The Year in Creativity, 2020

Highlights from a turbulent 12 months, and what's next

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

It's been a year of extremes, in just about every sense. And so it's been in advertising, too, where a stunned industry adjusted in days to a whole new way of working as well as radically shifting client needs, all against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the fight for racial justice, and a bruising U.S. election that further divided an already-bitter country. In this climate of fear, many advertisers, not knowing what else to do, made predictably anodyne work. But others, boxed into the same corner, just as predictably did what they always do—found their way out through creativity, and delivered resourceful, inventive, entertaining and truly emotional work that met the demands of the moment, in marketing and beyond. As we wrap up a year to forget, we asked a group of top creatives to pick the work to remember—and to suggest where we might go from here. Thanks to all who contributed, and here's to a brighter 2021.


The Year in Creativity, 2020

Click the links to see individual entries, or scroll down to read them all.

360i | Devon Hong
Alto | Gen Hoey
Barkley | Katy Hornaday
BBDO New York | Vishal Dheiman
BCW Global | Whitney Cusack
Berlin Cameron | Jamie Silverman
BSSP | Nicole Michels McDonagh
CALLEN | Craig Allen
Campbell Ewald | Silmo Bonomi and Clarence Bradley
Cartwright | Keith Cartwright
Deutsch New York | Husani Oakley
Deutsch LA | Karen Costello
Droga5 New York | Karen Short
Droga5 London | Shelley Smoler
EP+Co | John Cornette
Erich & Kallman | Kate Higgins
FCB | Susan Credle
Fred & Farid | Fred Raillard
FREE THE WORK | Pamala Buzick
[Freelance] | Margaret Keene
Giant Spoon | Kenny Mac
Goodby Silverstein & Partners | Margaret Johnson
Grey New York | Justine Armour
GUT | Ricardo Casal and Juan Javier Pena Plaza
Humanaut | David Littlejohn
Jam3 | Pablo Vio
Johannes Leonardo | Bharat Kumar and Marcelo Ramirez
The Many | Damien Eley
The Martin Agency | Danny Robinson
McCann Worldgroup | Piper Hickman
Mirror Films / Suddenly There | Kanyessa McMahon
Mischief @ No Fixed Address | Greg Hahn
Mother London | Ana Balarin
Observatory | Jae Goodman
O'Keefe Reinhard & Paul | Aubrey Walker
Pereira O'Dell | PJ Pereira
Preacher | Marcus Brown
R/GA | Tiffany Rolfe
RAPP | Moa Netto
Red & Co. | Mira Kaddoura
Serviceplan Group | Alexander Schill
Special Group US | William Gelner
TBWA\Chiat\Day LA | Kailey Riggen and Lulu Wimberly
TBWA\Chiat\Day NY | Ricard Valero and David Banta
Tombras | Jeff Benjamin
Wieden + Kennedy Portland | Jason Kreher
Wondros Collective | Tamika Miller
WorkInProgress | Lauren Perlow


360i

Devon Hong

Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

Since I just joined 360i in November, I'm going with something I worked on at 72andSunny. I'm really proud of leading the Etsy holiday campaign this year. "Gift Like You Mean It" included three emotional stories that show the universal power of a meaningful gift. The diverse team was able to add a level of nuance and intersectionality to stories that resonated so deeply with our audience. As a queer person of color who believes the best work should be personal, I'm touched by how many people felt seen by these 30-second commercials.

Project I admired

When I first saw the Oreo Doomsday Vault from The Community and 360i, I immediately got jealous and wished I worked on it. It's a best-in-class example of reactive advertising, but executed on such a grand scale. I'm a big believer in approaching work playfully, and this project really exemplifies that spirit.

A prediction for 2021

I have a feeling our year in lockdown has helped us recenter and reveal what's really important to us. My hope is that it will lead to more authentic work, rooted in human truths, and work that serves a greater purpose in the world.

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Alto New York

Genevieve Hoey

Managing Partner, Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

If you made great work in 2020, high-five yourself. Our Alto team deserves marble statues carved in their honor. As Covid ripped through New York, they dug in 24/7 to help the hospital being hit hardest by the pandemic, Montefiore. I'm most proud of our Montefiore project Canyon of Heroes honoring the frontline health workers. With the help of Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and Tristan Eaton, we created a tribute to the bravery of those healing our city. Seeing nurses going to take pictures of themselves with our mural after their shifts was truly humbling. 

Project I admired

Like everyone, my jaw hit the floor watching Beats by Dre's "You love Black culture, but do you love me?" but here's another equally excellent idea. Besides a virus, 2020 also brought the U.S. election. Among all the great Trump-bashing ideas, Patagonia stitching "Vote the Assholes Out" into their shorts got my vote. A subversive easter egg, hidden in a specific shorts style first released in 1973. Which is how long Patagonia has been fighting dumb politicians. An authentic action and a brilliant in-joke to deepen the bond between the brand and its fans. 

A prediction for 2021

If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that life is both fragile and glorious. And while we've all been locked away, we've come to realize it's not material things we're missing. We don't need more stuff. Just the good stuff. Humanity, connection, good health, care for each other and for our delicate planet. In 2021, we're going to see brands that genuinely share these core values rise to the top. Creatively, there will be less love for hyperbole, more for raw honesty, emotion, smart tech and craft in the work. And hopefully levity. Hell, we need more laughs.

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Barkley

Katy Hornaday

Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

In March, when the world shut down, we launched "United We Move" with our clients at Planet Fitness—free, daily "work-ins" on Facebook Live. Even as production realities changed hourly, Planet Fitness showed up to keep the country moving every single day. Today, more than 10 months later, we are still producing daily installations, and the efforts have brought millions of viewers, new members and future opportunities to the brand.

Project I admired

My favorite project this year is between "For Once, Don't Do It" and "Play for the World." I love the way Nike continues to use its brand to move important cultural conversations forward. It used to be acceptable for a brand to be indifferent, but 2020 changed that. Consumers are demanding that brands pick a side, and Nike did some really beautiful work that set a superb example—per usual.

A prediction for 2021

2020 has set some precedents that will stick. Brands will no longer be allowed to be silent about their stance on important topics affecting our world, like racism, sustainability and our planet. I also believe the production constraints of 2020 have forced us to create in new ways, and I think we will see a desire for more unorthodox production to continue. And finally, living in perma-scroll all year will up the expectations consumers have for brands in their social feeds. We have to use the channels as an idea instead of an instrument.

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BBDO New York

Vishal Dheiman

Head of Innovation

Project I'm proud of

Something I'm proud of at BBDO NY is the Ford "Mach Drop." The team took something which has become quite standard in sneaker culture and adapted that to launch a first-of-its-kind, all-electric Ford Mustang in a way that had never been done before, by Ford or any other automaker. The Ford Mustang brand has never been shy about disrupting the status quo. The "Mach Drop" offered a limited number of previously sold-out Mustang Mach-E First Editions in three of its most popular colorways—not through traditional channels, but by dropping them via some of the internet's most powerful platforms like Instagram and Spotify. For example, fans were prompted to search for the "Mach Drop" playlist on the Ford Spotify channel, which contains Mustang and electric-inspired tracks, including a hidden clue that reveals the phone number to call to order the highly sought-out vehicle. Without any paid media behind the effort, Ford had people clamoring to get their hands on one of the limited releases. Many creative ideas can be powerful, but you need results. This had both.

Project I admired

"Dictators" by RepresentUs. RepresentUs, the anti-corruption organization, launched two ads featuring carefully crafted deep-fake versions of foreign political figures Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, to illustrate that unless the American people take immediate action to fix political corruption, democracy will collapse. The ads were set to air immediately after the presidential debate. The idea was so bold it got banned from news channels. To me, that's game-changing work. Using tech to showcase how dangerous tech itself can be. Deep-faking can be incredibly useful (see movie production), but if used incorrectly, there can be a further threat to the integrity of the media, as portrayed here. Two incredibly powerful spots, that I first read about in an MIT article. That's work I wish I'd made.

A prediction for 2021

We've been talking about 5G for years. But it's actually here now, and we finally have solid devices to help facilitate its download/upload speeds. Online shopping, AR experiences and social media are going to go through the roof. Messaging apps will be our go-to for news, shopping and communication (see: WeChat in China). I'm also excited to witness the new innovative startups birthed from the turmoil of 2020. Creativity is, after all, the key for post-crisis rebuild.

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BCW Global

Whitney Cusack

Executive Producer

Project I'm proud of

I was very proud to creative direct the "No More…" hashtag campaign. This project was born from the frustration surrounding the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and dedicated to initiating enduring systemic change beyond the platform of social media. For as it often stands, with every tragic death that occurs, another hashtag is generated in support, but meaningful justice rarely transpires on a legal level. In lieu of the enormity of the social media activity beginning to take shape online, I wanted to provide a call to action that would give everyone a helpful platform to show their support in an actionable way. The 30-second piece closes with the simple directive, "Don't Just Post Something. Do Something."

Project I admired

The Beats by Dre "You Love Me" ad from Translation, written by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas, was exceptional. This duo is responsible for some of the most iconic and gripping representations of diversity in cinematic art, so it was no surprise when I discovered their names credited for this work. It's a poignant and timely ad that causes those watching to check themselves, their preferences and their biases. It pushes the envelope as a reminder that you cannot take part in Black culture without accepting the fullness of who we are as a people.

A prediction for 2021

For 2021, I predict and am extremely hopeful for more authentic storytelling from voices that previously felt silenced. If nothing else, 2020 has taught us to prioritize the things that make us whole, the things that ground us, and the things that point us toward our individual purpose. Let's take those lessons, this newfound power, and create content that makes a difference, while opening doors for others that should have never been shut to begin with.

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Berlin Cameron

Jamie Silverman

Group Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

In the midst of the pandemic, our client AIG wanted to help female golfers play the game they love—and have a chance to earn an income—at the Women's British Open, an event that they title-sponsor. In the course of two months, we cut 12 spots for this campaign. Not only did it feel amazing helping women earn a living, but that type of rapid-fire work is always rewarding—especially when it turns out well.

Project I admired

Burger King's "Moldy Whopper" was one of my favorite campaigns from this year. Nothing beats a tight brief, beautifully and simply executed, and this was a perfect example of all of those pieces coming together. Not to mention such a smart way to show the brand's evolution toward not using artificial preservatives. I would never have thought of myself as someone who would want to make a Moldy Whopper famous, but here we are. It's the type of work I wish I'd made.

A prediction for 2021

Working from home is going to become the rule and not the exception. As agencies realize they can be productive and efficient working from the comfort of their own homes, wearing bathrobes and often straight from bed, the idea of going back to an office is going to move farther and farther from our consideration set. I get to wear slippers on client calls while petting my dog. What's not to love about that?

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BSSP

Nicole Michels McDonagh

Group Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

BSSP launched a new brand platform called "Make Every Day Delicious" for the fastest-growing pasta sauce in the country (and, let me add, the most addictive!)—Rao's Homemade. We shot remotely with three real, wonderfully diverse, multigenerational families and the extremely talented Marcus Nilsson. In a year that has been ridiculously depressing by any standard, I love that Rao's is leaning into such a positive sentiment. The work reminds us that we all hunger for a delicious homemade meal and, just as important, crave the connection that happens around the table.

Project I admired

My friend and former colleague, the artist Tony Aguero, poured all his angst, anger and passion around both the pandemic and social injustice into a provocative series of paintings called Pandemico. It's a brilliant example of how art can be an expression of what's in our heart, but also make our brains think a little harder about the state of the world around us.

A prediction for 2021

There's a trend bubbling up that will continue to evolve in 2021: Mater artium necessitas—necessity breeds invention. This year, just flat-out boredom has sparked some pretty exceptional ideas. There's a guy out there making heavy-metal cat videos. There's a secret team of architects, developers and writers in New York who created the Donald J. Trump Library. And if you haven't seen "Drunk In The Club After Covid" on TikTok yet, you're in for a real treat. Being deprived of the "normal" uses of our time has inspired more people to create beautiful, crazy, weird things. Let's hope that's a movement that continues in 2021 and beyond.

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CALLEN

Craig Allen

Founder and Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

In early Covid times, we, as parents, looked around and weren't impressed with the mask options available for kids, so we decided to make our own, and launched a new company called Our Littlest Ones. It was fun, we learned a TON, and it's inspired a new sense of entrepreneurship within our agency. We also helped the band Real Estate connect with fans through an interactive AR experience called The Quarantour when their tour was canceled. Always fun to help friends. Especially when those friends are a successful band.

Project I admired

I hate to say it because I'll sound like a W+K homer but I really liked the Travis Scott meal for McDonald's. Obviously, it was culturally HUGE. Even my 9-year-old son asked if we could go get one, to which I replied, "How do you know who Travis Scott is?" To which he replied "Fortnite, of course." It was genius how they were able to create new news about an old menu item without changing the product itself. It cost them nothing and the business results were phenomenal. Also they made an amazing Travis Scott action figure. Which my son also begged for. To which I replied, "Sorry, son, we don't have $1 billion to buy one off of StockX. Here's a football." 

A prediction for 2021

I think we've already seen the start of it, as a kajillion new agencies opened last week alone, but companies are looking to work with young, hungry, "make it happen" agencies. I obviously love this trend, as a young, hungry, "make it happen" agency. I also think companies will continue to be shy of long-term AOR type setups in favor of shorter contracted, project-based stints with many agencies, but I do think eventually companies will reconsider this approach as they experience the detrimental effects a lack of consistency in voice, tone and strategy can have on their brand.

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Campbell Ewald

Silmo Bonomi and Clarence Bradley

Chief Creative Officers

Project I'm proud of

We came to this job as strangers, having never worked together, but we had the same goals. One being that we wanted to build a diverse creative leadership team at an agency. This will be our first big achievement, but one built on the progress that Campbell Ewald has made in the last five years.

Project I admired

The Match.com spot "When Satan Met 2020" was a very smart integration of culture and product. It's hard to put a positive spin on such a crappy year. But this romance made perfect sense, and it brought a smile to people's faces.

A prediction for 2021

Empathy will be the marketing strategy for 2021. This will be a year of brands giving back to consumers in smart and innovative ways. Many people will be struggling to meet basic needs, so as marketers we'll have to address this with genuine concern for humanity.

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Cartwright

Keith Cartwright

President and Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

I'm very proud of the work we did with the NBA introducing their brand platform #WholeNewGame. It was bigger than an ad campaign. It became a platform to leverage why and how the NBA was coming back and what it represented in the age of Covid. #WholeNewGame was represented in everything the NBA did. It appeared on the courts, on the backboards, on signage outside the arena. It became important messaging for the NBA advertising partners, the announcers spoke to it, and sports reporters cited it as an example of a sports league coming back better than any other sport. 

Project I admired

It was so hard to do crafted work in this environment. And that's one reason I love the Burberry take on "Singin' in the Rain." The work is beautiful, and Megaforce did an incredible job directing and producing. I give kudos to the team there who said, you know what, we are going to do something great and craft this idea. Burberry gave us an opportunity in a challenging year to celebrate the art and artistry in what we do.

A prediction for 2021

I think we all suffer from creative cabin fever—we have been denied the ability to bring out incredible creative ideas, given the restraints we face. Once we are able to flex our creative muscles again, I think there will be a tremendous resurgence of smart, well-crafted creative outputs across multiple channels. I think there is a huge desire to elevate the output again with bold creativity. Brands want to do it, agencies want to do it, and the world wants to see it.

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Deutsch LA

Karen Costello

Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

This year has been really crazy, as we all know, but it's also been an opportunity to think outside of traditional boxes and really do some rewarding work. Our recent Drone Holiday Lights Tour for Walmart, in partnership with Intel, makes me particularly proud. This is something that has never been done before, and I love doing work like that. It's ambitious and innovative. And I love that, too. But probably even more important than all that, it's a gift of wonder and generosity at a time when people need it more than ever. And I really love that.

Project I admired

I think there have been some great examples of creativity during this most challenging year of 2020. But here's one of the projects I've admired most—the get-out-the-vote campaign that Stacey Abrams mobilized in Georgia. In marketing we talk about how to persuade. We talk about how to engage. We talk about how to amplify. We talk about how to inspire, galvanize and change behavior on a mass scale. Stacey Abrams and her team of people in Georgia did all of that, and it's wildly inspiring and motivating.

A prediction for 2021

I believe 2021 will be full of a lot of unbridled optimism because of the kind of year 2020 was. But I don't think some of that 2020 stuff just goes away, no matter how much we might want it to. So, I think we're going to be living in a little bit of hybrid reality for a while and it will affect the way we all look at the world and interact with each other. From an industry perspective, I think people are very eager to get back to production, and I can imagine we will see an explosion of quite a bit of larger-scale productions happening as soon as the world opens up again.

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Deutsch New York

Husani Oakley

Chief Technology Officer

Project I'm proud of

I'm proud of a lot of the work we've done this year, but in this tumultuous year, what I am most proud of is Deutsch NY's partnership with the School of Visual Arts (SVA) on a program called "Fund the Change." Along with other initiatives to level the playing field for people of color in this industry, we're putting our money and our time where our mouths are with a scholarship and year-round mentoring program. Fund the Change (which comes with guaranteed paid summer internships) is our investment in developing future advertising leaders, and I couldn't be more pleased.

Project I admired

TikTok users recently crowdsourced ideas for an imaginary Broadway musical—within days, songs and choreography were written, sets designed and playbills created. Not long after, Disney's official Twitter account acknowledged the movement, dubbed #RatatouilleTheMusical, and transformed it into a real-life benefit performance planned for Jan. 1. This is the magic that can happen when people who've grown up with the tools of creation in their pockets turn ideas into incredible executions. #RatatouilleTheMusical isn't agency work … but damn, imagine if it had been?

A prediction for 2021

It may not feel like it, but creativity thrives when limitations exist. And boy, 2020 has been a year of limitations. Indeed, 2020 has been an annus horribilis, and we'll be dealing with the ramifications for decades to come—but I expect 2021 will bring us stories we haven't seen before, told in ways we're just experimenting with now. Sure, the continued rise of A.I. out of adtech/martech and into the actual creative process will drive change, but what excites me is the possibility of a human creative renaissance.

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Droga5 New York

Karen Short

Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

In the months leading up to Nov. 3, I worked on a personal side project with a small group of folks who donated our free time to the Biden presidential campaign. Two TV spots that we made in particular gained traction with voters: "Vote For," an ad about everything Biden stands for and Trump does not, launched on the Billboard Music Awards, featuring music by Nina Simone. And "Oval," a series of spots featuring a ballot oval mimicking Trump's mouth talking that gets filled in and silenced. If this work motivated just one person to stick it out another hour in the rain to vote, it was worth it.

Project I admired

My gold statue for favorite project of the year goes to the K-pop "stans" who sabotaged the Trump rally back in June via TikTok. What a brilliant idea executed to perfection. And Trump trying to shut down TikTok for months on end after the fact just proved how well it achieved its objective. Hope we see more from those guys. 

A prediction for 2021

More of a hope and less of a prediction is that, in 2021, the distraction of the daily circus ends, and we can start to more squarely stare in the face of the existential crisis of climate change. The bulk of the work will, unfortunately, need to come from our political leaders, but efforts will need to come from all sides, so the more that we as marketers and creative people can join the fight, the more likely we can have a shot at curbing the worst. Will have to loop in K-pop stans.

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Droga5 London

Shelley Smoler

Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

I'm proud of the fact that we didn't turn Covid into a brief but rather that we accepted it as the context and simply kept going, doing what we always do for our clients. Making distracting, even entertaining work for Setapp, Alexa, Barclaycard and Rustlers, among others.

Project I admired

The Iceland Scream, where they invited people to record their frustrated lockdown screams and then amplified them loudly over the Nordic country's vast open spaces, was just one of a few brilliant pieces of work that showed how you could make something lighthearted but relevant in a terrible year. That ad for Greenies Dental Treats may have been 15 seconds long but it had me laughing for 30. On a serious (but never sombre) note, "You Love Me," for Beats, was epochal—an insightful masterpiece on several levels that we'll all remember from a time we'd rather forget.

A prediction for 2021

My serious prediction for 2021 is that we creatives will have to serve up better ideas than ever to stimulate our clients' appetites for risk again. My hopeful prediction for 2021 is that the respect for science Covid has instilled is directed toward the climate crisis. My guaranteed prediction for 2021 is that we'll all go back to the office, excited to be there, and I still won't have a chair.

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EP+Co

John Cornette

Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

Our IGTV John Deere "Field Report." This is a series of films we created, shot entirely using GoPro cameras by real John Deere owners. So much about 2020 was wrong, but production limitations due to Covid forced us to truly innovate how we captured footage and played perfectly into our creative strategy of "no actors on tractors." There's nothing fake about how John Deere operates, and this series lets us capture the consumer authentically, in their natural state, using their own machines on their own land. The best part is that it doesn't have the "looks like it was shot in Zoom" angle so many spots played into this year.

Project I admired

I really admired what Amazon did with "The Show Must Go On." In a sea of "things are hard and we get it" spots airing side by side, this slot taps into an insight and leveraged a key brand (and product) offering. The kicker: They did it with emotional resonance. Classy and elegantly produced. Not an easy thing to accomplish. Bravo.

A prediction for 2021

I'm not betting on an apocalypse. I think pent-up demand for human connection is going to drive even the most reclusive, socially anxious to seek real experiences. In life and advertising, I think we are going to see an explosion of comedy, adventure and that special kind of FUN that comes when you try something new for the first time. Can't wait to open the shoot and hold on for the ride.

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Erich & Kallman

Kate Higgins

Chief Growth Officer

Project I'm proud of

In what seems like a lifetime ago, we partnered with UN Women to drive equality and empowerment for women and girls globally. The goal was to bring attention to their movement, #GenerationEquality, on International Women's Day—March, 9, 2020. They came to us 39 days prior with very little funding. We created a film highlighting that since 1950 the realities for women have unfortunately not changed. With very challenging production limitations and no money for a rehearsal day, this was shot in one continuous take.

Project I admired

Hulu's Happiest Season. It's about time us queers got our own rom-com, cheesy Christmas movie. Thank you, Hulu!! If you aren't familiar, it's the classic family holiday ups and downs that the Hallmark Channel has trained us to crave. But this time the couple is gay, and there are other gay characters. What?? Yes, that's what happens when someone who's not mainstream gets to make a mainstream movie. And while I love the progress, there is more to be gained, especially regarding diversity in content and casting.

A prediction for 2021

Covid actually gave us something lovely. Each other. Thanks to Zoom closeups, we met your kids and pets and learned that you color-code your books! We connected on a very human level—this has to continue. 2021 will be about real connections, full of honesty and partnership. Behind the best work is usually a great collaboration. Next year, agency and client relationships need to continue being as real and honest as the ones that survived 2020.

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FCB

Susan Credle

Global Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

All of them! Just figuring out how to show up without "showing up" is worthy of applause. Early on, Chicago began "Live from the Library." Created as a response to libraries being closed and driven by a determination to keep reading alive, this idea really stood out for me because of its ambition. They convinced over 150 of "Chicago's most familiar faces," from Oprah to the Obamas, to add their unique voices to the library. An idea born out of Covid has now become a weekly reminder that the library is there for everyone every day, crisis or not. It's a perfect example of an FCB "Never Finished" idea.

Project I admired

Don't make ads, make TikToks. Or even better, make TikToks that turn out to be ads. Nathan Apodaca (@doggface208) wins for best concept, direction, casting and music. Both Fleetwood Mac and Ocean Spray cran-raspberry juice were introduced to a new audience and benefitted greatly, proving that what's old can be new again. TikTok wins for showing how brands can blatantly be a part of content without conforming to the traditional rules and expectations of advertising.

A prediction for 2021

I was on a panel recently where Frank Cartagena, CCO at The Community NY, said after all the things we've had to fear and worry about this year, maybe creating advertising isn't that scary. So, my prediction for 2021—or better, my hope—is that we use 2020 as a reminder to keep things in perspective, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Because, the more vulnerable we can be when creating, the more courageous we become. And that is the difference between creating good and great. Just ask Nathan Apodaca.

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Fred & Farid

Fred Raillard

Co-Founder and CEO

Project I'm proud of

We're proud of our Decaux out-of-home campaign. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, Decaux briefed us on a brand campaign in four major cities (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston). Instead of the usual media campaign, we came up with 150 uplifting slogans promoting resiliency and embracing the spirit of the four cities, in an effort to create goodwill and hope, and to reinforce the feeling of belonging to these four communities. No big emotional statement. No hashtag or call-to-action. Just a fact: "We keep going." Because that's all we can do.

Project I admired

Not a big surprise, but we are crazy in love with Machado's work on Burger King's "Moldy Whopper." It's by far the most inspiring piece of work. But not just as a super smart and courageous message … it is also beautiful, highly emotional, touching, moving, intriguing, fascinating, disturbing. It's visually stunning. It's a piece of art. It's raising questions about the whole food industry.

A prediction for 2021

All the suffering of the U.S. depression might lead us into craving hope. After all that we've been through as a society in 2020, we might get completely addicted to hope. The need to believe that it's possible to change things. Hope could become the new nicotine of our industry's messages. But who knows what's gonna happen next?

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FREE THE WORK

Pamala Buzick

COO / Director of Partnerships
Photo: Damien Noble Andrews

Project I'm proud of

When you work in the diversity and inclusion space, it's not about one project. It's a journey, not a check box, as we like to say. Only from the overall breadth of projects do you begin to see impact. I'm proud of our team for the over 100 pieces of content created, answering hundreds of support inquiries, and working with thousands of hirers to diversify behind the lens. It's only through their endless fountain of energy, their strength and thoughtfulness that we are able to walk through so many doors to help transform minds and cultures. We work with some of the biggest brands in the world—P&G, Ford, Facebook—who are hitting goals and creating new ones.

Project I admired

Michaela Cole's I May Destroy You on HBO. The amount of introspection, translation, interpretation that can be so deeply hidden in your soul, yet alone capture it on film and share it with the world … I'm in awe and have so much respect.

A prediction for 2021

The president may be changing, but the communities—and their needs—will not. Nor will we ever allow things to go back to normal. 2020 is the year when suddenly the rest of the world began to see the surface boil. 2021 is where we have to do the work to make a real shift. From audiences to consumers to employees, the bell will continue to be rung. And those with creative voices will lead the way.

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[Freelance]

Margaret Keene

Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

Regardless of the agency, client or project, I've been totally blown away and uplifted by the work ethic and resiliency of the teams I've had the privilege to work with. It's awfully hard to dream and create when the world is caving in on you, and yet they've been doing it day after day. Yeah, they're lucky to be working, but that doesn't motivate anyone to go beyond Zooming it in. Real creativity comes from a deeper well. It's believing that no matter what the odds, a great idea will always save the day.

Project I admired

People are drinking a helluva lot no matter what message you put out there. It takes a brave beer brand to acknowledge all the heaviness out there and just try and cheer us all up. PS: One made the most charming ornament ever, the other's got an exhibit at LACMA.

A prediction for 2021

Our industry is reinventing itself, hardcore. Marketing superpowers who once dominated the ad world are being usurped by "normal" people making honest, sometimes highly conceptual work in seconds. Just spend an hour or five on TikTok and realize how insanely creative people are. It's everyone's industry now.

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Giant Spoon

Kenny Mac

VP of Strategy
Head of Diverse Audience Marketing

Project I'm proud of

I produced Antebellum, a psychological thriller that was released at the tipping point of America's social unrest this summer and a mirroring story that went hand-in-hand with the year's sentiment. Bush Renz, the writer-director duo who created the film, had a successful career in advertising; however, they were new to the film industry. I was involved with the project from beginning to end with them, which made me proud to see the final product. It was successfully released after a hurdle of challenges via premium video on demand (PVOD) and has since been named to Variety's list of top movies in 2020.

Project I admired

The talented team at Good Is the New Cool launched GoodCon this year, which is more than a virtual conference—it's something memorable that begs brands to understand the power of social good. My good friend Bobby Jones brought the event to life to educate the industry on the ways to connect with Gen Z by using brand purpose.

A prediction for 2021

I think we're on the verge of a major creative movement. This year gave us a lot of time for reflection after the racial reckoning and unrest we experienced and will continue to grapple with as we move toward positive change. Many creatives are protecting their energy right now and focusing on the craft as we all continue to work from home. Next year, I can see much more work that is driven by a deeper level of creativity and its connection to doing good in the world.

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Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Margaret Johnson

Partner and Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

One of my favorite pieces of work is the "Not a Gun" campaign for Courageous Conversation Global Foundation, which raises awareness of the fact that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people are, and asked people to sign a petition to encourage police de-escalation training. Launched in February, it has been a platform to continue the conversation around racial inequity in recent months. After the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, we introduced the film "Being Black Is Not a Crime." We accompanied it with a print ad in Tulsa's oldest Black-owned newspaper, the Oklahoma Eagle, which doubled as a protest sign during Trump's Juneteenth visit. Around the election, GS&P created "Vote for Them" signs and placed them on the White House lawn, encouraging people to vote for people such as Breonna, who couldn't. As a result, Courageous Conversation has experienced triple-digit growth.

Project I admired

I love Burberry's "Singin' in the Rain." It's emotional and feels more like a film than advertising. It's a cool mashup of squeaky-clean Gene Kelly from the '50s and a bit of modern-day urban edge. I always like when an idea is rooted in truth. I read that the founder, Thomas Burberry, historically made all-weather gear for polar explorers, and that's what inspired the idea. Replacing rain with falling ice blocks gives it the tension it needs and makes it beautiful to watch. A little danger mixed with sweetness keeps it from being schmaltzy. I couldn't help but feel like it was making a larger statement about how we're all dealing with the world right now: trying our best to navigate the landmines and keep up our fearless spirit.  

A prediction for 2021

Companies will continue to lean in to work that supports social good. But those efforts have to be real. You can't greenwash anything anymore. And hopefully, humor will make a comeback. We all need a reprieve from the pandemic and the election. 

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Grey New York

Justine Armour

Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

Our best work this year was for clients where we have deeply trusted relationships, and clients who had the confidence to take a bold stance even in turbulent times. With the pandemic raging, P&G saw various inequities deepening for women, LGBTQI and Black people, and they weren't afraid to weigh in. We partnered with Cartwright to make "The Choice," which helped take the idea that racism in America is a white problem out to the masses. For Pride we made a film called "The Pause," about the hesitation LGBTQI people feel around being their full selves in everyday life. We've done some fun things in 2020, but the work we made to drive equality was when I felt most proud of us.

Project I admired

The Etsy holiday campaign from my former agency, 72andSunny New York, really felt special to me. Our creative department at Grey has been talking a lot this year about bringing your personal experience and stories to the work, and how the work gets more powerful when it's built on real human emotion. I can see the personal stories of Devon Tsz Kin Hong (now an ECD at 360i) in this absolutely lovely campaign that could only have been led by a Queer POC leader. It's the perfect example of why we all need to get laser focused on diversity in creative leadership. The ideas of divergent leaders will keep the work interesting and the industry alive and vibrant for years to come.

A prediction for 2021

The Trump aesthetic, the ugly language, and his overall WWE spectacle approach to the presidency brought the creative bar down for everyone, everywhere. I think, and hope, that we will bring that understanding of simplicity forward with us, but we rediscover beauty, design, artfulness, genuine humor and craft.

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GUT

Ricardo Casal and Juan Javier Pena Plaza

Partners and Executive Creative Directors

Projects we're proud of

There were many projects we were proud of. Since the two of us probably won't agree on one, here are two.

Ricardo: For me, it was the "Headspace Promise." In one of the toughest years for mental health, we won a pitch by convincing the client to give away free Headspace subscriptions to all 30 million unemployed Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic. It was an amazing project that ended up being replicated in other countries.

Juan: It was "That Look From Popeyes," inspired by Beyoncé's Ivy Park collection with Adidas, where fans online pointed out the similarities between her collection and Popeyes' uniforms. We decided to sell the uniforms online with a parody website complete with fashion photos in the style of Queen B's campaign. Essentially, people paid the brand to become Popeyes influencers (aka, reverse influencer marketing).

Project we admired

It has to be the Fortnite x Travis Scott Astronomical concert. It was groundbreaking on many different levels—for the music industry, for the gaming industry, and for entertainment in general. It showed the power and relevancy that gaming and esports have in our culture. It brought together many elements from different worlds with beautiful craft and a powerful idea at the core, achieving something that was a first in many fields.

A prediction for 2021

We believe the incredible growth from the gaming/esports world will continue, and with that, more brands will get involved. From this we expect to see much more creative ideas playing in that world and being relevant to its audience and culture in general.

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Humanaut

David Littlejohn

Founder and Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

This year we collaborated with Liquid Death Mountain Water to help them connect with moms for their debut in Whole Foods. We created the Liquid Death Killer Baby Namer and offered an 18-year supply of Liquid Death to anyone who named their baby from one of our killer suggestions. For Humanaut, this campaign is the perfect example of how brands that are doing something good, like keeping plastic out of the ocean, can grow like crazy by being unlike anything else on the shelf and treating their customers like fans and not marketing data.

Project I admired

Ryan Renyolds has been on an advertising rampage, showing our industry that maybe we are making things more complicated than they need to be. His mix of speed, authenticity and cultural relevance is enviable. The Mint Mobile New ManageMint spot was the perfect Covid-aware spot that cut through the marketing BS and delivered just the goods on a scrappy production budget. Of course, the fact that he's owner, celebrity talent and in-house ad agency gives him a bit of an unfair advantage. But it also gives us all a new bar to aim for, and for that I'm grateful.

A prediction for 2021

The year of small strategies. The circle of what people actually care about has just shrunk dramatically. Most brands are going to rethink their strategy, realizing the role they actually play in people's lives is very small. In an attempt to be more authentic, most brands will talk about the small ways they improve people's lives. For the most part, this will result in a lot of boring and invisible work. Brands that are doing good in the world have an opportunity to win big in 2021 by going big and not being shy, while everyone else is acting small.

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Jam3

Pablo Vio

Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

We created ComplexLand, a virtual manifestation of the streetwear fashion event of the year (ComplexCon). There are so many cool elements, including Donatella Versace's debut as an avatar in the space, but what I think is most interesting is the democratizing effect of this digital experience. It didn't matter if you were a sneakerhead in Atlanta or Mumbai, you had a front-row seat to some amazing shoe drops and just as much chance to nab them as anyone else.

Project I admired

The Travis Scott Fortnite concert was by far my favorite digital experience this year. I loved seeing unbridled creativity existing within the constraints of a global pandemic. The effects were next level—Epic upped its game, reinventing what a live music appearance can look like in a digital world with 12.3 million attendees. It was genius.

A prediction for 2021

It's going to be the year of digital. This year has taught us a lot of things—normalcy in life has not yet returned and the pandemic has disrupted all market verticals in many ways. From a digital standpoint, it's created an immense opportunity to see how consumers are now interacting with brands, and that learning will create some digital breakthroughs that will push the creative work forward by leaps.

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Johannes Leonardo

Bharat Kumar and Marcelo Ramirez

Creative Directors

Project we're proud of

Much like the rest of the industry, the pandemic presented a lot of unknowns; remote concepting, presenting and producing in this climate has been challenging. Yet, as an agency, we've done a remarkable job of producing across a variety of categories and in showing diversity of thought and style. We helped launch a new brand in Apeel, kicked off the latest edition of Madden in a novel way by introducing The Spokesplayer, and did a number of remote shoots with varying degrees of complexity for new clients. It's a testament to our clients, and of course the people and culture we have at JL. On a more personal note, we're proud of the work we've done for MassMutual in launching HealthBridge, a new, free life-insurance program for frontline healthcare workers, as well as the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage work. Looking forward, we're even more excited for what we have in the pipeline for 2021, including new work for the Kraft portfolio.

Project we admired

How to pick just one? It's cheesy, but seemingly there's inspiration making its way into the world every day. From Squarespace's "Launch It" work, to Special Group's Uber Eats, to pretty much all of Maximum Effort's ads, to FCB's Couch Potatriots, to TBWA\Chiat\Day's Sweaty Boy, to Oscar Hudson's directing, there's no shortage of admirable work out there. The simplicity of thought, attention to detail, quickness in execution, and care for craftsmanship have only helped raise the bar. And it's only bound to get better, as everyone gets more comfortable and familiar with this (new) way of working.

A prediction for 2021

We believe 2021 will mark The Return of Lightness. It's not a knock, but we all saw how work was becoming more earnest, cause- or purpose-driven. And that's well and good, especially for the soul, but people are clamoring for a break, an escape. We're seeing it already in the type of work that's being made now. There's more lightness, comedy and stupidity (in a good way). That doesn't mean there isn't room for life-affirming, world-changing work, but the pendulum does seem to be swinging in the other direction now. 

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The Many

Damien Eley

Partner and Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

Our "Yes! Bumble Bee!" campaign was the culmination of almost a year's work with an iconic brand, Bumble Bee Seafoods, that was ready to completely bust the canned tuna category wide open. Our creative strategy was for Bumble Bee to turn up in unexpected (but completely relevant) places and force you to reappraise how awesome canned tuna can be.

Project I admired

I've been in constant awe all year of the work my previous agency, Mother London, is doing. Their Ikea work has just been phenomenal and a shining light in the industry.

A prediction for 2021

There is so much pent-up creative energy that is waiting to burst out, post-Covid. And a lot of the creatively stronger agencies have figured out how to make WFH core to their culture moving forward, so with this new way of working established, I think everyone's ready to start 2021 with no compromises. I don't think I have ever looked forward to a year more than I am looking forward to this new one.

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The Martin Agency

Danny Robinson

Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

"Southside Magnolia" for DoorDash. This six-minute love letter to Chicago's South Side told the story of the resiliency, persistence and unshaken faith of the Black entrepreneur. Our client, DoorDash, applied their delivery-only concept to help bring a beloved Chicago restaurant, Krazy Hog BBQ, back from the dead. This was not just a statement or a wonderfully crafted story, but an idea with impact that changed the course of the lives of a family and a community.

Project I admired

"Book of Dreams" for Argos by The&Partnership London. I know this was technically 2019. But for me, it's an instant classic. This ad was everything for me: a flashback to the '60s when, as a kid, I'd circle every toy in the Sears Christmas Wish Book; a flashback to '80s when MTV actually played music; a flashback to the '90s and the joy on my kids' faces when they opened the perfectly chosen gift. Stir all those memories up and add a heavy dose of joy—the official trigger word of Christmas—and you have a spot I wish I helped create.

A prediction for 2021

I imagine a slow crawl out from under Covid's dark, cold hand and a return to ideas that celebrate the intimacy and membership. Just like the comic book superhero emerged in the late 1930s as a product of the growing tension and eventual involvement in World War II, the upheaval of 2020—including increased political and societal rifts—will spawn concepts designed to bring us closer together.

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McCann Worldgroup

Piper Hickman

Global Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

2020 has been interesting. I'm thankful to be healthy and relatively unscathed by the pandemic, but I will admit to indulging in bouts of feeling cooped up, sorry for myself, and existential since March—I think we all have. It was great to channel this cultural truth into our holiday spot for Microsoft, "Find Your Joy." It has dogs. It has Minecraft, Flight Simulator, Halo, Teams and Windows. And it has a rocking soundtrack. It's the type of spot the team could make only this year, and I'm so glad we got the go-ahead to craft it. 

Project I admired

Nike's "You Can't Stop Us" from Wieden + Kennedy is a master class in editing and turning pandemic production lemons into lemonade. I could watch it every damn day and never not want to see it again.

A prediction for 2021

After the plague came the renaissance, or so the internet tells me. I'm hoping for change—specifically, change for the better. I'm hoping every industry, not just advertising, sees this as an opportunity unlike any other to reinvent the way we do things, who gets to do them, and why. 

As for specific predictions, here are a few I'd bet on: 

• Companies that embrace remote work will win key talent.
• Startups will pop up like mushrooms as the furloughed and laid-off seek a future they can call their own.
• Content and creative output will become less safe and more brazen, because if a pandemic can't rewrite the script, what can?
• Brands will take a bigger role as civic leaders as their capabilities in solving our most pressing challenges will surpass that of any government.

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Mirror Films / Suddenly There

Kanyessa McMahon

Director, Producer, Creative Director, Strategist

Project I'm proud of

The Ford 2020 Escape "Own It" and "Built Phenomenally" campaign I directed for Ford took a big leap trusting my Black Girl Magic wonderland vision. We created a campaign that stands out as one of a kind in the car space because I broke every rule and just created what I would want to see in a car campaign, with Black women shown in every incarnation of inclusivity, led by over 30+ Black and brown female talent, both in front and behind the scenes. Oh, and not to toot my own horn, but the cars looked amazing!

Project I admired

Kind of a cheat, as I did have something to do with the project as a director/producer of the 21 pieces of content in the campaign, but Capitol Records/UMG's "Heartbreak Weather Watch" campaign, made for the release of Niall Horan's album in March, was the first campaign to utilize weather-tracking technology to target content to users. It reached 4.5 billion interactions with the hashtag and content. Content aside, the out-of-the-box thinking by Kira Karlstrom to use weather tech and content delivery and seed a campaign blew my mind.

A prediction for 2021

Brands and agencies that start giving women, especially Black and brown women, more jobs—not opportunities, JOBS—will thrive. Women have been treated as a risk because things aren't on their reels or in their portfolios, but what came first, the chicken or the egg? The job or the reel? In 2021, attention to empathy and nuance to issues in campaigns will be expected, accountability in hiring expected, and thus agencies and brands will rise to the occasion—not only because they have to for PR, but because it is frankly really good for business.

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Mischief @ No Fixed Address

Greg Hahn

Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

Mischief. Launching an agency in the middle of a pandemic and the worst economy in history seems like a less-than-brilliant idea. But thanks to an amazing group of uber-talented people and fearless partners, it's turned out to be the most rewarding "project" I've ever been involved in. 

Project I admired

Miller Lite Cantenna. Great example of finding a problem relevant to the audience and a buzz-worthy solution. The execution, including the video, was bold, brave and flawless. It's also really smart-stupid, which is the best kind of stupid. 

A prediction for 2021

I think we are going to see a huge surge in creativity from a wide variety of clients. Brands are taking more chances and bringing in fresh voices. I've never seen clients more open to new ideas and less attached to "that's how we've always done it." I think the fact that clients have had to do more with less during this time has accelerated this. Ideas that generate PR and get more than their fair share of attention are more valued than ever.

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Mother London

Ana Balarin

Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

A project that was uniquely 2020 was pausing the world's most famous slogan for KFC. We leaned into the problem and managed to put a lighthearted spin on it. It was also the first time KFC ran a global campaign, which got coverage in 92 countries, so several reasons to be proud of this one.

Project I admired

Marcus Rashford's self-initiated campaign to end child poverty. Marcus, a millionaire English footballer who grew up in poverty, gathered millions of supporters and put intense pressure on the U.K. government to continue to provide free school meals during the school holidays. The movement caused the government to make a U-turn on their decision and led to several individuals and businesses taking action. The footballer also partnered with the Burberry Foundation, which is providing grants to tens of thousands of disadvantaged children through youth clubs in the U.K. and U.S.

A prediction for 2021

As happened with Marcus Rashford, I believe more individuals with a captive audience will start to use their platforms to initiate campaigns, which businesses and agencies will then follow. A bit of a role swap and a shakeup to the traditional order of things.

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Observatory

Jae Goodman

CEO and Creative Chairman

Project I'm proud of

Dial: 1-866-PUNCHLINE

Search: Waffle Iron Entertainment

Watch: Stylish with Jenna Lyons on HBO Max

Feel: LA Unified School District and Fender Play Foundation's "Play For LA." Fender gave 3,000 kids from some of L.A.'s most Covid-affected neighborhoods a new Fender guitar, bass or ukulele and, alongside LAUSD teachers, a six-week virtual music and STEM curriculum. Observatory created the virtual commencement ceremony, with performances and words of encouragement by Miguel, Este Haim, Coldplay's Chris Martin, a commencement speech by L.A. rapper Bryce Vine, and more. The stars of the show, of course, were the kids sharing what learning music in 2020 means to them. Not a dry eye in the virtual house.

Project I admired

Certainly not the ads with empty streets, lonely piano ... I wish brands had just donated the production money to first-responders, frontline workers and people in need. As for the actual answer to your question, that KFC Lifetime movie starring Mario Lopez … I mean, come on, I just wrote "that KFC Lifetime movie starring Mario Lopez"! And everything Chipotle did on TikTok.

A prediction for 2021

I predict (or maybe hope for) an explosion of creativity as we begin to heal from the pandemic, its economic fallout, the divisive presidential campaign and our long-overdue racial justice boiling point. The darkest periods are, by definition, followed by light. I further predict that marketers or agency partners not rapidly evolving their model away from interruptive advertising and toward content and experiences that attract and engage audiences while simultaneously driving brand and business results will find themselves evolving toward another line of work altogether.

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O'Keefe Reinhard & Paul

Aubrey Walker

Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

"Claude," a spot for Illinois Lottery. It enabled us to feel the magic of the Illinois Lottery. Sometimes it takes a bit of magic to make us believe that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Project I admired

No question it was the Amazon work from Lucky Generals, directed by Melina Matsoukas. She always finds a way to bring out the unexpected beauty in something that is already beautiful. I'm envious of that work.

A prediction for 2021

My prediction is that advertising will create more innovative work. More soulful work, more loving work, less RTB's and less chest pounding. 2021 is an odd year, and I expect creativity to take an even bigger left turn than it did this year.

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Pereira O'Dell

PJ Pereira

Creative Chairman

Project I'm proud of

This was a prolific year for us. We launched a summer song for Stella Artois, partnered with Lil Naz X for Adobe, refreshed Yellowtail, even launched a full global docuseries for Corona. But I guess the most subversive idea we did was the BuyNow Blocker, for Fifth Third Bank, which leveraged the same hyper-targeting tech that retailers use to lure us into impulse buying, to warn consumers they are being preyed upon. In an industry so obsessed with film, production value and celebrities, this idea devoid of any images is my personal standout.

Project I admired

In 2020, every brand struggled to find a reason to say something. A voice within the pandemic. Some did it through a message of support, some through action. As a result, everyone sounded pretty much the same. Then, as the year is about to wrap up, along comes a little ad to bring some much-needed levity and sense of humor to what we are all going through. Thank you for that, Match. Satan meeting 2020 was the ad I didn't know I needed.

A prediction for 2021

After a year of stress in health, politics and the economy, society yearns for a sense of familiarity. How can an industry so obsessed with disrupting itself deal with it? We can start by learning from our sibling, entertainment. Around the world, people have been taking solace in reruns and remakes, using characters and plots they know well to create a sense of predictability again. Brands and agencies that can find a way to remain fresh, while developing that feeling of continuity and familiarity, will thrive.

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Preacher

Marcus Brown

Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

We did a campaign this year for WeTransfer that flipped the notion of doubt on its head. There's so much doubt these days, in the world, in ourselves, and people see it as a weakness but they're wrong. It's a superpower. Doubt is what moves ideas and the world forward. Doubt it all, then beat it. Make it better. My team made a beautiful, motivating film challenging the world to harness that doubt and skepticism to move the world forward at a time when we so desperately need it. And they did the whole damn thing over Zoom.

Project I admired

I never thought I'd cite a Lifetime movie as a piece of work I admire, but it's 2020 and I think we can all agree there's been no shortage of weird. So today I'm picking the Lifetime original mini-movie and KFC joint, A Recipe for Seduction. It's so ridiculous and so bad that it's perfect, because a Lifetime movie that's not bad is simply not good. Make sense? Neither did this movie. But in an industry that's composed of tropes on tropes on tropes, it's so nice to be surprised with something so delightfully unexpected while still feeling oddly nostalgic. 

A prediction for 2021

2021 will be the year of confidence. We've been through it this year, but I predict we, like Andy Dufresne, will have crawled through a river of shit and come out clean on the other side. We fought and won. We made commercials in our dining rooms while simultaneously teaching our kids long division. We're all now forged of steel. 2021 can't possibly be worse, right? I sure hope not. But if so, just channel the legendary Jack Burton and "look that big ol' storm square in the eye and say gimme your best shot, pal. I can take it."

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R/GA

Tiffany Rolfe

Global Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

On March 26, just 10 days into lockdown, Verizon brought some of the biggest names in music and gaming together to support minority-owned small businesses for PayItForward LIVE. For eight weeks, the performers streamed live from their homes on Twitter, Twitch, Facebook and YouTube simultaneously. Millions had a shared experience but with the intimacy of a singer directly performing from their home. I was especially proud of how fast Verizon acted. They took a risk without the production capabilities usually needed and brought in multiple partners in brand so it became bigger than them.

Project I admired

Two of my favorite pieces were political deepfakes. I thought Mischief's films for RepresentUS featuring Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un were a compelling way to scare us about the realities we are facing with our democracy, but also about the realities that we are facing as A.I. becomes more powerful. It will be up to us to leverage it in service of humanity. I also loved Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Sassy Justice as an example of how deepfakes can also be scary funny. A.I. will continue to enable new forms of creative expression, experimentation and creation like we've never seen before.

A prediction for 2021

Everyone is wondering what work will be like when we go back. Some hope it's going back to the way it was, but I imagine we'll see some new hybrid ways of working, leaving the traditional work week behind. I think finally there will be openness to new ways of collaborating with teams and clients. It's about designing an experience that is more flexible for our employees—finding talent in more places and accommodating life choices. Ultimately letting us design a community that leads to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive place to work. I also predict that masks are going to still be a thing. Subways, kids' birthdays, where have masks been all my life?

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RAPP

Moa Netto

Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

"A girl should know her place. And that place is anywhere she wants." That was the concept of the campaign our team proudly helped create for Girl Effect, an NGO that uses media to unlock the potential of underprivileged girls. Based on that concept, they asked women to share what society/family/bosses told them they were SUPPOSED to be. And then share what they CHOSE instead, using the hashtag #TheGirlEffect. The campaign gained great traction with a reach of more than 50 million on Instagram alone and participation from some high-profile women such as Jessica Biel, Salma Hayek and Demi Moore.

Project I admired

Ideas that use data not only as insights, or for measurement/optimization, but as a core piece of the creative narrative always pique my interest. I think there is a lot of creative exploration opportunities to still be had there, but this one from sexual wellness brand LifeStyles used Google Search and location data about six sexual diseases to create a stock-market inspired platform that shows the infection risks near you in form of "stock" chart visualizations. Condom prices react dynamically to the infection risks—the higher the risks in your area, the cheaper you can buy your condoms.

A prediction for 2021

Creativity will get smarter and more holistic than ever before. The data and tools we have at our disposal will expand the power of our ideas. Things like experience design, personalization at scale, and branded content will keep gaining space and making brands more relevant to individuals. Talkability will become a consolidated brand currency, and little smart ideas combined will achieve exponential business impact. If 2020 was a year of restrictions that forced us to be creative, 2021 might be a year of abundance that will allow us to expand what creativity actually means. Holistic brilliance is coming. Can't wait.

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Red & Co.

Mira Kaddoura

Founder and Executive Creative Director

Project I'm proud of

We did a fun project with Fat Tire beer. They're the first carbon-neutral brewery in the country and they're doing a lot to combat climate change. Beer is, after all, an agricultural project, and all the hops and barley and water needed to make Fat Tire will be harder to source in the coming decades. So we came up with the idea of charging $100 per six-pack—the price of what beer will cost in 50 years if we don't get serious about climate change.

Project I admired

Maybe it's because this year has been so unusual, I saw amazing stuff in so many places. I loved the Beats film about Black culture. The Apple ad about WFH resonated for a lot of us. I loved Miranda July's Kajillionaire and Michaela Cole's I May Destroy You. And Tyler Mitchell's book I Can Make You Feel Good.

A prediction for 2021

Oh man! I thought we were done with predictions after this year. But OK. My prediction is that we're not gonna go back. We can't. We now know that society can change in fundamental ways and pretty quickly, too, if it has to. So how do we point that energy at the environment, at homelessness, at racism, at the justice system—and at ourselves. The world demands of us that we be more connected. So let's keep doing it even after the pandemic.

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Serviceplan Group

Alexander Schill

Global Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

I am especially proud of our work "The dark side of sugar," which was launched on World Diabetes Day to draw attention to the adverse health effects of hidden sugar in food. Approximately every eight seconds, someone dies somewhere from type 2 diabetes. We created a Dark Metal Band called "Risen from Shadows" who performed cover versions including Robin Schulz's famous track "Sugar." The darkest cover versions of the sweetest pop songs were a loud warning about the dangers hiding in our food. By the end of the specially created music video, approximately 25 people will have died from diabetes—every time you watch it. The video showcases 15 of the biggest hidden sugar culprits, and is accompanied by a website, social media and classic campaigning. The project is in collaboration with Action on Sugar, with proceeds from downloads of the songs being donated to the fight against diabetes.

Project I admired

When I saw Nike's "You Can't Stop Us," I was really deeply impressed. The craft of this is amazing. Just perfectly executed, and a true and relevant message for all the people out there. This ad is the final proof that in the future not everything will only be about data or the latest tech in this industry.

A prediction for 2021

2021 will see the return of joy. Enough of all that sadness and frustration and fear of the future. People will be amazingly thankful for some positivity being spread. They will be thankful for a reason to laugh. For opening ways to celebrate life. Every crisis is followed by a heavy bounce back toward the opposite. 2021 will be just great. And the tool to celebrate this will be creativity. Yeah.

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Special Group US

William Gelner

Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

I'm most proud of starting up an agency in the middle of one of the most challenging times in history. In less than three months, Special Group US not only launched but made several campaigns including Uber Eats' "Tonight I'll Be Eating" featuring Sir Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill, followed up by Jonathan Van Ness and Simone Biles. Then there was "Make Them Pay" for League of Conservation Voters and "Walk of Shame" for The Lincoln Project. Always fun to be called out on national TV by MSNBC's Brian Williams for being "twisted." 

Project I admired

Of all the campaigns in 2020, arguably the biggest tip of the hat should go to Rick Wilson and the gang at The Lincoln Project. Fearless, prolific and absolutely effective. They put country over party and helped change the trajectory of our country for the better.

A prediction for 2021

In 2020, we had to rethink everything. How we worked, who we worked with, and sadly, sometimes even if we had any work to do. We had to pivot and continuously reinvent while the whole world seemed to be on fire. In the thick of it, I saw this quote and put it up on my wall: "When nothing is certain, anything is possible." It became my mantra. It feels like we've gone through the fiery crucible of great change and have come out the other end stronger, more creative and more ingenious than ever. That sense of optimism and confidence in ourselves and each other will make 2021 one of the brightest on record. For the industry, the economy and the country.

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TBWA\Chiat\Day LA

Lulu Wimberly and Kailey Riggen

Copywriter and Art Director

Project we're proud of

We're really proud of the launch campaign/tagline we created for TikTok For Business, "Don't Make Ads. Make TikToks." In a little jab at the ad world (oops), we set TikTok apart as the only place for businesses to show up as real, flawed and weird, versus as a capital "B" Brand. TikTok users are already so creative (seriously, they will take all our jobs soon) that they can smell traditional advertising from a mile away. So, we renounced it. We also learned a lot of TikTok dances in the process. We're proud of that, too.

Project we admired

For us, it's Beats by Dre's "You Love Me." For a brand to have that conversation so authentically in a year where everything felt opportunistic is pretty unparalleled. It gives us hope for what we do. And the craft … every frame is a portrait. Director Melina Matzoukas helped the brand create a piece that ironically had nothing to do with the brand at all, but was still unmistakably Beats. We would kill to work with her. #freethebid

A prediction for 2021

Brands had a watershed moment of earnestness this year, and we think The People are ready to laugh again. There's a reason someone like Jordan Firstman became the rising star of 2020 by waxing internet about mundane things like banana bread and iPhone chargers. Like, we've been through a lot. And irreverence makes people feel smart. So let the pendulum swing (where appropriate, of course).

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TBWA\Chiat\Day NY

Ricard Valero and David Banta

Executive Creative Directors

Project I'm proud of

Ricard: I'm proud of our "Relearn How to Be Human" campaign for Brooklyn Film Festival. It was just the right message at the right time: just when the lockdown was easing and everyone was quite rusty at interacting with others again. It connected with people in a simple, effortless way.

David: There is a very funny Onion article about a guy who rushes out of his house half-dressed because he just heard the Toyotathon is ending soon. This year we decided automotive sales event advertising didn't have to be bad. Instead, for Nissan we took Brie Larson and had her do some badass Hollywood action-scene stunt driving while she broke the fourth wall to tell the good people at home what she thought of boring holiday sales ads. What did you expect? A big red bow? Who does that?

Project I admired

Ricard: Definitely "You Love Me" for Beats. It's a true masterpiece in every sense. Truthful, poetic and powerful. It's asking us straight but there's nothing to answer. We can only shut up, listen and realize how much there's left to change. I also loved "The Stevenage Challenge" for Burger King and Megaforce's reinterpretation of "Singin' in the Rain" in Burberry's redefinition of the usual fashion look book. Foot Locker also did a great job using Google Slides in "The Endless World of Airmax." Brilliant—I love when brands don't take themselves too seriously.

David: The new Microsoft holiday ad hits the perfect tone for this pandemic year. I worked on Microsoft at McCann for five years, so I know what a challenge this brief is. But showing a dog that can't get the attention of his online-distracted human family—and then allowing us to see him dreaming of being in the Microsoft programs that cause his sadness—balances optimism, reality and dogs in a super charming way. He fetches the grenade that Master Chief throws and leaves it at his feet … c'mon.

A prediction for 2021

Ricard: The first months of the pandemic were a terrible spectacle of brands repeating the same rhetorical messages and almost identical images. People greeted it with a shrug. Covid aside, 99 percent of advertising feels exactly that way: dusty, formulaic, boring. People still can't stand it. My prediction is that in 2021 this won't change unless brands leave room for more gut and less process. Fewer committees. Less overthinking. A bit more trust will make their advertising fresh, relevant and meaningful. A bit more trust will get them out of that 99 percent.

David: 2021 will be cautiously optimistic. It will toy with exuberance near summer, then tone itself down to not jinx things. But it will also have a foot in each of the worlds that have emerged over the past few years. The recent political divisiveness has made us aware of the differences in how Americans view the world. And most clients need bipartisan support to succeed. That means creatives will need to navigate that reality with innovation and compassion like never before.

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Tombras

Jeff Benjamin

Chief Creative Officer

Project I'm proud of

The MoonPie MoonMate—a virtual roommate that ran on Alexa and Google Home that kept people company while quarantining alone. And paid you rent in the form of MoonPies. We wanted to entertain people into staying inside. And it's been great seeing people appreciate the idea and brand—for making them laugh instead of being shown a sad, sappy manifesto.

Project I admired

Love what Fortnite did this year ... advertising's Taylor Swift surprise drop. Out of nowhere defiantly standing up to Apple with a legal challenge. Dropping a film that frame by frame reframed Apple into being one of the Goliaths they themselves built their brand on fighting. And showing us that fighting for policy change is a marketing opportunity.

A prediction for 2021

Fortnite won't win. lol. 2021 will be an even more challenging year for non-independent agencies. DDB will merge with BBDO to form DDBBDO. While bleak for these large agencies, I think we will also see a pendulum swing of the most talented marketers, makers and creatives who left to go brand and media side—returning to agencies.

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Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Jason Kreher

Creative Director, Entertainment and Editorial

Project I'm proud of

Look up "Starr Park" on YouTube and watch some of the insane fan theory videos people made about our Brawl Stars campaign. Seeing millions of Korean and Turkish teenagers geek out over every detail was pretty great.

Project I admired

Most briefs this year were for brands looking to bring people together through consumer data points and found footage; most of the work turned out exactly as inspiring as that sounds. Google's "Black History Month" probably started with the same brief, but I think that spot is just about perfect.  

A prediction for 2021

Everything will be animated, and Bad Boys 3 will sweep the most asterisked Oscars in history. 

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Wondros Collective

Tamika Miller

Director

Project I'm proud of

I'm proud of the Motionpoems film I directed, inspired by Marge Piercy's 1973 poem To be of use. I drew the connection of its relevance today, living in the time of Covid. The poem speaks to our resilience as people—those who tirelessly, "without dallying," get up every day and do the work that needs to be done, over and over again. I merged animation with live action. It was important that my film, while speaking to Covid, death, protests and socioeconomic uncertainty, also speak to life springing forward and the importance of honoring ancestors and Mother Earth.

Project I admired

Please indulge me. There are two artists whose work inspired me—fiber artist Bisa Butler and writer/director Michaela Coel. I'm in awe of Bisa Butler's stunning quilted life-size portraits vividly, vibrantly capturing and celebrating the historical narratives of Black life in America. And I'm mesmerized by showrunner and star Michaela Coel's honest, authentic portrayal of herself—a woman grappling with her sexual assault—in her HBO series I May Destroy You. Michaela's series is a powerful illustration of what it looks and feels like when a Black woman has full creative control over her story. Complex. Affecting. Real.

A prediction for 2021

This is less a prediction than a want. I want gatekeepers—brands, ad agencies and production companies—to embrace equity from the top down in our executive and creative ranks as if our jobs depended on it. "Othering" is a powerful, culturally conditioned habit that dehumanizes people who've been historically marginalized. In these transformative times, I want us to enter rooms, and not only look to see who's around the table, but look to see who's not there. I want us to engage, employ and empower diverse voices. In 2021, may this become the norm, and not the exception!

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WorkInProgress

Lauren Perlow

Creative Director/Art Director

Project I'm proud of

I'm proud of the work we've done with Jimmy John's this year pre-COVID, but especially the way we were able to move quickly to adapt to the current state and create exciting work during. From concept to execution in less than week, we worked with Jimmy John's to help families get necessities like fresh bread during grocery shortages in the early pandemic. Then we worked with creators in the production community unable to work on sets to shoot safely from their homes, all with support from Jimmy John's. Memorable actions to help the community on behalf of our clients.

Project I admired

Beats by Dre's film "You Love Me" was one of the best spots of the year. It's difficult to create something so well-crafted and powerful that also tackles society's deep racial injustices head on. And in the wake of this summer's violence, it poses the important question, "You love Black culture. But do you love me?" A question and a lens that we all need to look through to evaluate our own actions and attitudes. This, combined with their Black Future program for HBCU students, gives a powerful platform to Black voices. Really strong work!

A prediction for 2021

(Insert minimal piano arrangement.) In these uncertain times, it would be tough to predict anything, but what I think the past year has done is pushed the gas pedal on helping brands evolve their digital presences. Their owned channels now need to work as hard for them as they've come to expect their paid channels to. Thinking specifically about online ordering (and pickup), seamless mobile app experiences and making sure their presences are strong has never been more crucial. I think even more innovation in this space will happen in the coming year and stick around for years to come.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. Previously, he was creative editor at Adweek.

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