How to be more creative: Advice from 10 of the world’s best agencies

Each year, Ad Age compiles a list of the best creative agencies, the minds behind some of the favorite ads and campaigns of the year. As part of their “A-List 2018” series, they featured the Top 10 choices along with some background on each agency and quotes from the people behind the campaigns. Here are some quick takeaways of how these agencies approach their work and how we all could take a page or two from their playbooks.

1. Wieden & Kennedy

“Magic happens when there is a little bit of chaos …”

“Magic happens when there is a little bit of chaos, when everybody’s a little bit not sure. We had begun to qualify the ways in which things got done … be it from the way it was made to … who got to do it or touch it. That becomes an insular world. It took longer and longer to get into production and we were making fewer things than we used to.

“Our people needed to be willing, and feel permission, to not have every single thing they did be stellar, to not have everything be epic and untouchably perfect.”

– Colleen DeCourcy, global co-chief creative officer

2. McCann

Creative and feisty

“The threshold that we’re really focused on reaching is that we have the most creative idea that fits in society, becomes part of culture and is something that is both fun and successful, and magnifies way beyond a simple placement.”

– CEO Harris Diamond

The agency’s feistiness was apparent when McCann took the stunning step of protesting that it was unexpectedly eliminated from the US Army’s mandatory review. The protest resulted in McCann being reinstated, and the Army renewed its contract with the shop for the first nine months of 2018.

3. VML

“Wendy’s and VML think about mass media TV and one-on-one social media in the same breath.”

– CEO Jon Cook

4. Johannes Leonardo

“Just being good at creative doesn’t solve all the problems; you need a robust agency management team behind the ideas to make them real.”

– President Bryan Yasko

“We set ourselves up for success by getting all the other basic stuff right.”

– Co-Chief Creative Officer Leo Premutico

5. Anomaly

Anomaly focuses on diversity, successfully winning more Hispanic work in 2017 and integrating multicultural insights into its work.

“The entire agency has moved in that direction and not because we think it’s cool or we want to talk about it at parties; it’s fundamentally the right thing to do. It solidifies the mission that if you want to be a change agent, you have to make change.”

– Co-founding partner Jason DeLand

6. R/GA

“Clients are cutting budgets and we’re seeing the death of the metaphorical commercial. What clients need to do now is innovate.”

– Bob Greenberg, chariman and CEO

7. Laundry Service

The agency landed its first Super Bowl spot in 2017 with the legitimately funny T-Mobile #NSF-Wireless ad starring Kristen Schaal (an ad founder and CEO Jason Stein himself didn’t even lay eyes on until it aired. “How great is that?” he asks.)

8. 72andSunny

“It’s about ideas, not assets.”

– Evin Shutt, COO and partner

9. Droga5

Since it’s founding, it’s been drawn to work that “creates a disproportionate amount of positive impact,” says David Drogafounder, creative chairman. “We’re not shying away from what we stand for. Clients come to us because they want work that’s smart and appropriate. We’re not creating ripples just for the sake of it.”

10. MullenLowe

MullenLowe’s “hyperbundled” model: a full service of offerings including strategy, creative, media, digital, social, PR, CRM, and analytics.

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