World-class creatives often get further and further from the work as their career progresses. But the 15 below—all holding the title of chief creative officer, or comparable rank—remain in the trenches, close to the cutting-edge work their companies are producing.
Read more below about the galvanizing creative chiefs at a variety of U.S. agencies, from major offices of big networks to smaller boutiques.
Note: Instead of one big list of U.S. creatives, this year we’ve divided it into smaller lists based on rank. We have 1) chief creative officers (this list), 2) executive creative directors and group creative directors, 3) creative directors and associate creative directors and 4) art directors and copywriters. We’ve also gone international with a separate list of 10 global creative chiefs.
Chief Creative Officer, TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles
This former AlmapBBDO art director (pictured above) joined TBWA in 2011 and rose to L.A. CCO this year. For Gatorade, he helped craft memorable retirement films for Derek Jeter (“Made in New York”), Abby Wombach (“Forget Me”) and Peyton Manning (“Dear Peyton”) but took things to the next level in 2016 with Serena Williams’ Match Point—the first in-app Snapchat video game.
“It is a disruptive idea that transformed Snapchat into a gaming platform … giving the audience a taste of what she’s worked for in her career,” Fernandez says. “We proved Snapchat can be a powerful storytelling platform. All it needs is the right idea.”
Three mottos guide his advertising work: “Good is the enemy of great” (a quote courtesy of TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris co-founder John Hunt), “Corner clients with good ideas” and “Do what hasn’t been done.”
“Most of the time, creatives tend to compromise when clients don’t want to buy their ideas. I think it should be the other way around,” he says. “When they don’t like your idea, come back with one that’s even better.” On the topic of trying new things, he adds: “If you don’t know how to execute the idea, it is a good sign you are going in the right direction. The fear of failing will keep you on your toes.”
Deputy Chief Creative Officer, Grey New York
Recently ascending to deputy CCO, Stamp has run the largest creative group in Grey’s New York office as global executive creative director on Procter & Gamble. Along the way, he’s had plenty of hits, including Gillette’s “Perfect Isn’t Pretty” Olympic spot (40 million-plus view) and “Go Ask Dad” campaign. He also helped a little NFL project called “Super Bowl Babies” become a huge hit.
But it’s an edgier campaign he’s most fond of—Gillette’s 2015 music video “Shave Forth,” with a track by Dr. Lektroluv and DJs From Mars, aimed at electronic dance music fans who are “body-shaving freaks.” “I’m not out popping Molly every weekend, but the track is amazing,” Stamp says. The work “took a business issue head on, was strategic, and then the guys just pushed the shit out of it. Clients hated it until it sold an ass ton of razors. They still may hate it, but they don’t say it as much anymore.”
Stamp’s broader philosophy is to “go harder, but care less.” In other words, be passionate about the work but also detach emotionally.
“It’s liberating when we’re OK with the possibility of losing a pitch or a meeting,” he says. “But that only works if we know we went at it as hard as we possibly could. Left it all out there. If we’re willing to work harder than the next guy, it shows in better work, and clients feel it. But desperation is a kind of a lame look, and clients can feel that, too. It can never be the most important thing we have going on in the world; otherwise everyone plays tight, is more risk adverse, and it’s less fun overall. It also just helps us all remain sane. Sane is good.”
Chief Creative Officer, The Mars Agency
Photographer. Interior designer. Design magazine publisher. Founder of a modern paper-goods company (Binth). The German-born Bierwirth has a boundless creative spirit, which she is now channeling into The Mars Agency, the shopper marketing firm outside Detroit, after a long tenure at FCB Chicago.
“I’m not here to help build a creative department. I’m here to help design a more holistically creative business,” she says. “To have our scale, strategic acumen and retailer intelligence, all without being beholden to a holding company… this agency is a creative’s dream.”
Bierwirth sees retail/brand activation marketing, so often overlooked as a creative field, as poised for a renaissance. It’s “a wide-open space,” she says. “Technology and targeting have unlocked creative opportunities traditionally reserved for brand advertising. The lines are completely blurred. My job is to bring on more exceptional talent, then curate the right teams and set them loose to create.”
CEO and Executive Creative Director, Grow
A computer science major, Ungvarsky started Grow in the spare bedroom of his Virginia townhouse in 2001, and has since grown it into a 40-person digital agency. Most notable are his collaborations with Google’s Art, Copy & Code team, which has produced such celebrated work as Burberry Kisses (Grand Clio Image Award winner in digital) and EA Sports’ Madden GIFerator (winner of six Cannes Lions).
Most recently, Grow worked with Art, Copy & Code on “Window Wonderland” for Google Shopping, giving people a tour of New York’s magical holiday windows from their own homes; and on Google Shopping Insights, which began as a data visualization brief but evolved into a platform for data-driven stories and insights.