The Top Creative Minds in Digital

Digital's standout stars in today's cluttered multimedia space

Unleashed into the digital wilds, creatives have responded with innovative, far-reaching ideas that leverage interactive’s unique attributes. We look at some of the people best utilizing the new technologies to create work that stands out amidst today’s multimedia clutter.

Andy Hood, executive creative development director, AKQA, London, Nick Bailey, executive creative director, AKQA, Amsterdam 

AKQA’s talent pool runs deep—and wide. Collaborations include the Star Player for Heineken, a dual-screen mobile and social soccer game created by Hood (in London) and Bailey (in Amsterdam). Designed to raise the profile of Heineken’s UEFA sponsorship, it lets users “participate” in a soccer match by predicting—via their smartphones, tablets, or computers—upcoming plays. It’s hardly the only work to garner buzz: Since 2008, the agency, across all offices, has earned more than 300 awards.

Koichiro Tanaka, creative director, Projector Inc., Tokyo

Months before Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s Timeline, Tanaka—who established Projector, a creative collective, in 2004—built Intel’s The Museum of Me, which pulls content from viewers’ Facebook pages and displays it in a personalized, virtual “exhibition.” Tanaka hit a narcissistic nerve, as the museum has racked up more than 800,000 “Likes” since its June launch. Tanaka first made an international name for himself with his intricate work for Uniqlo, which included a YouTube campaign starring robot-like dancers.

Neil Heymann, creative director, Droga5, New York

The award-winning, Australian-born Heymann was at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, among other agencies, before joining Droga5. He worked with quintessential New Yorker Jay-Z to market both the launch of the entrepreneur’s biography, Decoded, and Microsoft’s Bing. The agency created an interactive treasure hunt, putting clues online that led viewers, using Bing’s map function, to book pages hidden in real locations. Fans who reassembled the book received the chance for a lifetime pass to Jay-Z concerts.

Stephen Goldblatt, executive creative director, partner, Evolution Bureau, San Francisco

In the last year alone (give or take a month), Goldblatt has led campaigns for clients including Lady Gaga and Juicy Fruit. This past May, the former Goodby, Silverstein & Partners creative worked on a promo for Gagaville, an interactive project between Zynga and the pop star that promoted Born This Way. And in summer 2010, he helped create Juicy Fruit’s Sweet Talk app, programmed with videos of lips offering fawning compliments. It turned millions of iPhones into mouthpieces for flattery, as users covered their yaps with their devices and let Juicy Fruit rattle off sweet nothings on their behalf.

Aaron Koblin, creative director, Google Creative Lab, San Francisco, Chris Milk, director,, Los Angeles

Specializing in the geeky field of data visualization, Koblin, who is also an artist, uses real-world and community-generated data to create work for brands. His award-winning collaborations with Milk have resulted in, among other things, ingenious, Google-branded music videos to promote the Chrome browser. They paired the technology with A-list artists such as Arcade Fire. The band’s interactive video, “The Wilderness Downtown,” invites users to launch Chrome and enter their addresses, enabling the browser to pull photos from Google Maps and combine them in real-time with 3-D models for personalized journeys through neighborhoods.

Malcolm Poynton, chief creative officer, SapientNitro, London

Joining SapientNitro immediately after it was created by the merger of Nitro Group and Sapient Interactive gave Poynton the chance to work across brands and disciplines. (When he started in 2010, he reportedly called the shop “the first truly ambidextrous agency in town.”) Poynton’s work has lived up to expectations, such as the Foot Locker SneakerPedia website, a crowd-sourced repository of shoe porn where sneaker fanatics can share their photos and stories with like-minded souls.

Johan Jager, creative director, co-founder, Jung von Matt, Stockholm, Sweden

When German agency Jung von Matt wanted to expand to Scandinavia in 2006, it landed in Sweden thanks in part to the reputation of ad veteran Jager. He oversees innovative and often brilliantly goofy work, such as BMW’s Mini “Getaway” campaign, which staged a digital game of Capture the Flag in Stockholm. iPhone location tracking let competitors race around town to steal a virtual Mini Countryman from other players. The prize for the person left holding the Countryman at the end of the week was an actual car.

Iain Tait, global executive interactive creative director, Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

What’s that scent you can’t seem to shake? Oh, right. And it’s no wonder. The mixing of W+K’s well-crafted Old Spice campaign, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” with the feverish mind of Tait (who co-founded Poke in London before moving to W+K in 2010) resulted in “Response,” which fired off some 185 personalized video replies to Twitterers with large followings who referenced Old Spice, as well as to less influential fans who caught its fancy. It created considerable buzz for the Procter & Gamble brand, and was a vivid example of how social media can be paired with on-the-fly production.

Christian Behrendt & Leif Abraham, creative directors, R/GA, New York

Need breeds innovation, as Behrendt and Abraham, a.k.a. “Innovative Thunder,” can tell you—they’ve created no less than a new social commerce model to spread the word about their book on digital advertising, Oh My God What Happened and What Should I Do? Called Pay With a Tweet, the simple barter system works like this: promote the book on Twitter, and you receive a free copy in return. Microsoft has since used it for its TechDays conference, and, last month, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney utilized it to promote an e-book he wrote. The duo—who work for brands including Old Bay, MasterCard, and Nike—have traded more than 185,000 copies of their book for a tweet.

Bill Wright $ James Dawson-Hollis, vice presidents, executive creative directors, Crispin Porter + Bogusky

For Jell-O Pudding, Wright and Dawson-Hollis, along with interactive associate creative director Ken Slater, created a digital visage, The Pudding Face Mood Meter, whose expression reflected the total number of emoticon smiles and frowns of Twitterers. But that was just the start: some of those who exchanged their frowns for grins were given coupons for free Jell-O Pudding desserts. The team also powered a billboard version of the site in New York, and are renowned for the controversial Whopper Sacrifice Facebook app, which gave every user who dumped 10 friends a coupon for a free Burger King sandwich. The campaign didn’t last long—Facebook shut it down—but the buzz did.

Faces: Ricardo Santos

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.