Of what use are lists? In their simplest iterations they help us get through chores, remember birthdays, guide our streaming consumption or even inform our travel choices. Lists, too, give us an idea of ambitions to achieve. Being on a list of the richest, most influential, famous or funny are feathers in a cap for those that make them.
B&T’s Best of the Best lists have come into this world as discussion starters. While all 12 individuals on our list are deserved of a place, there are many, many more whom, but for an untimely move overseas (Pia Chaudhuri), a resignation, a hiatus from award-winning work for other life goals or just plain bad luck, have not made the 2023 cut. One thing we do know about lists, however, is they are often redundant the moment they are released; they capture a moment in time and a mood of their maker. With that lengthy disclaimer, we give you B&T’s Best of the Best Top 10 Creatives.
Over the coming weeks and months, B&T will be releasing its full list of Best of the Best Top 10 lists one a week. Stand by for our take of the best in the business in the following disciplines: Entrepreneur, Content Producer, Data Scientist, Commercial Director – Creative, Recruiter, Commercial Director – Media, Film Director, Public Relations, Strategist – Creative, Technologist, Consultant, Strategist – Media, Project Manager, Executive Leader – Creative, Mentor, Executive Leader – Media, Media Director, Developer, Casting Director, Industry Association Chief, Experiential Producer, Social Change Maker, Journalist, HR, Planning Director – Media, and Marketer.
10) Elle Bullen
Executive creative director, Bullfrog
Former boss of her own agency Sick Dog Wolf Man, Bullen is a newish recruit to burgeoning indie Bullfrog. After a break battling breast cancer, Bullen joined Bullfrog in December and now describes herself as an “ECD, part-time copywriter and all-the-time mum”. Her list of awards include Myer “Give Registry”, Bonds “Boobs” and not once, but twice winner in the creative category at B&T’s Women in Media Awards.
9) Mandie van der Merwe and Avish Gordhan
Chief creative officers, dentsu Creative
Under everyone’s noses, dentsu has been seriously ramping up its creative creds over the past 18 months and, while doing it, cajoling some of adland’s brightest to jump ship to its creative cause. Arguably the biggest coup was nabbing van der Merwe and Gordhan away from arch enemy M&C Saatchi in October last year. The South African-born duo have been inseparable work buddies for nigh on 20 years and, adding to the creative tension, also moonlight as husband and wife. Van der Merwe is also a former head of AWARD School, while Gordhan is reportedly quite the ceramicist when not poncing about adlanding.
8) Paul Nagy
Chief creative officer, VMLY&R
In yet further proof not to be too good at your job comes Nagy’s promotion to not merely overseeing the Australian and Kiwi operations of the WPP agency, but, as of April, his remit now includes all of APAC, too. Some 21 offices across 10 countries across Asia and AUNZ. Nagy joined Y&R as chief creative officer in 2017, and following the WPP merger of the agency with VML in 2018, was named as the first chief creative officer of VMLY&R Australia. Under Nagy, the agency has snared or retained the likes of KFC, Monash University, Vodafone, the Coffee Club and Defence Force Recruiting. And the secret to his creative success? “My job is a simple one – support the amazing talent we have in our network and let them be the best they can be,” Nagy revealed.
7) Micah Walker
Chief creative officer/founder, Bear Meets Eagle On Fire
As regular readers would know, we love a quirky ad at B&T and arguably the king of quirk in Aussie adland at the moment is Walker. With a client list that includes NRMA, IAG’s budget car insure ROLLiN’ and sports bet firm Rivalry, Walker’s work is as cerebral as it is hilarious. Equally impressive is the resume, with Walker boasting stints at agencies the merit of The Monkeys, Leos, Fallon London and, arguably the bestest of them all, Nike’s dear friend, Wieden + Kennedy Portland.
6) Claire Waring
Executive creative director, R/GA Australia
Waring has been in the R/GA creative hot seat since August 2021 after the abrupt departure of Kieran Anthill after a mere 12 months. Fortuitously for Waring, she inherited a client list that included the likes of Google and the the A-League. Great work aside, Waring has been an avid proponent of the IPG agency’s push to be more culturally sensitive and inclusive. “I think being on the right side of change, especially for R/GA – and I buy wholeheartedly into this – is being on the side of a more human future,” Waring recently revealed to B&T.
5) Tom Martin and Julian Schreiber
Partners and chief creative officers, Special
From B&T’s top gong at our 2020 and 2021 Awards to being named Campaign UK’s global indie agency of the year, it’s clear Martin and Schreiber have been the chief cause of all that trophy polishing over at Special. Well, that and the pair’s globally lauded Uber Eats work. With a client list that now includes ANZ, Bonds, Tourism New Zealand and Zambrero, B&T predicts further additions to the pair’s 37 Cannes Lions, a Cannes Lions Grand Prix, D&AD Black Pencil, multiple Yellow Pencils, One Show Gold Pencil and a record five Best of Shows at AWARD.
4) Andrew Fergusson
National executive creative director, Leo Burnett
With a client list so diverse it includes anything from Diageo’s flotilla of booze brands through to the more sedate Twinings Tea, Fergusson could be forgiven for lying awake at night in a cold sweat. He’s now been in Leo’s creative hot seat for three-and-a-half years, having been enticed home to Sydney from his previous, decade-long sojourn at, none other than, the legendary Droga5 New York. Arguably a fly-under-the-radar kinda guy, Fergusson has been instrumental in the agency’s numerous new business and creative wins. Fergusson’s triumphs include Cannes Lion, The Webbys, D&AD, The One Show and Clios. Major awards include a Super Clio, 3 Grand Clios, a Cannes Titanium shortlist and Adweek’s Ad of the Year.
3) Cam Blackley
Chief creative officer, M&C Saatchi
When you boast a client roster the likes of M&C, you need your feistiest brains in the top chair. Following a staff clean out in early 2018, Blackley was recruited over from BMF to tackle the formidable likes of Woolworths’ and Tourism Australia’s creative. Concerns that a man who’d made his name with titillating ALDI ads may flounder with more conservative and demanding clients were quickly erased, as Blackley took to the role as a duck does to you-know-what. Blackley’s resume boasts stints at such esteemed agencies as Droga5 New York and Sydney, Publicis London, AMV BBDO and Grey. His cabinet includes trophies such as D&AD Black and Cannes Titanium, also D&AD Yellow, Cannes Lions, Grand and Gold Clios.
2) Tara Ford
Chief creative officer, The Monkeys
No top 10 creative list would be complete without the omnipresent Monkeys and its all-encompassing CCO, Tara Ford. With a quarter of a century experience working at such prestigious agencies as DDB, TBWA and M&C Saatchi, Ford fills in her spare time as a member of the D&AD Advisory Board and as a board member of the Advertising Council of Australia. Under Ford’s watchful eye, The Monkeys now boast an enviable client roster that includes the likes of Telstra, Qantas, NRMA, Supercheap Auto, the Uluru Statement, P&O Cruises and, of course, the most anticipated ad of the year, the MLA’s lamb work.
1) Gavin Chimes
Executive creative director, Howatson+Co
It’s only been operational a little more than two years and already Chris Howatson’s eponymous full-service soiree has nabbed just about every award going, including the ultra-prestigious B&T’s Agency Of The Year last December. Mr Howatson may make the acceptance speeches, but it’s his powerhouse ECD Chimes that arguably deserves the platitudes. Like much of the agency’s staff, Chimes came from Howatson’s former employer CHEP and was thrust into the creative hot seat in March 2021 following the abrupt departure of co-founder, Ant White. In two short years, Howatson+Co now boasts a client roster that includes Telstra’s Belong, MYOB, TK Maxx, Doordash, Matilda Bay, UNSW and Maurice Blackburn.