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Creative Person of the Year 2020: Richard Brim

He shows that embracing the crazy and unexpected can lead to the greatest creativity.

Creative Person of the Year 2020: Richard Brim

Chief creative officer, Adam & Eve/DDB

On the main stage at Cannes Lions in 2019, Brim delivered a presentation entitled, "The wonder of what the f*ck". His talk was about how some of the best ideas come from a moment of "WTF?" – embracing the crazy and unexpected can lead to the greatest creativity. 

For Brim, following that principle has paid off. This is the man who, in 2019 alone, hypnotised a nation of haters into loving Marmite, inspired kids to fight evil vegetables in Veg Power and ITV’s joint bid for healthy eating, transformed Jeff Bridges into a bridge for Amstel, and turned out a series of blockbuster films for PlayStation. 

Under his leadership, A&E/DDB boasts a diverse body of work that ranges from the weird to the populist. The agency and Brim are still best known for bringing creative magic to John Lewis & Partners’ Christmas campaign year after year. But in 2019 he faced the enormous challenge of integrating the retailer with sister brand Waitrose & Partners for the first time during the festive season. The result, "Excitable Edgar", about a loveable dragon unable to control his fire-breathing, was another strong addition to the John Lewis canon while seamlessly promoting the two brands in one heartwarming and humorous story. 

Not one to rest on his laurels, however, Brim has long shown that he is more than just the brains behind John Lewis’ fuzzy characters. In 2019 his creative leadership helped A&E/DDB win three of the most hotly contested pitches of the year: Virgin Media, Lucozade and the global PlayStation account. All told, revenue grew by 9% over the year and brought the agency to the top of Campaign’s new-business league table. 

For Virgin Media, Brim’s team rolled out a platform called "Unlimiting", which steered the brand in a fresh, fun direction. The first two ads starred an overconfident dad who meets a darkly comic demise and a cheeky Scouse girl with a big imagination. The agency also roared out of the traps with epic films for PlayStation, while Lucozade’s work is due to launch later this year. 

One judge said: "Beautiful work that doesn’t just speak to culture, it seems to often create it. Thoroughly based on insight that delivers not just for the sake of brilliant creative but for the agency and the client."

It is hard to stay consistent when you are at the top, but again and again Brim uses his down-to-earth brand of leadership to deliver work that keeps advertising relevant to wider culture. He is a world-class creative talent who raises the bar for the rest of the industry. 

Runners-up

Darren Bailes

Executive creative director, VCCP

Last year marked Bailes’ 10th at VCCP. During his tenure, the agency has become an impressive force, boasting both business growth and creative firepower. In the past year alone, while maintaining long-running campaigns for the likes of Comparethemarket.com and Nationwide, Bailes helped Paddy Power "un-sponsor" football team Huddersfield Town, easyJet host a Europe-wide game of hide-and-seek, and Domino’s create a tongue-in-cheek collection for London Fashion Week. 

Most impressively, Bailes’ department has imbued Cadbury with a newfound sense of warmth and humanity, as seen again in 2019 with an Age UK tie-up tackling the problem of loneliness among the elderly. As one judge observed: "Simplicity at its heart, Darren makes this stuff look easy. It’s not."

Danny Brooke-Taylor

Co-founder and creative partner, Lucky Generals

In 2019 Brooke-Taylor was busy establishing the agency’s office in New York without taking his eye off the ball in the UK.  He created a second Super Bowl ad for Amazon, as well as the tech giant’s global Christmas ad, and debut work for Co-op and Zoopla. 

Showing his breadth, Yorkshire Tea returned in comedic style, while TimeTo’s hard-hitting ads continued to tackle sexual harassment in the industry. Helped by his creative leadership, Lucky Generals increased income by 63% and profits by 59%. 

"Brilliant, insightful, engaging work, and a head for business," one judge remarked. "Danny demonstrated how leadership, client engagement, business and creative skill are all necessary ingredients of top creatives."

Alex Grieve

Chief creative officer, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Under Grieve’s leadership, 2019 was Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s most-awarded year in its 42-year history. Many of the accolades were for Bodyform’s "Viva la vulva", which scooped 15 Grands Prix across every major industry awards show and led to 11% growth for the business in a declining market. 

Other creative highlights included Guinness’ promo for water designed to encourage people to drink responsibly; "Diversish", which held business leaders at Davos accountable for diversity inclusion; and a campaign tackling air pollution in London, which included a tool for residents to check the air-quality levels near their homes.