13 Global Creative Leaders Whose Ideas Are Advancing Advertising Worldwide

Meet the international icons on this year's Creative 100

Faustin Claverie and Benjamin Marchal. Bruno Bicalho Carvalhaes
Headshot of David Griner

Ad industry veterans may debate the value of awards shows, but there’s one benefit no one can deny: the value of bringing some of the world’s top creative talents together.

Thanks to the Cannes Lions and other festivals, creative leaders who’ve been well regarded in their home countries have a chance to get the international credit their work deserves. The following global honorees in this year’s Creative 100 have been frequent winners, speakers and jurors at Cannes, but there’s likely still much about them that you haven’t known—until now.

Jureeporn Thaidumrong

CCO, GreynJ United

Courtesy of Jureeporn Thaidumrong

Based in: Bangkok, Thailand
Hometown: Chachoengsao, Thailand

Recent work: “Friendshit” (about the struggle to make new friends) and “Face Off” (about adjusting to updates to your favorite apps) for KBank. “I am proud of my clients, my whole team and our way of creating and producing these campaigns. We were so synchronized, experimental and trusting.”

On the side: “I have been taking care of street animals for more than 20 years. It started with stray dogs. Now I have 70 cats in my place and 30 outside. I’m planting forest trees and doing organic agroforestry on a farm in Chiang Mai, in the northern part of Thailand, on 150 acres adjacent to the forest.”

Personal mantra: “This is what my mom told me and I always tell myself: ‘Everything will pass. Hold the flag, be in the present, and let go.’”

Steve Babaeko

CEO and CCO, X3M Ideas

Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko for Camara-Studios

Based in: Lagos, Nigeria
Hometown: Kabba, Kogi State, Nigeria

Recent work: World Cup campaign for Go. “Go is an African telecommunications brand. We told the story of African participation in the last World Cup using iconic African football players from the past.”

His agency’s philosophy: “Shapeshift or die.” Unveiling the mantra recently for the X3M Ideas’ sixth anniversary, “we imported a fabricated dinosaur fossil from China, we buried it somewhere and it was ‘discovered’ by some ‘archeologists.’ The discovery was seeded on social media before we later used the dinosaur as an example of an animal that refused to shapeshift and became extinct.”

Advice for aspiring creatives: “Check your ego at the door. If you don’t, it will be crushed sooner or later.”

Leadership philosophy: “Give the team what they need to create magic, and stay out of their way.”

Sergio Gordilho

co-president, CCO and art director, Agência Africa

Rodrigo Pirim

Based in: São Paulo, Brazil
Hometown: Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

Recent work: Budweiser “Tagwords,” which used cryptic words in print ads to send fans Googling, resulting in pictures of celebrities drinking Bud. “It was a purely data insight that brought us those amazing images of rock stars having a great time, mostly holding a Bud. Rock stars and beer—what a combination! Then it was easy. We just had to do two things: Choose the right words, and call a good lawyer.”

Also, Telefonica’s “My Game My Name,” in which male gamers tried using female names, discovering the rampant harassment against women in gaming. “Sexual harassment is a big issue in the digital gaming world. I found out my two daughters were being harassed. So we created a movement against such terrible behavior.”

Personal mantra: “Never take anything for granted. Always try to look at something with fresh eyes.”

Faustin Claverie and Benjamin Marchal

ecds, TBWA\Paris

Bruno Bicalho Carvalhaes

Based in: Paris
Hometowns: Avignon (Marchal); Paris (Claverie)

Recent work: “Rain” campaign for McDonald’s delivery. “It’s an outdoor campaign showing urban landscapes shot through dripping windows. It’s a very simple idea that doesn’t need a line. When it rains, you just don’t want to get out. We both have an art director background, so it was very rewarding to work on a piece of work where photography and craft matter so much,” Claverie says.

Also: “Harmless Guns” for 3D printing brand Dagoma. “We asked people to send us all the gun blueprints they could find. Then we slightly modified the blueprints to make the guns useless and flooded the dark web with these harmless guns.”

On the side: “We take time to direct music videos or short films once or twice a year. Ben is also writing animated films. We decided to restart our heavy-metal band this year—advertising has become too soft!”

Alan Kelly

CCO, Rothco, part of Accenture Interactive (Ireland)

Rich Gilligan

Based in: Dublin

Recent work: “JFK Unsilenced,” on which he was the copywriter and creative director. “It was an activation for The Times UK & Ireland’s ‘Find Your Voice’ campaign. The idea used AI and a lot of sound design to allow JFK to finally deliver the speech he was on his way to give when he was assassinated.”

Advice to aspiring creatives: “Never give up. Whether your goal is trying to land your first job in an agency or its trying to convince a client to see why your idea is right for them, or maybe your goal is to win a Cannes Lion—whatever it is, never, ever, ever, give up. Ever.”

Thoughts on creative leadership: “You know that idea that’s on a post-it stuck to a wall somewhere in the agency? You loved it. Everyone loved it. Everyone! But it was treated as a ‘nice-to-do’ or ‘maybe we’ll run it in year two of the campaign’. Well guess what? Year two never fucking comes. So on the wall of the agency that post-it will stay until, a few months later, someone will open a window to let some air in and that post-it falls to the floor and is swept up into the bin later that night. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that a good creative leader needs to protect those ideas and do whatever it takes to get them out into the world. Whatever it takes! Because those are the ideas that’ll make a brand famous.”

Ted Lim

CCO, Dentsu Asia-Pacific

Courtesy of Ted Lim

Based in: Singapore
Hometown: Ipoh, Malaysia (“a quiet little town…until Lonely Planet rated it one of the best places to visit”)

Recent work: While Lim is modest about his role in the Dentsu network’s award-winning campaigns from across the Asia-Pacific region (which he describes as “teamwork for which I won’t take personal credit”), one especially notable campaign is BWM Denstu Sydney’s “Project Revoice” for the ALS Association. The effort to create a naturalistic voice replacement for Pat Quinn, co-founder of the Ice Bucket Challenge. This year, “Project Revoice” has already won a best-of-discipline at The One Show and a Black Pencil at D&AD.

Also: “Dead Whale,” a 73-foot whale carcass sculpture made from the types of plastic debris that endangers ocean life, created for by Dentsu JaymeSyfu in the Philippines for Greenpeace.

On the role of creativity in marketing: “People don’t buy advertising, people buy relevance. We are in the business formerly known as advertising and marketing in the digital economy has to be more relevant and personalized to move people and business. Data tells us where the customer is. Media gets us there. What we do when we are face-to-face with the customer, that’s creative. That’s the moment of truth. Creativity moves the people we have spent so much data and media money to reach.”

Aaron Starkman

CCO and partner, Rethink, Toronto

Robert Popkin

Based in: Toronto

Recent work: “Lamp 2”, a recycling-themed sequel to Ikea’s highly acclaimed 2002 “Lamp” spot.  “My favorite ad of all time is Spike Jonze’s Ikea ‘Lamp’ spot from 16 years ago. But the fact is, that sad red lamp I loved so much was likely headed to a landfill. The attitudes around waste have shifted a lot in the 16 years after ‘Lamp’ aired. That little lamp was a symbol for Ikea at the time—just throw it away and get a new one. So we suggested to give the red lamp that everyone loved a new life. Instead of it being a symbol of our wasteful past, we suggested to use the exact same lamp as a symbol for who Ikea is today: a company that truly cares about the environment. They care so much that in Canada, they encouraged people not to buy new furniture. Instead they encourage re-use (red lamp included) to help the planet. The re-use campaign highlighted by the lamps new life and was an enormous success in the market. Sales even shot up, though that wasn’t the main objective.”

This story first appeared in the June 10, 2019, 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."