The first half of 2020 will be remembered by history as a time that not only tested the world, but also brought it together more closely than any other event in a generation. For international creative leaders, who’ve traditionally faced starkly different obstacles in each of their markets, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a consistent challenge across all borders. As the world enters a period of recovery and reemergence, these creative leaders will be entrusted with helping guide clients along a thoughtful, productive path.
CCO, Wunderman Thompson Brazil
Based in: São Paulo
On becoming the first CCO for recently merged Wunderman Thompson Brazil: “Working for seven months now, caught in the middle of this pandemic, could have been a big challenge for us as a new agency, but it’s actually been a moment of progress since remote work has accelerated the fusion process.”
On the pressure for agencies to evolve: “On the one hand, this is a great opportunity to connect and be a strategic partner to our clients, but we will need to be very open-minded, have diverse skills, be very creative and improvise.”
Advice for aspiring creatives: “Use your work to help people and the world. Help our industry to be more diverse, more creative and sustainable.”
The lasting lessons of quarantine: “The world has gone through a very difficult period, but we needed to think collectively, with more generosity, more love and more respect.”
Vivian Yong and Ian Toombs
ECDs, Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai
Based in: Shanghai
Recent work: Nike’s first Chinese New Year ad, about the tradition of hongbao—red envelopes filled with money given to relatives. “The receivers might politely decline out of courtesy, while the givers keep insisting,” Yong says. “So our team turned this funny practice into a running battle between a young girl and her stubborn aunt across two decades. We found a cultural insight familiar to so many and turned a traditional festival that has nothing to do with sport into a fun and athletic competition.”
On the challenges of marketing in China: “Historically speaking, advertising here has been celebrity-driven, but savvy local marketers and CEOs are tired of throwing their money away on expensive endorsements,” Toombs says. “Our goal is to use creativity to build the first globally loved Chinese super brands that don’t rely on celebrities as a quick fix.”
CCO, Memac Ogilvy (UAE)
Based in: Dubai
On the personal impact of Covid-19: “I tested positive for Covid-19 on May 3, and I’m still racked by fever, chills, aches and pains every day. This has brought home to me like nothing else our extreme fragility and vulnerability. I say don’t let a day go by without telling people close to you how much you love them.”
On his global path with Ogilvy: “Before, I was with Ogilvy in Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore. I took a sabbatical in 2017 to travel and hike the world with my wife. When we were done in 2018, I reached out to my old employer to see if they still had a role for me. It turned out they did—in the Middle East.”
chief design officer, Huge
Based in: London
Recent work: “One of the projects I’m very proud of is the work we are doing with McDonald’s, helping them shift into more focus on drive-thru and delivery. It’s obviously work that has a major impact on their business in this current landscape.”
Surrounded by strong women: “I was raised in Iceland. My grandmother was the CEO and owner of a company. She was the boss, but to me she was just a pretty awesome grandmother who was doing her job. At the same time, we had a female president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, and she was a great role model. Because of this, I don’t think I ever considered my gender to be a blocker. Women were able to do as much as men and sometimes more.
Advice to aspiring creatives: “Don’t overthink. Don’t hesitate. The best things happen when you follow your gut and take a bit of risk.”
ECD, Ingo Stockholm
Based in: Stockholm
Recent work: Burger King’s Moldy Whopper. “It originated from a brief in Sweden about how Burger King had removed all artificial preservatives and grew to a global integrated campaign with 8.5 billion impressions. The campaign included a very difficult production in Stockholm where it took months to get the moldy Whoppers right, plus a Foreign Legion-style wonderful cooperation with David Miami where I partnered up with [2018 Creative 100 honoree] Pancho Cassis, and eventually some input from Publicis in Bucharest.