Diversity, Inclusion and Community Are Among the Touchstones of Adweek’s 2020 Brand Genius Honorees

This year's winners include marketing leaders from Apple, Frito-Lay, Walmart and Nike

Adweek presents our Brand Genius honorees for 2020. Adweek

It’s always a thrill to splash some limelight on outstanding members of our community, but this year it feels especially gratifying to honor marketers who have skillfully led their brands’ messaging to new heights both before and during the thicket of uncertainty, fear and dissent that has characterized 2020. As you read our profiles of our Brand Genius winners, you’ll notice recurring themes like diversity, relatability and flexibility. There’s an earnestness there, and a restlessness. It becomes clear that in marketing, there are many who do good work but only some who rise to the genius level. Here are 10 of them, along with our Brand Save honoree, Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative, and our Brand Visionary honoree, Ryan Reynolds. —Kristina Feliciano

Tor Myhren, vp, marketing communications, Apple

Photo: Brooks Kraft

Myhren served as Grey’s global chief creative officer before joining Apple in 2016, and his ability to understand and empathize with creatives has been a boon for Apple’s dedicated agency, TBWA\Media Arts Lab.

“He knows where to push and where to leave alone,” Brent Anderson, global chief creative officer of TBWA\Media Arts Lab, says. “He’s accustomed to getting the best out of creatives because he did it for so long before Apple.”

Among Myhren’s boundary-pushing projects at Apple: a five-hour ad to promote the battery life of the iPhone 11 Pro in the form of a tour of Russia’s Hermitage Museum. TBWA\Media Arts Lab filmed it in one epic take.

“Because it was winter in St. Petersburg, we only had like six hours of quality sunlight,” recalls Myhren. “Which meant we basically had to nail it on our first take, because starting over meant we’d lose our light. So each hour the pressure mounted.”

When Apple—which was selected Creative Marketer of the Year at last year’s Cannes Lions—debuted its AirPods Pro last year, Media Arts Lab placed massive, unbranded photos of dancers on key storefronts and billboards in cities around the world. Days later, AirPods Pro were added into each of their ears, marking a subtle yet playful nod to the brand’s latest product.   

“Executionally, this was one of the hardest campaigns we made this year,” says Myhren. “To get 30-foot-high, two-sided stickers of giant dancers to look sharp enough to live on our store windows was daunting.”

‘He’s accustomed to getting the best out of creatives.’

—Brent Anderson, global CCO, TBWA\Media Arts Lab

Over the past year, Myhren has been betting big on long-form content, with impressive results. Underdogs—a three-minute, sitcom-esque film that Apple debuted last year about a group of scrappy co-workers who create a circular pizza box prototype to present to management—currently has more than 6 million views on YouTube. Notably, it shows off a smattering of Apple products throughout. A seven-minute sequel, which debuted in July and features the group trying to work from home, has nearly 30 million views.

“It’s a great time for film in advertising, because the shackles are off and the digital media universe holds an infinitely larger palette for telling your product story,” says Myhren.

Additionally, Apple’s ongoing #ShotOniPhone campaign recently expanded to the music video realm and has been hugely successful. Selena Gomez’s “Love You to Lose Me” video, filmed entirely on the iPhone 11 Pro, came out last year and has a whopping 300 million views on YouTube.

In response to Covid-19, in early April Apple started airing “Creativity Goes On,” an ad that TBWA\Media Arts Lab put together in a matter of weeks featuring footage of people painting, dancing and playing instruments at home. “We made that ad entirely from existing videos and photos we found online,” Myhren says.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 14, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.