “Real Men of Genius” TV spots.

Murro aimed to show the “Real Men of Genius” “not as caricatures but as people.” Thus, Mr. Way Too Much Cologne Wearer is seen at home and at work selling mattresses.

It’s a sensibility that Murro—a father of two and a classical-music buff—has honed since he was an art director at Goldsmith/Jeffrey in the ’80s. (He moved to the U.S. in 1986 from Jerusalem, where he studied architecture). “A lot of people over time get slicker, and the next thing you know, their work is like everybody else’s,” says Gary Goldsmith, U.S. chief creative officer at Lowe. “The beauty of Noam is he still brings very fresh eyes to things, that sort of contrarian look to the work.” For Lowe’s Macy’s spots last year, Murro cast real-looking people and focused on “little moments that make something seem real,” Goldsmith says.

Can Murro translate his success to movies? The Ring 2 opens in November.


Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot


Art Partner, London

Among the pages and pages of ads in fashion magazines, one of the few shots that stood out last summer showed Jennifer Lopez, hair swept severely back, eyes lined with dark kohl, defending various Louis Vuitton bags from a bevy of vaguely sinister men. The campaign was shot by fashion photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot, personal and professional partners who are building a reputation for sharp, unexpected images of defiant women.

“We like strong, confident women,” says Alas, 32, who was born in Istanbul. “We like sexuality in a very sensual way—not at all vulgar. We hate vulgar.”

The pair, who teamed up professionally as mert + marcus five years ago, are among “the few handful of photographers who stand out from the rest,” says Marni Beardsley, director of art buying at Wieden+ Kennedy in Portland, Ore. “I love [their] innovative use of post-production on the Louis Vuitton campaign. The pictures are so incredibly detailed and precise that there’s a certain fierceness to them.”

Besides Louis Vuitton, the London-based team’s clients include Missoni, Guerlain, Gucci perfumes and Lancôme; they also get steady editorial work from American Vogue and W. “Branding and making something where it’s an identity for a brand at the end becomes very joyful,” says Alas of their commercial work. “On the other hand, in editorial you kind of can do whatever you want. I couldn’t do without one or the other.”

He met Piggot, a 33-year-old Welshman, at a party in Brighton in 1995 when they were both photographers’ assistants. They began shooting together on a lark a few years later, snagging their first assignment from British style magazine Dazed and Confused. “It was kind of an adventure for us,” says Alas. “Now we eat, breathe and sleep what we do at all times.”

That round-the-clock closeness is important, Alas says. “I really trust Marcus, and he trusts me a lot, so what happens is you have this great critic you trust on your left-hand side,” says Alas. “I don’t know how most of my colleagues do it on their own.”

Though the pair’s favorite pastime is gardening at the house they bought two months ago in Ibiza, Spain, there’s been little time for that. As their new Vuitton campaign, featuring five non-celebrity models writhing on dessert dunes, debuts in February magazines, Alas and Piggot are preparing editorial shoots for W and British title Pop.

“We’d like to keep many doors open,” Piggot says, possibly delving into film. But “to keep enjoying what we do is the main thing.” Most Valuable player

Alex Bogusky


Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami

Something is bothering Alex Bogusky, and it’s not the fact that he’s dodging cranes and shivering in the London cold at a Mini shoot. “So much of the success has been, in other people’s eyes, about billings and awards,” he says of Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s rise to prominence. “I used to have the freedom not to look at things that way.” Success, he has decided, “is when you feel good about yourself.”

He should. The 40-year-old executive creative director says he is given too much credit for CP+B’s performance, but he does still touch about 98 percent of the work at an agency that’s leading the charge into the unknown: the media-neutral future of advertising. Last year the 39-year-old, $250 million Miami shop, owned by Toronto’s MDC Partners, continued its expeditions beyond the friendly confines of the TV spot. Mini Cooper print inserts included a customized New Yorker cartoon book and an Evel Knievel iron-on patch. An Ikea initiative invited people to steal furniture set up outside the stores. Molson’s “Twin Label” work featured pickup lines printed on a second label. A print effort for the brewer included an ad in Cosmopolitan showing a man cradling puppies and one in men’s magazines explaining, tongue-in-cheek, how the first ad would get women to fall for Molson men.

“Sometimes we have to whip people to do traditional advertising,” Bogusky jokes. Typically, the standard solutions are taken away—either because the client wants to do things differently or because it has little money—and the creative minds roam.

Yes, there were awards last year, including Best of Show at The One Show for the feisty Mini work and the Grand Prix at Cannes for Ikea’s “Lamp,” directed by Spike Jonze. And there were unexpected votes of confidence: Virgin Atlantic Airways halted its review midway to award the business to CP+B.

Yet Bogusky, a Miami native who once raced motorcycles and dreamed of being a professional windsurfer, says he is proudest not of the work but of the company that he and his partners have built. “If we made something else that wasn’t advertising, it’s still the coolest group of people,” he says.

Still, he was feeling the pinch in 2003. “We usually do Habitat for Humanity, and we couldn’t,” he says. “Everyone was busy, and that left me with not a very good feeling.” The focus now, he says, is less on growth and more on maintaining the culture. “We have to keep the organization that allows [people] to do their best work when they show up,” he says. “Everything takes care of itself after that.”

There is plenty to be excited about. In London, Bogusky and cd Andrew Keller are filming two TV spots with director Gerard De Thame to promote the late summer launch of the Mini convertible. The ads will run in more than 60 countries. Bogusky declines to reveal the strategy, except to say, “Mini tends to do things differently.” Also in the works is a 10-minute film for Virgin that features British comedian Harry Enfield.

“We’re probably at the tail end of the 30-second commercials as we know them,” Bogusky says. For those clinging to old habits, he suggests looking at the history of film. “Silent movies were beautiful, but get over it. They don’t exist anymore. I’m actually excited to see the system crumble. I like the idea of the old model deteriorating and being part of concepting what happens after this.”