She's been dubbed "Scary Mary" and "Minnick the Cynic" for the swift, brash, no-bullshit style she'd demonstrated in her 23-year-career at the soda giant. First starting in sales, she rose up Coca-Cola's ranks to oversee operations in the South Pacific, Japan and then all of Asia, and finally, in 2005, to lead the company's marketing, strategy and innovation. Before announcing in January that she'd be leaving her longtime employer to pursue personal business goals (a move that insiders suspect to be a response to her being passed over for the president/COO job in December), Minnick made good on her mission to turn the brand around. In two years, she formed a global marketing team, helped up the marketing budget $400 million to $2 billion-plus, amped up new product development, and gave the company's advertising a creatively inspired kick in the pants. One of Minnick's big babies had been a global marketing initiative that ultimately resulted in visually arresting, contemporary yet back-to-the-warm-and-fuzzy-Coke kind of advertising that made the brand famous—from the Jack White-accompanied "What Goes Around," out of Mother/London; to Wieden/Portland's Grand Theft Auto-inspired "Videogame," featuring a tough guy with a Coke heart of gold; to, of course, the truly happy-making "Happiness Factory," via Psyop and W+K/Amsterdam.
Peter Moore, Corporate VP-Interactive Entertainment Business, Entertainment and Devices Division, Microsoft
As former president of Sega, Moore helped to successfully launch the Dreamcast—only to see all his efforts obliterated after Sony responded a year later with the PlayStation 2. But now that he's heading up the interactive entertainment at Microsoft, Moore has been retaliating with a locust-like vengeance on Mr. Kutaragi and co., and, for that matter, any entertainment unit that attempts to take up a piece of living room real estate. Since the Xbox 360's launch in late '05, the consoles now occupy more than 10 million homes, and five million players have joined Xbox Live, an achievement no doubt unlocked through ambitious, sometimes risky marketing and advertising initiatives like an MTV special, a premier party in the desert for hardcore gamers, as well as an uncharacteristically lo-fi advertising launch campaign. Now that the fast-selling Nintendo Wii and Sony's powerhouse PS3 have entered the console wars, we have yet to see which system will dominate in the end, but Microsoft has attempted to remain foremost on gamers' wishlists with stellar, exclusive titles like Gears of War, which brought revolutionary new developments to the classic shooter and inspired a magnificent turn in videogame advertising, the poignant "Mad World." Moore also moved headfirst into conquering PC gaming territory, announcing to the press that Jan. 30, 2007, the launch date of Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system, "will be the most significant day in gaming for the next several years," having been "built from the ground up with gaming as a core scenario."
On great marketing: "The key is being relevant, consistent, delivering on your promises and, ultimately, creating great products and memorable experiences. It's really our job to make consumers feel like they want an Xbox 360, as opposed to telling them why they need it."
Yugo Nakamura, Web Designer, Tha Ltd.
In the quest to make the internet artful, Tokyo-based web designer Nakamura is considered a leader. Almost as soon as the wonders of Flash were being revealed, the former civil architect began testing and warping its capabilities to create online experiences that border on the surreal. His resume is dotted with awards, ranging from a Cannes Cyber Grand Prix, Clio and One Show kudos for his gorgeous NEC "Ecotonoha" website, and he's been the subject of high-profile exhibitions on three continents. But he hasn't slowed down or ceased leading the way in an industry that seems to change from minute to minute. When asked by the Design Museum just what it is he does, Nakamura responded that he develops an "alternative approach to visual communication on the web." It's difficult not to get caught up in the playful details of his complex works of web art, visible in projects out of his design firm Tha Ltd., or experiments featured on his personal website Yugop.com. One of Nakamura's standout efforts in 2006 was a new website for Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo, an experience that even the twitchiest of shop-a-phobes would find fascinating. There's also his personal work at Yugop, which might be described as a webbie's wet dream. One of his more whimsical projects is a typographic book search application powered by Amazon, dubbed the Amaztype Zeitgeist, which allows users to see the most popular Amazon searches. Give one a click and the site then collages the author/filmmaker/musician's various works to spell out his or her name. This, combined with other pages featuring motion logic, enables one to interact with and control the action, making the site a labyrinth of random clicking that can contribute to many a lost workday hour.
Benjamin Palmer, President/ Co-founder, The Barbarian Group
Barbarian invasions are usually brutal and swift, but The Barbarian Group's reign has bucked the trend—the Boston-based agency just celebrated its fifth year of residence on the interactive landscape, an occupation marked by sustained dominance (though not a shred of brutality). Led by Palmer, the Barbarians celebrated the milestone by unleashing another year's worth of excellent work, in the process nabbing Creativity's second annual Interactive Agency of the Year honors. The 2006 portfolio included new websites like Virgin's "Name Our Planes," Tul's "Graphology" and the groundbreaking Samsung "Anyfilms.net," a customizable mystery yarn that took interactive video to a whole new level with its grid-based "choose your own plot twist" interface—as well as fresh content for old favorites like the Milwaukee's Best Light website, which featured the smashingly successful "Beer Cannon" videos. The Barbarians also expanded their conquest beyond the online space, collaborating on a multimedia interactive installation for Saturn's exhibit at Wired's NextFest. It's all part of a concerted effort to establish a dedicated R&D environment Palmer refers to as "the labs," where all Barbarians can devote a percentage of their time to working on experimental projects, software and content.
On The Barbarian Group's fifth anniversary: "We started this whole thing in an apartment in December 2001, with some computers and optimism. We actually had a five-year plan when we started, and it ended up working a lot better than we had even hoped. Last year was the first year that we actually felt like this might just work out."
Chris Palmer, Director, Gorgeous Productions
Chris Palmer may not be the most conspicuous creative force on the roster of the company he founded in 1997, with fellow director Frank Budgen and managing director Paul Rothwell, but last year the typically guarded talent couldn't help but fall under the spotlight's glare by way of some of this year's spots gems, like the technically acrobatic Sky One promo that brought The Simpsons' opener into live-action perspective and became an instant darling on the viral circuit—at last glance, it was the ninth most viewed clip in the history of YouTube. Palmer also directed the award-winning PSA for the British Department of Transport illustrating the dangers of mindless mobile phoning, for which he enlisted a group of his friends to shoot much of the action themselves on a cellphone camera. Beyond that, Palmer, an avid soccer fan, brought poignant touches to Carlsberg's "Old Lions," casting senior football legends as a pub team, and he also brought graceful visuals to an award-winning CDC spot for Saatchi/N.Y that literally brings the sun out to play.
On his proudest accomplishment of the last year: "Gaining a black belt in origami."
On his biggest commercial challenge of 2006: "The Gorgeous calendar. Tough client, lousy budget, last minute. 'Simpsons' was what you'd call technically demanding. It took about a year off my life."
Mark Parker, CEO, Nike
The ultimate insider, with 25-plus years at Nike under his belt, Mark Parker took the CEO reins in January of last year, following the ouster of William Perez, and he logged a successful year from both a business and a creative standpoint (which, at companies like Nike, of course, are intimately linked). Nike finished third among advertisers in the '06 Creativity Awards Report with winning work from all over the world, in every media category. Nike did big things in football this year, including the "Joga Bonito" project, featuring the Google-backed Joga.com social networking site, with Nike football videos viewed more than 10 million times during World Cup. As far as viral video prowess goes, the marketer also had the distinction of having one of the most viewed YouTube videos of all time—the clip of Ronaldinho performing improbable feats while wearing some nifty gold boots. And, to cap it off, Nike authored one of the biggest of big ideas in the marketing space last year, teaming with its spiritual counterpart, Apple, to link the new Nike Air Zoom sneaker with the iPod Nano—the two pieces of gear worked together as a performance tracker and enhancer. With the iPod keeping track of info, runners could track time, distance, calories burned and other athletic stats and then download and share info at the R/GA-designed site, Nikeplus.com. Not since the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup has a union made such sweet music.
P.J. Pereira, Executive Creative Director, AKQA
It's a small world after all, as AKQA found out in 2006. Having already recruited a team of international stars the previous year (including ECDs Lars Bastholm, Rei Inamoto and Pereira himself), the interactive agency with a distinctly worldly flavor continued to bring its global plan to fruition, adding personnel from Japan, Brazil, Germany, Canada, South Africa and India, while scoring top global account wins like McDonald's and Coke—all from a relatively small network of six offices worldwide, including a new office in Shanghai that opened in November. From his post at AKQA/San Francisco, Pereira oversaw some of the agency's most notable work of the year, including the online component of Sprite's "SubLymonal" campaign (as well as its tie-in with the sprawling Lost alternate reality game); innovative efforts for Windows Live Messenger (such as the single-page illustrated website "The Way News Spreads"); the website for Visa's "Life Takes Visa" rebranding campaign; and an online experience for the immensely popular Xbox title Gears of War. Pereira also scored a major win for the next generation of advertising superstars, leading the effort to establish the Future Lions—the first creative competition exclusively for students at Cannes.
On 2006: "It was the year that Lars, Rei and myself, plus Brendan Dibona from our Washington, D.C. office and James Hilton and Daniel Bonner from AKQA/London, really worked to make the global nature of the team reach all levels of the creative department. It started to become part of our culture, and ultimately it showed in the work. I don't believe it's a coincidence that the most relevant fact of 2006 was that we won so many global accounts, even though we have only six offices around the world."
Andrea Ragnetti, Chief Marketing Officer, Royal Philips Electronics, and Chief Executive Officer, Philips Domestic Appliances and Personal Care
After landing at Philips in January 2003 as the Dutch electronics giant's first ever CMO, the former P&G and Reckitt Benckiser exec has been on a tear to strip the brand's products and practices down to a simple, design-centric focus. In 2004, Ragnetti introduced the "Sense and Simplicity" campaign, the rallying cry that has focused the company's product development on easy to use, design-minded products like the Senseo coffee maker. It's also led to clever, "simplicity"-driven marketing moves like last year's massive wipeout of advertising from a variety of media portals. Philips dished out $2 million last year to CBS in order to give viewers longer uninterrupted programming segments during 60 Minutes. It also paid $5 million to remove all the ad pages between the cover and table of contents of various Time Inc. publications, and in December it secured free premium access to sites like ESPN.com and WSJ.com for online news gatherers. Ragnetti's mantra has also led to an overhaul of the company's processes, leading to the formation of the Philips Simplicity Advisory Board. Chaired by Ragnetti, the board is comprised of fashion designer Sara Berman, MIT professor and design guru John Maeda, architect Gary Chang, and radiologist/professor Dr. Peggy Fritzsche, who have been enlisted to inject the company with fresh outside perspective.
Kevin Roddy, Executive Creative Director, BBH/New York
Life got a bit tougher for snakes like Kash Munni, The One Upper and British Accent Guy, thanks to BBH/N.Y., which created The Gamekillers, a groundbreaking hour-long piece of branded entertainment for the launch of Unilever's Axe Dry. With the help of @radical.media and The Glue Society, BBH told the story of a guy trying to woo a lady while the aforementioned snakes make their best attempts to fluster him. BBH made another masterful stroke in the form of Smirnoff's "Tea Partay" viral clip, in which WASPy Connecticut dwellers emulate rappers, extolling the praises of yachting, money and the brand's Raw Tea. Axe also got cryptic with "The Order of the Serpentine," a faux secret society that encourages kids to wash away the shame of a regrettable affair. It also toughened up partygoers for all the action they'll get on vacation with "Spring Break Boot Camp" training videos.
On the future: "We still have to be excellent at a TV commercial or a print ad, but we also have to be excellent at something new. There are quite a few agencies that are doing one or another, but I think the Holy Grail is embracing it all, finding a way to do it all equally well. I think in 2006 we took a first step toward that."
David Roman, President-Worldwide Marketing Communications, Personal Systems Group, Hewlett-Packard
Thanks to Roman, consumers now have access to HP PCs' softer—and cooler—side, once obscured by the stodgy ol' engineering focus that used to define the marketing of the tech brand. Last year, the former Apple and Nvidia exec decided to let HP out to play, spearheading, along with agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, the launch of HP's "The Computer is Personal Again" campaign, the keystone of which has been a series of spots featuring the headless bodies of mystery celebrities whose hand gestures, paired with some clever motion graphics, give them away to be Jay-Z, Mark Burnett, Pharrell Williams, Mark Cuban and others. Other facets of the ongoing campaign include design-driven online and print ads featuring Saul Bass-inspired graphics, and a web destination that allowed visitors to check out Jay-Z's desktop and create their own version of the "hands" ads. HP even partnered with MTV to host its own hookup show, which allowed kids to choose their next date, or even their next drummer, based on the contents of their hard drives. Although the brand subsequently got a different kind of media attention when news broke that company execs had been involved in unethical spying practices, it remains stronger than ever in the marketplace—over the last year HP has consistently gained ground over main competitor Dell, and last month it announced that overall first-quarter results jumped 11 percent over last year. In PCs, Roman's domain, sales were up 17 percent. Meanwhile, Roman and team aren't letting up in '07. "We're taking the campaign to the next level with rich imagery and a broader variety of interesting characters," he says.
On bringing creativity to HP's culture: "It's about providing a learning culture, which includes a tolerance for mistakes. If you're going to push the limits, not everything is going to be perfect. You also have to have experienced talent who understand what doesn't work and who will change it quickly—and who can immediately recognize and accelerate what does work."