Once considered the stepchild of the TBWA family, Chiat/N.Y.now glimmers as one of the brightest creative spots in the network, thanks to this trio of super smart creatives with a penchant for twisted fun. Since they converged three years ago at the agency, they've hurled out spot after hilarious spot of offbeat, yet on-point work—from Nextel's "Dance Party," to candy-themed morsels like Skittles' "Sheepboy" and Starburst's "Art Center." Last year might have been the agency's best and most daring yet with the introduction of Starburst's klepto-spokesperson "Ernie," the skewed Skittles laffers "Trade" and "Beard," and of course that new shim in town, Combos' "Man Mom." The agency also stirred the t with its Snickers Super Bowl effort, featuring a pair of mechanics in an inadvertent liplock, which nabbed a spot on the top 10 of USA Today's Admeter before getting pulled from the air after protests from gay-rights advocacy groups. That was just one disappointment the agency has seen in recent months—its biggest perhaps being the split with client Sprint/Nextel (their final spot was the funny, ironically themed "Fired"). But that hardly puts a dent into what's really made the agency a Madison Avenue dynamo again—thanks to its work on Masterfoods, not only has the client seen sales rise, but last year it was one of the top 10 most awarded advertisers in the world (See Creativity, August 2006). Even Lee Clow thinks the creative fire in New York's belly can help bring the rest of the network in touch with its inner boutique. "Even though we're really a giant, I don't want to be a big agency," Clow told Creativity earlier this year. "I want to be a cool, smart, small-of-mind agency that does the kind of stuff that bright new brands and bright new agencies do. Gerry and New York represent all that." Reichenthal on making Masterfoods an awards magnet: "We're proud of that because the good work came from all of the Masterfoods brands we handle, not just one showpiece account. And the work wasn't created by one superstar team but all of our teams, from junior to senior."
Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, Founders, Youtube
There's not much one can say about YouTube that isn't more eloquently summed up by these five little words: one point six five billion. Now part of the Google stable, the world awaits the next evolution of the site that has come to symbolize Web 2.0 and user-generated everything. The site has also arguably changed the way ad creative is done. As of '06, for a video ad of any kind to be a success, it must have been thoroughly dissected, debated, rated and duplicated on YouTube. It's hard to tell where the dog ends and the wagging tail begins. Challengers are lining up, and the site has tried the patience of mainstream media outlets but with Google-level resources, the two-year-old YouTube may enjoy a second act. Chen on the Google connection: "We've unveiled a lot of really exciting features as the result of our relationship with Google, including YouTube videos showing up on Google search pages." Hurley on YouTube's next steps: "The next phase includes our building more ways to support our users, foster creativity through revenue sharing and have them benefit not just from receiving views, comments and reaction but also in more tangible ways."
Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo Wii Creators
Call it Mario's Revenge. Nintendo is back on top as the Wii is poised to dominate the seventh-generation console wars. According to market research firm NPD Group, the Wii eclipsed January sales of the Sony PS3, also introduced last November, and the Xbox 360, which debuted in late '05. It's also on track to outshine the sales of both its competitors this year and next. At press time, Merrill Lynch predicted 30 percent of U.S. homes would have a Wii by 2011. Customers are responding to innovation, it seems, not to mention the Wii's comparatively low $250 price. With the Wii, Nintendo has successfully countered traditional perceptions of videogaming as a sedentary experience with one that involves movement—a lot of it—via the motion-based Wii Remote. From the semiconductors up, Nintendo refused to participate in the "systems" buildup—characterized by constantly improving speed, graphics and power—and focused on innovating interaction. (The system even provides a clever tool that allows users to create cartoon-like avatars, or "Miis," to represent themselves during gameplay.) Ultimately, the product is proving accessible to people who wouldn't otherwise consider themselves videogamers, as well as to core Nintendo supporters—a precept Nintendo president Iwata held from the project's start. Also, Nintendo's products previously had been designed by individuals, but for the Wii, Miyamoto (Nintendo's general manager, entertainment analysis and development and father of classic titles like Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda) assembled a strong industrial design team to develop the system.The result? A unit whose every element is informed by strong design—from its unique dynamic remotes (prototyped first in Styrofoam, then clay) to a console finished in a smooth, shiny surface—a Nintendo first.
"After being told about the vision for Wii time and time again, a few people at a time were able to understand what I was getting at, and they began to support the idea once parts of it started to become a reality. The idea that certain things must be done in order to accommodate this vision eventually spread to everyone in the company. this is what led to everyone sharing the same vision of the near future."—Iwata, in a Wii online interview series, "Ask Iwata"
Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple
There have always been a few good reasons to look forward to summer. Apple (formerly known as Apple Computer) added another one recently with the announcement that it would launch its new all-in-one phone device in June. Steve Jobs dropped this loudest of bombs at the 2007 MacWorld Conference when he revealed this: He introduced the jaw-dropping iPhone with the immortal words, "Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything." It's a phrase that has applied to several of Apple's products over the years. With the game-changing iPod going strong—and a new addition to the family, the wee Shuffle—Apple also made waves late last year with the unveiling of Apple TV. The latter will allow users to watch content downloaded on their computers on their TVs (in HD, if so desired). But everything sort of pales next to the iPhone announcement. An iPod, internet device and phone in one, with "multi-touch" touchscreen navigation and OS10 operating system that is, of course, an elegant, highly covetable piece of design. Meanwhile, the company, together with TBWA/Chiat/Day, was once again in the thick of popular culture with its much debated, much parodied "Mac vs. PC" advertising campaign. And here's a true story to cap it all off: The other day Creativity saw John "I'm a PC" Hodgeman in the Apple store in SoHo.
Pat Joseph, The Mill, Co-founder
Founded in London in 1990, the Mill has grown to become a post/effects giant, straddling the visual cutting edge in Europe and the U.S. The New York office, which opened in 2002, is now complemented by a new L.A. office, which opened in December. Mill co-founder Pat Joseph considers this the company's proudest accomplishment of 2006. "Consolidating our U.S. business and opening The Mill/L.A. means we're the first visual effects company to have offices in the three major global advertising centers," he notes. Recent Mill-assisted trophy magnets like Sony Bravia's "Balls," directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, and Honda's "Impossible Dream," directed by Ivan Zacharias, are just the tip of the company's commercials effects iceberg, which includes the stunning "Stunt City" for Rexona (also directed by Zacharias), and Sony PSP's "Icon," directed by Alex Rutterford, featuring a dazzling red action morph "man." Among a host of effects-intensive spots, there's work for Nike ("Mutant Foot" and "Feet") Orange ("Blackout"), Lexus ("Water"), Audi ("Spider") and, of particular note, Johnnie Walker's "Android," from director Dante Ariola and BBH/London, in which a cyborg muses about immortality. Joseph calls this probably his favorite Mill effects job of 2006, demonstrating a particularly "successful collaboration of our 2-D and 3-D teams." Out-standing recent Mill music videos, which offer a wide range of effects showcases, include the underwater adventure of Sigur Ros' "Saeglopur," directed by the band; Coldplay's "The Hardest Part," directed by Mary Wigmore, featuring an exceedingly weird geriatric acrobatic dance team; and the White Stripes' "The Denial Twist," a vastly entertaining Michel Gondry-directed study in spatial dementia.
On the key to doing great work: "Without a doubt it's a great idea." Ultimately, "we can only enhance our client's ideas, and the best work happens when we're involved at the very early stages of a project as a collaborative partner."
On the short-term direction of the business: "We're focusing heavily on our CG department at the moment. We've found that there is major growth going on in CGI, and we're building up that side of the business by investing in great talent and technology."
Nick Law, Chief Creative Officer, R/GA
Keeping up with the constant evolution of emerging technologies has always been R/GA's specialty. From the opening of a London office that will serve as the main European hub, to the formation of the Mobile and Emerging Media (MEMA) group, 2006 was a banner year for the agency's expansion across both multiplatform and geographic boundaries. Then there's former ECD Nick Law's promotion to the CCO post previously held by founder Bob Greenberg (who remains the agency's global CCO), giving R/GA a pair of creative powerhouses to lead them into brave new digital frontiers. The trend of expansion carried over to the work, as the agency constructed a virtual music-mixing and video-recording studio in the form of the Verizon Beatbox Mixer and added to its stellar Nike portfolio with new efforts like the Nike Women interactive dancing tutorial starring Rihanna, and the innovative Nike+ application, which fused Nike running shoes with Apple's iPod and iTunes.
Law on what made 2006 memorable: "From a creative perspective, the diversity of work. We maintained a high standard across an incredible array of creative disciplines—websites, applications, video content, corporate identities, games, mobile interfaces, digital signage and retail environments."
Jon Kamen, Chairman/Co-founder, and Frank Scherma, President/Co-founder, @radical.media
What don't these guys do? From spots, television shows and films to photography and design—even their own VOD cable channel—turn any media corner and you just might find @radical founders Jon Kamen and Frank Scherma already planted there, with their feelers out, yet again trolling around for the next potential media opportunity. Looking beyond and into every sort of potential production nook and cranny has always been the point since the pair founded the company in 1993, on the motto of being "never established." Last year, we named the shop our Production Company of the Year, in recognition of the fact that all their exploratory efforts have made them pros when it comes to conquering the sorts of multiplatform baskets that marketers and agencies are putting their eggs into these days. Their prowess manifested in another year of not only great spots but also a host of impressive, unconventional outings like Axe and BBH/N.Y.'s innovative "Gamekillers" campaign, which featured a hybrid reality-fiction MTV show that pits dating foes against a real life Romeo; Ford's ambitious "Bold Moves" online documentary series; and more eye-opening celebrity matchups for The Sundance Channel series, Iconoclasts. The shop also added more Hollywood hardware to its awards shelf—an Emmy for the History Channel Series The Ten Days that Changed America, and expanded the offerings on its car-on-demand channel, DriverTV.
Scherma on what it takes to inspire the team: "We must all get out of our comfort zones. We can get too complacent if it doesn't get a little scary."
Kamen on the same: "Embracing change, practically forcing it, as a way of constantly raising the bar."
Silvia Lagnado, Unilever, Group VP, Savory Foods Global Brand Senior Vice President
Beauty is not in the eye of the marketer, as Dove's revolutionary "The Campaign For Real Beauty" has illustrated time and again since its 2004 debut. Dove came out of nowhere and threw down a cultural gauntlet by making women of all facial and body shapes—most famously the fuller-figured ladies in their white underthings—the stars if its ads. Another kind of exploitation or a liberating assault on the beauty myth? There were no shortage of opinions, which was precisely the point. True to the strategy espoused by the initiative's driving force, former Unilever Dove global brand SVP Silvia Lagnado, last year's efforts continued to employ the latest methods—including consumer-generated content, social networks and viral marketing—to spread a message of self-esteem and positive body image among women. And despite the mid-year departure of Lagnado to her current post, the campaign had perhaps its best year, from the jarring placement of the reflective "Self Esteem" spot during the testosterone-fest known as Super Bowl XL, to the "Evolution" short film from Ogilvy/Toronto that showed the time-lapsed transformation of a regular woman into a billboard model.
Kylie Matulick, Todd Mueller, Partners/Creative Directors, Psyop
N.Y.-based design/animation studio Psyop, founded in 2000, achieved possibly a new level of happiness in 2006 with Coke's "Happiness Factory," via W+K/Amsterdam. The highly acclaimed 90-second tour de force, a trip around the fantastic landscape inside a Coke machine, even got a welcome reprise at last month's Super Bowl. The Psyop partners—CDs Marie Hyon, Marco Spier, Todd Mueller, Kylie Matulick and Eben Mears, along with EP Justin Booth-Clibborn and CFO Sandy Selinger—describe the Coke spot as an "especially exciting roller coaster ride" whose "scale and circuitous collaborative nature" make it their favorite of the year. But a close second is the moody, monochromatic avian wonder called "Crow," for MTV HD, which offered "complete creative freedom and an open brief." Elsewhere, Psyop was behind inventive animation for the "Coke Bottle Films" series and participated in the celebrated adidas adicolor art film series with a live-action-based blizzard of cuts called "Blue."
The Psyoppers on what's next: "We're gathering more creative minds and beginning to develop a number of long-form projects for both film and television. We have this idea for an animated coming-of-age love story about a one-eyed incontinent Shi Tzu called Blinky and his one puddle too many. Look for it in '08."
Al Moseley and John Norman, Executive Creative Directors, Wieden + Kennedy/Amsterdam
If 2006 goes down as the year Coke regained its creative swagger, Wieden + Kennedy/Amsterdam is to be given a fair chunk of credit. Soon after ECDs Moseley and Norman arrived in Amsterdam two years ago, the agency won Coke's Olympic work and a global branding assignment that resulted in the "Coke Side of Life" campaign. The latter paved the way for the epic "Happiness Factory," created with Psyop, arguably the highlight of the brand's recently revitalized creative oeuvre and a sure contender at this year's awards festivals. But Coke wasn't it for Amsterdam last year, as far as notable projects go—other standous include Nike's "Joga Bonito" campaign as well as a series of EA Sports virals starring footballers engaging in zany antics. In the meantime, the office is becoming more multicultural, boasting over 150 employees from 25 nations, including new interactive creative director, Swedish/Argentine Joakim Bergström, who arrived in October from Barcelona's Double You. Soon all will be ensconced in a new space, "infected with digital," featuring full postproduction facilities, edit suites, a design studio, space to lease and a sleeping area—all part of what Norman calls a "Wieden culture village."
Norman on the agency's evolution: "There are a lot of people here who don't 'fit'; they may be nonadvertising people who fit better—poets, painters and misfits."
Moseley adds: "It doesn't feel like an ad agency, it feels like a place where people create stuff. This is chaotic and exciting—you never really know what someone's going to come up with or show us next. We've been accused of being, within a chaotic network, among the most chaotic."