Sure, it’s impressive to be good at what you do—and especially to get famous for doing it. But that’s not enough to land a spot on Adweek’s annual Creative 100.
Each year, our list (which never repeats a name) honors celebrities and influencers who are multi-talented, endlessly inventive and creatively inspiring.
This year’s roster is packed with names you know, along with a few that might only be on the periphery of your pop culture knowledge—but are almost certain to come up in conversation over the coming months. So read up on the celebs below so you’ll be fully prepared to say, “Oh yes, I’ve been following their work for quite a while.”
Actor, producer and owner of Aviation Gin
Reynolds knows passion sells. That’s why his clear obsession and love for his Deadpool character and Aviation Gin make him a marketing tour de force.
“[Marketing] is creatively satisfying,” Reynolds tells Adweek. “I really enjoy it. I’m a huge believer that necessity is the mother of invention. That old idiom is never truer in the marketing space.”
Reynolds tag teams Aviation Gin’s creative strategy with his partner-in-crime, George Dewey, who worked with Reynolds on the massively successful Deadpool campaigns that included a Bob Ross spoof and taking over entire the DVD section at Walmart. Reynolds looks to leverage his love of pop culture, which is a “huge part” his daily life, into Aviation’s marketing.
Often, ideas begin with text messages to Dewey, and Reynolds says they like to keep it simple, “It’s not like there isn’t some gigantic white board with conspiracy yarn linking different ideas to each other.”
Because Aviation Gin is still relatively small, Reynolds says he focuses on earned media instead of paid media, thinking up stunts that will gain attention—but also convey his authentic love for the brand.
“How can we tackle something that is culturally relevant, have fun with it and be self-deprecating,” he says, “while also creating a certain level of brand awareness?” That’s led to partnerships with Richard Branson and a resolution of his “feud” with Hugh Jackman, as well as an ongoing series of out-of-office emails and the hilarious spot above about Aviation’s mystical distilling process.
Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine
Screenwriters, producers and actors
It’s a truth universally acknowledged middle school is the worst. And yet Erskine and Konkle—creators, writers, executive producers and stars of Hulu’s Pen15—willingly relived their most traumatic experiences to reboot themselves as 13-year-olds in the year 2000.
The result is a love letter—written, of course, with gel pen in an intricately folded note on college-ruled paper—to their younger selves, which taps into a goldmine of puberty-era themes that run the gamut from braces and bras to self-doubt and cruel nicknames.
But Pen15 is also a nod to a bygone era of see-through landline phones, dial-up internet, AIM screen names and layered hair. The details are perfect: Maya cuts out a picture of teen heartthrob Brad Renfro for her binder. Her brother drinks a can of Surge. She and ‘Na wear best-friend necklaces and watch Wild Things on VHS with boys, which, at the time, was pretty much the most risqué thing you could do as a 13-year-old girl. And, of course, despite bowl cuts, rejection and really bad first kisses, each is the other’s biggest cheerleader. (Even though the odds are good they wouldn’t make the cheerleading squad at this point.)
The result is as uncomfortable and devastating as it is joyful and heartwarming, perhaps like middle school itself. And, thankfully, they will return for more in a 14-episode sophomore season.
Director, screenwriter and producer
The vast majority of directors, writers and editors in Hollywood will struggle their whole lives in a futile search for even one Oscar. Cuarón, meanwhile, has played all those roles and more—and been honored time and again for them by the Academy Awards. His movies have been nominated an astounding 34 times and have taken home a total of 13 Oscars.
Unquestionably one of today’s most visionary and hands-on directors, Cuarón most recently was honored by the Academy with Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography for 2018’s Roma, which he wrote, produced, directed and edited. He previously directed influential hits such as 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth and 2013’s Gravity—winner of seven Oscars, including Best Director.
Shot entirely in black and white, Roma was inspired by Cuarón’s childhood nanny, Liboria “Libo” Rodríguez, portrayed in the semi-autobiographical film as the character Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez. The film follows the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma neighborhood through the lens of Cleo’s care and personal struggles.
To bring a level of realism often lacking in Hollywood dramas, Cuarón insisted actors not be given scripts farther in advance than necessary for each scene, encouraging them to ad lib and discover the unfolding plot of the film, which was also shot in chronological order.
Singer, songwriter and rapper
Lizzo’s debut album only dropped in April, but the musician has already shot to the top of the public’s consciousness. It’s hardly a surprise—the songs off of that debut, “Cuz I Love You,” are the sort that make you want to roll down your car windows and sing along. And brands are taking notice: Long before “Cuz I Love You” was released, companies like AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Cadillac, Weight Watchers (now known as WW) and MillerCoors were using her tunes as the backdrop to their ads.
“We were looking for music that could be so closely tied to the brand—something that could be a character in the spot,” Daniel Kuypers, Energy BBDO’s senior vp and executive director of music, told Variety about selecting “Juice” to launch MillerCoors’s first ad campaign for Cape Line, its new sparkling cocktail brand. “When we heard ‘Juice,’ all these things formed the whole picture that we were looking for.”
It’s not just her music that’s appearing in spots: Lizzo herself appeared in an ad for Khloe Kardashian’s denim line, Good American, earlier this year—and considering the fact that “Cuz I Love You” hit No. 1 on the iTunes music charts, there will almost certainly more campaigns to come.
The McElroy Brothers
Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy aren’t exactly expert advice-givers, but the three brothers have proven they’re more than capable of running a media business together.
The siblings have expanded their side-splittingly funny advice and comedy podcast, My Brother, My Brother and Me, from a side project created to keep in touch with each other into a veritable podcasting empire. About a dozen different programs—which star the brothers, their spouses, their father and their friends—have been downloaded half a billion times.
MBMBaM, distributed through the podcasting network Maximum Fun, has expanded from a weekly series into a live show and a brief TV series on Seeso. Another spinoff podcast, The Adventure Zone, which chronicles the brothers and their dad playing tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, has grown to include a live show and graphic novels.