11 Global Creative Leaders Shaping the World’s Most Inventive Marketing

Adweek's Creative 100 honors worldwide talent in a year that has brought the Earth together

Headshot of David Griner

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.

Keka Morelle
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.” 

Juggi Ramakrishnan
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.”

Recent work: Global advertising for Expo 2020 Dubai, plus several Ikea campaigns including “Bully a Plant” and “The Book That Will Change Your Life.”

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.” 

Fura Johannesdottir
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.” 

Björn Ståhl
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.

Advice to aspiring creatives: “If you are prepared to work very hard and stay in the industry for a long time, you will make it. It’s 98% hard work, 2% talent.”

Personal mantra: “It’s never too late for everything to completely fuck up. Be paranoid!” 

Sompat Trisadikun
CCO, Leo Burnett Group Thailand

Based in: Bangkok

Recent work: “Bok Choy” for the Thai Health Promotion Foundation. “We got the brief to educate people on the lesser-known fact that consuming out-of-season veggies that are full of toxins from chemical fertilizers can harm their health. With the serious and complicated issue, we decided to communicate it through an entertaining film for people to easily understand while being fun to watch.”

His hobby: “Toys! I love collecting robots, both vintage or brand new, but mostly Japanese robot figures. My happiness is to see those toys everywhere in my house, from a display cabinet, a working table or even in my bathroom.”

Advice to aspiring creatives: “Fight for the idea you think is best, and fight your best to make it happen.”

Wendy Chan
ECD, McCann Health Greater China
Based in: Shanghai

Recent work: GSK’s “Breath of Life,” winner of the Pharma Grand Prix at the 2019 Cannes Lions. “After discovering that COPD is the third-largest cause of death in China, I was shocked by the low levels of awareness about the condition,” says Chan. “With around 100 million suspected patients in China, fewer than 7% are properly diagnosed. We decided to turn the ubiquitous mobile phone into a novel way of promoting disease awareness.”

On brand marketing budget cuts due to Covid-19: “I worry that this will eventually lead the consumer to focus only on price, which we all know is a weak differentiator. I am, therefore, trying to help clients understand that this is the best time for their brands to play a meaningful role in people’s lives to make a significant difference over the long term.”

Personal mantra: “Just make it happen, no matter what.” 

Thabang Skwambane
group managing director, FCB and Hellocomputer Joburg (South Africa)
Based in: Johannesburg

One of the agency world’s little-discussed challenges: “Intellectual property rights. We develop incredible ideas and craft exquisite elements, but have no ownership rights.”

On his global journey: “I grew up on a mine in the Namib Desert. I have lived in Cape Town, London, New York and Johannesburg. I learned how to adapt and thrive in different environments. I learned resilience and self-reliance.”

Advice to aspiring creatives: “Make good use of every opportunity you have here, because the more you do, the more you will grow, and that will get you to where you want to go.”

Personal mantra: “Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands at times of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.'” 

Ant White
CCO, CHE Proximity (Australia)
Based in: Melbourne

Recent work: “The Booster Tag,” a clothing-care icon that helps parents know when children can stop using a car booster seat, created for RACV Insurance and Australia’s Road Safety Commission. “The legal age to take a child out of a booster seat is 7 years old, but all 7-year-olds are different heights, and the safest time to take a child out of the seat is actually 145 cm,” White explains. “With this daily reminder that can be easily adopted by all kids’ clothing labels, this project could help save the lives of countless children in road accidents. The brief started as a public service radio announcement, yet creative lateral thinking allowed it to become so much more.”

Advice to aspiring creatives: “Be curious about what’s next, but learn a traditional craft—whether that’s writing or design, production or whatever else. No matter how the industry advances, the fundamentals will stay the same.” 

Marie-Elaine Benoit
creative director, design, Sid Lee (Canada)

Based in: Montreal

Recent work: CN100, an experiential campaign and 300-page book celebrating 100 years of the Canadian National Railway. “The book as a whole was laid out on a grid inspired by CN’s intermodal containers,” explains Benoit, “and its visual vocabulary drew on the graphic codes regulating the industry.”

Other work: Visual branding for Maison Mère, a former convent acquired by the city of Quebec and repurposed as a collaborative space for entrepreneurs. “I spearheaded the creation of Maison Mère’s visual identity, including the logo and signage, which were inspired by the convent’s architecture and interior design,” she says.

On marketing post-pandemic: “I truly believe that creativity will help us emerge from this stronger,” says Benoit. “Our clients—like the rest of the world—are facing challenges right now, and we have the skills and creativity to help them. But we have to be proactive. We have to try things. If we stand still, nothing will change.” 

Check out Adweek’s Creative 100 for 2020 by category: Rising Talents | Senior Agency Leaders | Global Agency Leaders | Media Innovators | Celebrities & Influencers | Creators & Curators | Branded Content Innovators | Directors | Cover Star: Ramy Youssef

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."