Creative Leader of the Year 2021: Aaron Starkman

The Gold winner in this category for Campaign's Global Agency of the Year Awards is Aaron Starkman, chief creative officer/ managing partner, Rethink, Canada.

Creative Leader of the Year 2021: Aaron Starkman

Aaron Starkman’s and Rethink’s focus has been on people, product and profit.

On the people front, Starkman and the agency's leadership team addressed the burnout syndrome that was prompting many creatives to quit the industry. Starkman and others in the agency reached out to clients and told them there would be no client meetings on a Monday, freeing up creatives’ time at the weekend. It is a policy that other agencies also adopted. 

Starkman and the leadership team also introduced "Bueller Days", enabling staff to take time off, advocacy days for mentoring or volunteering activities and "Rethink Talks", a speaker series offering advice to manage the pandemic.  

On the campaign side, Starkman’s creative output across 2021 resulted in multi-award-winning campaigns for a range of brands, including Heinz, Ikea and Over the Bridge, a non-profit organisation focusing on mental health and recovery in the music community. Rethink’s "Lost Tapes of the 27 Club" used AI to produce the music the 27 Club (those musicians who died aged 27 as a result of mental illness) would have created had they had access to help and support. An Ikea campaign showcased the power of real-time marketing, with IKEA water bottles renamed "Cristiano". This was in response to footballer Cristiano Ronaldo removing bottles of Coca-Cola from a post-match press conference, and telling people to drink water instead. 

Judges commended the "no presentation Mondays" initiative and were impressed by Starkman’s thinking and the great results he generated. 


Dany Minaker and Sebastian 'Patán' Tarazaga, chief creative officers, Wunderman Thompson LATAM

George Bryant, founder and global CCO, The Brooklyn Brothers, UK

Tom Martin and Julian Schreiber, chief creative officers, Special Sydney, Australia

Zak Mroueh, chief creative officer and founder, Zulu Alpha Kilo, Canada

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