27 Senior Agency Leaders Who Are Charting a New Course for the Creative Industry

They're taking the helm and changing the rules

Michelle Nguyen is co-founder and chief creative officer of San Francisco-based Scout Lab.

Yesterday’s upstarts have become today’s top-level talent, ushering in a new, digitally native generation of leadership. While many of them first arrived in the advertising world to find it dangerously complacent, those wise and bold enough to chart a path forward have helped reshape the industry. You may not have already known their names, but you’ve certainly already felt their influence.

Katie Keating and Erica Fite
Co-founders, Fancy

If a chain of sex shops isn’t the first kind of client that comes to mind when you think of an agency dedicated to empowering and championing women, well, maybe it should be.

New York-based Fancy was founded by agency veterans Katie Keating and Erica Fite in 2011 with the insight that “if something matters to women, it matters to the world.” Years before #MeToo began shifting the agency landscape, Fancy was building a business around limitless respect of women both as colleagues and as consumers.

Fancy's poster for The Lion's Den

And when they were recently approached by The Lion’s Den, a chain of 46 sex shops looking to modernize its brand image, Fancy made the magic happen.

“Fancy was challenged with shifting perception of a mostly male, DVD-centric, pull-off-the-highway adult superstore into an appealing destination for women and couples,” Fite says. “We knew Lion’s Den would provide the perfect opportunity for us to elevate and validate sexual health and empowerment as an important part of a women’s life, historically misrepresented—in a category dominated by ideas and images meant to tempt and titillate men—or flat-out ignored.”

The resulting work was empowering, certainly, but still fun, with women shedding inhibitions in the bedroom and even at the occasional geriatric birthday party. The brand’s poster for International Women’s Day was especially memorable: “Women Come First!”

Another point of pride is Fancy for Good, the agency’s nonprofit focus area. “We recently raised money to equip midwives with motorcycles in Ghana,” Keating says, “and our efforts also support women and girls around the world from Haiti to Rwanda to South Africa to right here at home in NYC.”

Danilo Boer and Marcos Kotlhar
Executive Creative Directors, BBDO New York

Bacardi and Macy’s may be very different brands, but they’ve faced a similar challenge: They’re iconic, but not always seen as the most fresh and exciting options in their rapidly evolving categories.

Luckily, the same team is working with both to change that. Danilo Boer and Marcos Kotlhar—a duo that traces its roots to their early years together at Brazil’s AlmapBBDO—have been behind BBDO New York’s upbeat and invigorating work for these two clients.

For Bacardi, that’s meant everything from millennial-resonant ads like “Break Free,” poking fun at the inescapable loops of Instagram’s popular Boomerang feature, to cutting-edge collaborative integrations like Music Liberates Music, through which Bacardi donated studio time to new Caribbean musicians every time someone streamed a Major Lazer track on Spotify.

“We have been very proud of how in the last three years we and the BBDO team have turned Bacardi into a brand that is constantly innovating, delivering entertainment and making ads that don’t even feel like ads,” Boer says, “and how that led Bacardi to be praised by award shows and, most importantly, helped their business leave a difficult moment and move into a currently, extremely healthy place.”

For Macy’s, the duo recently completed “Spotlight,” a lovely ad that used seamless digital effects to show the sunlight melting away drab winter clothes in favor of bare skin and bright, light fabrics.

If you’re looking to have your own moment in the sun, whether as a brand or as a creative professional, Kotlhar has this advice: “When you start to get comfortable and you feel like you finally have things under control, change.”

This story first appeared in the June 11, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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