To be an advertising leader in your home city is an honor. To be a national figure of creative excellence is incredibly rare. So imagine what it must take to become a global advertising icon.
Actually, you don’t have to imagine. You can simply read below to find out why Adweek’s editors selected these 10 global creative leaders to represent some of the world’s best talent in this year’s Creative 100.
Our annual list of the top creative professionals in marketing, media, tech and culture has traditionally been limited to the U.S., but in honor of the approaching Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, we decided to reserve 10 spots on our list for these luminaries of international inspiration:
Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Bangkok
For most of us, creating brilliant inventions or saving lives may sound like childhood dreams, but for iconic Thai creative Suthisak Sucharittanonta, they’re just parts of the standard workday.
The BBDO Bangkok creative chief often bypasses traditional ads in favor of creating products and apps that improve or even save lives.
His team’s AbsorbPlate shaves 30 calories off your meal by draining away grease, while the Helpmet is a motorcycle helmet that automatically reports crashes to emergency responders. Both were created for the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, which also partnered with BBDO Bangkok on a dashboard Buddhist monk statue that talks spiritually minded drivers out of speeding and a hearing aid that, when removed at night, can be worn as a bracelet to wake you up during an emergency.
Initially an aspiring architect and photographer, Sucharittanonta found his calling as an art director and copywriter, first at Dentsu Thailand in 1984 and eventually at BBDO Bangkok in 1998.
Today he’s focused on finding “tangible solutions to existing problems” in whatever form that takes. “We think it’s time to step out off the comfort zone and do something different, something we’ve never done before,” he says.
Chief Creative Director, Proximity Spain
The struggle to shatter gender stereotypes in advertising is a global one, and Eva Santos is one of the most dynamic creatives leading the charge.
As Proximity Spain’s creative chief, she led the creation of Audi’s 2016 animated spot “The Doll Who Chose to Drive,” featuring a fashionable doll speeding out of the pink-toy aisle to prove that imagination is gender-neutral. The spot has been viewed more than 25 million times, Santos says.
“For the first time, an automotive brand was prepared to explicitly break gender stereotypes with a formula capable of influencing both today’s drivers and tomorrow’s,” she says. “It’s even changing the number of women considering buying an Audi.”
Santos’ efforts for equality go far beyond client work. Currently the leader of Proximity’s Worldwide Creative Council, she also helped create #masmujerescreativas, a collaborative effort to open more opportunities for female creatives.
A restless spirit with ideas to spare, Santos is a big believer in momentum.
“In my experience,” she says, “the two keys in a creative process are quantity and speed—quantity of ideas and speed of thinking as the best way to achieve quality and not losing time arguing during the first steps of the creative process.”
Chief Creative Officer, Drill Tokyo
As creative chief of Dentsu-affiliated Drill, Hosokawa leads a team focused on making cutting-edge consumer experiences with high visibility and impact. These range from Pocari’s “Lunar Dream Capsule” project to land the beverage brand on the moon, to a huge LED “Warp Cube” installation for mobile phone brand KDDI Au that used VR technology to give people the sensation of flying around the world.
“My philosophy is to not only solve client issues through creative, but to also challenge myself to make people happy,” Hosokawa says. “I refuse to compromise this philosophy regardless of how difficult the conditions may be.”
That relentless ambition is clearly on display in the agency’s upcoming project “Neuronavi,” a technology created for the Atami City tourist district that “makes real-time and catered recommendations without any need for language ability by combining a device that scans brain waves to read emotions and an app that acts as a tour guide,” he says. “We aim to use this system for ‘omotenashi’—Japanese-style hospitality—to overseas tourists during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”
Chief Creative Officer, Mercado McCann
“To reach the heart of a jury member, you have to use your head. To touch the heart of people, you need guts,” says Martin Mercado, one of Latin America’s most feted creative directors.
He employed both in 2012 at Y&R Buenos Aires, in a highly charged campaign for the Argentinian president’s office featuring Olympic athlete Fernando Zylberber training on the Falkland/Malvinas Island. That territory was claimed by both Argentina and the U.K., and the ad proved hugely controversial.
For the past several years, Mercado has managed to avoid international incidents while helming Mercado McCann. Notable efforts for TyC Sports TV include “ConverS.OS,” about fathers and sons who root for different teams, and “Trump,” which trolls POTUS’s fiery anti-immigration stance. A powerful print push for the Perfil newspaper mocks the “mother of all bombs” and the absurdity of war.
Chief Creative Officer, Y&R Prague
Since taking over three years ago as creative chief at Y&R Prague, Sverakova has waged war against the kind of “empty messages” that give branding a bad name.
“If we can encourage our clients to champion meaningful themes with a deeper sense of purpose, we can change how the world sees our industry,” she says.
That approach has paid off, particularly last year, when the office won numerous awards, including seven Cannes Lions across three categories. Stirring work for UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, claimed five of those trophies for drawing parallels between the current Syrian refugee crisis and the plight of Czechoslovaks who fled Soviet occupation.
For Forbes, “The World Needs More Billionaires” put the high price of making the world a better place into fiscal perspective. (For example, cleaning the oceans costs more than $520 billion a year.)
Acutely aware that in the Czech Republic, “the chance that you will ever get to work on big, glamorous projects is almost nonexistent,” Sverakova aims to prove that “even with limited opportunities, and in an environment where you have to improvise, iconic pieces of work can be created.”
Chief Creative Officer, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne
Keogh joined Clemenger BBDO over a decade ago and has worked on much-discussed campaigns ranging from Bonds Underwear’s “The Boys” (featuring two men as hilarious, anthropomorphized testicles) to a series of hard-hitting road safety campaigns for the Victorian Transport Accident Commission.
Keogh cites the award-winning “Meet Graham”—a highway safety effort that imagines a human body redesigned to survive crashes—as a highlight for 2016, along with the Snickers “Hungerithm” campaign, which analyzed social media for internet anger and adjusted prices at 7-Eleven accordingly.
Keogh initially based his approach on the premise that “regular people hate advertising,” attempting “to get a sales message across in an honest way that didn’t talk down or treat the customer like an idiot.”
That mission hasn’t changed, and in fact the opportunities to experiment have only expanded. “Now even more so we need to engage,” he says. “It’s just there are so many more levers you can pull to be useful to someone now, often in a very hands-on, interactive way.”
Creative Director, Ingo Stockholm
Richards has been with Grey Group since 2006 and was named creative director at Ingo, a Stockholm agency that straddles WPP’s Grey and Ogilvy agency networks, in 2016.
Her recent career highlights include the agency’s campaigns for Lidl, proving the German-owned discount supermarket’s quality to skeptical Swedish consumers. “Bosse’s Milk” let one such skeptic (a Facebook commenter named Bosse) know Lidl’s milk is from Swedish cows by temporarily renaming its cartons in his honor and running an ad blitz to get his attention.
In an earlier iteration of the idea, Lidl played with its name to create a pop-up gourmet restaurant called Dill, stocked only with Lidl ingredients, while an execution called Le Bon served up a version of the Nobel Prize dinner menu, except made with (you guessed it) groceries from Lidl.
For Richards, successful advertising boils down to one thing: “Consumers want the truth and they want it told in a transparent way,” she says. “Sometimes it may be uncomfortable, sometimes it might make you laugh and sometimes it might even hurt.”
Executive Creative Director, JWT Amsterdam
Advertising may never qualify as art with a capital A, but one 17th century painter turned 2016 into a very big year for Bas Korsten. JWT Amsterdam won 16 Lions (including two Grand Prix) at Cannes for “The Next Rembrandt,” an AI-driven project sponsored by Dutch financial services firm ING.
“Now, more than ever, we tend to take a few steps back and look at the client’s problem or challenge,” Korsten says in explaining the approach that led to campaigns like the ElaN Languages spot, starring hilariously bad Google translations of an unlucky couple’s wedding vows. He adds, “The solutions nowadays can be so much more fundamental than just communications.”
One key example is Korsten’s favorite recent project, “School for Justice,” a harrowing campaign highlighting Mumbai-based social rights organization Free A Girl Movement’s efforts to curb the scourge of underage sex workers. “The fact that we can actually make a difference in the lives of these brave young girls regarding such a deep-rooted problem as child prostitution in India is exactly why I’m so thrilled to be in advertising at the moment,” he says.
While Korsten’s work is not always “traditional,” his outlook is unapologetically so. “Creative advertising is storytelling, and it always has been,” he tells Adweek. “But I love the notion that we can now be part of the origin story beyond our traditional roles as tellers of that story.”
Chief Creative Officer, adam&eveDDB
As creative lead at one of the world’s most-awarded agencies, Richard Brim isn’t afraid to offer a little constructive criticism from his perch atop the ad industry.
“There’s an awful lot of noise and not a lot of action,” he says, with agency creatives “talking about work they would like to be doing as opposed to just doing it.”
Brim speaks as one who has produced award-winning work for McDonald’s, Google, Volkswagen, Kellogg’s, John Lewis and Harvey Nichols, whose Cannes Grand Prix-winning “Shoplifters” ad made a prominent appearance in the recent sequel to Danny Boyle’s classic film Trainspotting.
That lightning-in-a-bottle collision of marketing and pop culture gave Brim “a massive sense of pride.” He cites it as both a career pinnacle and proof of advertising’s continued relevance, much like director Wes Anderson’s decision to include an adam&eveDDB H&M ad in his most recent portfolio alongside films like Rushmore and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
On that note, Brim rejects doomsayers’ forecasts about the death of advertising as we know it. “A brilliant two-minute or 30-second ad—or even a poster—can [still] have an impact,” he says. “I don’t see anything dying. I just see more things to play with.”