Google creativity and you’ll find plenty of images of bright flowy colours and paint splodges, usually falling out of a neatly crafted stencil of a brain. Creativity is a strange thing, and (as Google Images shows) not something that neatly fits within stencils.
Unlike ‘harder’ skills such as accountancy or engineering, the financial value of creativity is not always immediately obvious. Vincent Van Gogh, for example, famously died before earning much more than a cent for his art – now his art sells into the hundreds of millions.
Most people would prefer to receive their fortunes before they die. So, who makes sure they get paid? It’s the fearless commercial directors who capture creativity, package it up and fight tooth-and-nail for its worth.
Over the coming weeks and months, B&T will be releasing its full list of Best of the Best Top 10 lists once a week. Stand by for our take of the best in the business in the following disciplines: Recruiter, Public Relations – Consumer, Technologist, Strategist – Media, Project Manager, Mentor, Media Director, Developer, Casting Director, Industry Association Chief, Experiential Producer, Social Change Maker, Journalist, HR, Planning Director – Media and Marketer.
This is why we want to celebrate them. Here are our top 10 commercial directors.
10) Sheryl Marjoram
CEO, DDB Group Sydney
Australia is lucky to have Marjoram back on our shores – she is a force of nature and a truly global talent. She is currently DDB Group Sydney’s CEO, covering creative agency DDB, digital shop Tribal, personal experience agency TRACK, PR powerhouse Mango and healthcare specialist Remedy.
She started her career in Australia before spending two decades in the UK, where she led huge brands including Dove, SC Johnson, Expedia, BP and Asda across multiple markets including Australia, UK, US, China, Japan, Chile and Mexico. She spent almost five years at McCann London, rising to CEO, and scored a number of high-profile wins including Just Eat (which she retained when the company merged to become Just Eat Takeaway), TSB and Pernod Ricard.
9) Stephen McArdle
McArdle is another one whose commercial success is demonstrated by his long tenure. He has been at BMF Australia for more than 11 years, and been CEO for three. He is well-known and highly respected by both clients and staff.
Prior to taking up his throne at BMF, McArdle held a number of roles in the UK at top agencies including M&C Saatchi, TBWA and CHI & Partners.
During his time at BMF, his team has created award-winning campaigns for brands such as ALDI, Lion and Meat & Livestock Australia.
8) Adam Ferrier
Founder and consumer psychologist, Thinkerbell
Adam Ferrier is the founder of Thinkerbell and an unstoppable force in the Australian advertising landscape. Not only does he sell the value of creativity to clients, but he sells it to the general public and gets us all excited about the wonderful fabulous world of ideas.
He is a regular panelist on TV shows Gruen, The Project, and Sunrise #mastersofspin (as well as Celebrity Apprentice, Australia’s Next Top Model and Man Up.
He’s also written for B&T and some less well-known publications such as TIME, The Australian, The Guardian and the Wall Street Journal.
7) Chris Howatson
Founder and CEO, Howatson+Company
We do like to name Howatson on these lists and with so many awards, it’s hard not to!
During his eight years as group CEO of CHE Proximity Australia, Howatson won a string of prestigious accolades including WARC’s most creative agency in Australia (2019) and WARC’s third most effective agency in the world (2020).
After running out of room on the CHE Proximity trophy shelf, Howatson set up his own business – Howatson+Company. Since its launch, the agency has won a number of awards including Global Independent Agency of the Year at the D&AD Awards and, most recently, the Independent Agency of the Year – Good at Cannes.
6) Kirsty Muddle
CEO, dentsu Creative
The future of creativity and commercial is undeniably in data. Data allows the industry to take the intangible world of ideas and show clients what it is really worth. This is why Muddle is a true leader in the creative industry.
She started her career in Econometrics at a WPP agency in London and still maintains her love for the interplay between humans and data.
Currently CEO of dentsu Creative Australia & New Zealand, she helps transforms businesses and brands through the power of creativity and (we’re sure) data, too.
Prior to joining dentsu Creative, she was founding partner and CEO of cummins&partners.
5) Michael Rebelo
CEO Publicis Groupe Australia & NZ
Rebelo is very much a global executive and someone who sits firmly at the convergence of creativity and business.
He is currently CEO of Publicis Groupe Australia & NZ, a behemoth that owns brands such as Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, Starcom, Zenithmedia, Publicis Sapient, Digitas, HerdMSL, Spark Foundry, Razorfish and Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness and Publicis WW.
Over his impressive 20-year-plus career, Rebelo has focused on re-building, re-purposing, starting-up and buying agencies so they can use creativity to help brands flourish.
4) Gayle While
It’s little surprise that While was poached to be CEO of Host/Havas after Laura Aldington departed the agency after 16 years.
While has a reputation for getting things done and being far, far ahead of the game. As dentsu’s Muddle said: “There is no one better than Gayle for this role. There was no point looking outside the network. I’ve long been a fan of hers, if not fearful when she was the competition. She has also worked for Media Monks, and IPG. She’s a driver, she’s ingenious and she’s been at the forefront of creativity and innovation her entire career.”
3) Lindsey Evans
CEO and founding partner, Special Group
As previously mentioned, the numbers don’t lie when it comes to commercial success. But, in Evans’ case, she’s also picked up lots and lots of awards.
Last year, Evans took home a staggering ten B&T Awards including Best Ad Campaign, Best TV Campaign and B&T Agency of the Year. Under her leadership, Evans has taken Special from a small agency based in New Zealand to a truly global behemoth with offices in Australia and the UK and a host of top clients.
2) Paul Bradbury
President and regional CEO, TBWA Australia & New Zealand
Unlike creativity, the success of which is often hotly debated, commercial success is clear-cut. Simply follow the money and you’ll find someone with strong business acumen.
As president and regional CEO of TBWA, it is fair to say that Bradbury is pretty good when it comes to the commercial stuff. And unlike a lot of CEOs who can often be turfed out after a couple of years, Bradbury had held the post for 17 years – a good sign that TBWA creatives and staff are happy and well paid.
1. Mark Green
President ANZ, Accenture Song
Green is someone who has been able to bridge the wild world of creativity with the slightly less wild world of management consultancy.
He co-founded The Monkeys in 2006 along with Justin Drape and Scott Nowell, before selling the firm to Accenture in 2017 for $63 million. Green has since maintained his role as group CEO of The Monkeys and has been appointed the lead for Accenture Interactive Australia & New Zealand.
Has being part of a huge management consultancy firm dimmed his creative sparkle? That’s a resounding no. The Monkeys recently won the most prestigious award at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity claiming the Dan Wieden Titanium Grand Prix overnight for its work for the Tuvalu Government First Digital Nation.
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