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.”

Source of inspiration: “This year, I started my podcast, It’s Only Fucking Advertising (IOFA). I have a giant grin on my face as I hear the behind-the-scenes stories from some of the most famous work of the last 50 years from other creatives I really admire like Jeff Goodby his partner Rich Silverstein, Alex Bogusky, Susan Credle and others. Also, I find it incredibly rewarding to hear from listeners how the podcast has affected them. For instance, I’ve had people write the show saying how they were going to give up on the business after getting fired, but a few guests’ personal stories, and my own story of getting let go early on and persevering, inspired them to keep going with passion and optimism.”

Geoffrey Lillemon and Anita Fontaine

creative directors, Department of New Realities, W+K Amsterdam

Courtesy of W+K

Based in: Amsterdam
Hometown: Communities in Texas and North Dakota (Lillemon), and Brisbane, Australia (Fontaine)

Recent work: The duo’s Department of New Realities, which they co-founded nearly three years ago, creates a range of tools and activations that blend creativity and emerging technology. In 2018, they launched LAVA, an augmented reality platform that turns vinyl records into spinning, ever-changing 3D art displays. “LAVA uses technology that allows us to detect what song is playing on a turntable and relay that to specific 3D artwork that is overlaid on top of the spinning record,” Lillemon says. “It was a dream project for us to pair music and technology in new ways, earned the agency its first patent and put us on a trajectory of developing our own I.P.”

Advice to aspiring creatives: “Approach advertising in an unconventional way,” Fontaine says. “Consumers have fatigue around advertising, so can we just make beautiful uplifting experiences than enhance our reality?”

Personal mantra: Fontaine: “Love everyone, and don’t get angry.” Lillemon: “Are the cats happy?”

Source of inspiration: “I have many inspirational outlets, as I don’t seek relaxation but instead seek expression,” Lillemon says. “I’ve turned my house into a theatrical playground with interactive antiques that respond to your presence; in this way I’m transforming my physical home into a piece of art that has a presence and a behavior.”

Catalin Dobre

CCO of McCann Bucharest and Central and Eastern Europe creative director for McCann Worldgroup

Adrian Nina

Based in: Bucharest, Romania

Recent work: “Bihor Couture,” a fashion brand created by the agency in partnership with magazine Beau Monde. “Big fashion houses have been using inspiration from the local cultures of many countries and regions of the world, without giving credit to the locals, the original creators. The same was the case for a small Romanian region, Bihor, that created an amazing coat used as a model by a big fashion brand and sold for a lot of money. Working with Beau Monde, the fashion magazine that supports beauty and authenticity, we created Bihor Couture, a fashion brand with designs created by the locals, that serves as a model to bring money in the community and keep the traditions alive.”

Most rewarding part of his job: “I love it when I see the pieces of work I created entering pop culture. We need to break the advertising bubble and people need to perceive our creations as something that is enriching their lives, not as something that just needs to sell them products.”

On creative leadership: “I think leaders need to create and develop the right context for people to make the most of their qualities. This means not being stuck on job descriptions, titles and formality; it means creating a context that enables each person to grow in their unique way.”

Levi Slavin and Maria Devereux

CCO and creative director, Colenso BBDO (New Zealand)

Courtesy of Colenso BBDO

Based in: Auckland, New Zealand
Hometown: Perth, Australia (Slavin) and Auckland (Devereux)

Recent work: “Pedigree SelfieSTIX,” winner of five Lions at Cannes in 2018. “Pedigree SelfieSTIX will always stand out as a memorable piece of work for me,” Devereux says. “It has been awarded over 80 times at 24 shows, which demonstrates there’s still a place for a simple, well crafted idea. Pedigree SelfieSTIX reinvented the pet treats and care category by creating a simple mobile phone accessory which attached a DentaStix treat to your phone so you could capture the perfect dog selfie. To accompany the clip, we created an app which took your successful dog selfies and added fun filters to them. This app was a unique example of machine vision and a digital achievement in its own right. By training an algorithm with thousands of dog images, we created something Google and Snapchat could not—selfie filters for dogs.”

Source of inspiration: “My passion for craft extends beyond advertising and into needlework,” Devereux says. “My ‘Craftivism’ exhibition is due to open in July and features large cross stitched guns. This exhibition highlights the need for stricter gun controls and questions the glorification of guns in society. The guns chosen are associated with the worlds’ most brutal mass killings. My current piece is a life size AR-15, the weapon used in New Zealand’s recent terrorist attack in Christchurch. The scale and detail of these pieces mean they require both time and patience. My largest piece has taken me nine years to complete.”

View the full Creative 100 gallery for 2019 to discover more about this year’s honorees.

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."