The US: America's most wanted

US advertising wants innovation and integration. Lucy Aitken looks at five of the best creatives.

Footballers' Wives and Extras grace US TV screens, while UK audiences lap up Desperate Housewives and Lost. But how far do the two countries share creative trends?

There's certainly a very British influence in comedy terms: echoes of The Office in a Burger King TV campaign, while Harry Enfield starred as Dr Angus in a viral for the same brand.

Innovation in use of media is growing in importance in the US as well as the UK. Tim Pontarelli, the group creative head at Leo Burnett USA, refers to "a desire to use anything but TV", and comments that "it must be more entertainment than advertisement".

Creatives who can crack new communication touch-points are in demand.

Kevin Roddy, the executive creative at Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York, describes campaigns such as Wieden & Kennedy's Beta 7 work for Sega and McKinney & Silver's Art of the Heist for Audi as "phenomenal stuff", which has broken new ground.

One agency is at the top of its game when it comes to fresh thinking.

Crispin Porter & Bogusky is the darling of the US ad scene, thanks largely to its work for Virgin, Burger King and Mini. It recently waved goodbye to the latter when it won Volkswagen.

Matt McCain, a senior writer at Wongdoody, observes: "I think we're all doing our damnedest to out-Crispin Crispin. Instead of just doing funny, trophy-winning TV or print work, agencies want to do smart, super-integrated campaigns that extend into unfamiliar media territory."

Andrew Meyer, the group creative head at Leo Burnett Chicago, explains: "Everybody wants to be like the coolest kid in school, and at the moment, they're it."

So which agency will be next? Roddy tips Ari Merkin's start-up as one to watch. The former creative head at Fallon New York, Merkin left with the agency president, Anne Bologna, in July, prompting Fallon to close in Manhattan.

In terms of creative role models, familiar names are bandied about such as Lee Clow, Dan Wieden and Pat Fallon. But there's a new generation of creatives emerging that includes TBWA\Chiat\Day's Gerry Graf and Chuck McBride, BBDO's Eric Silver and Alex Bogusky.

For Tracy Wong, the creative director, chairman and founding partner at Wongdoody, there is one role model. "I believe we are all disciples of Bill Bernbach," he says. "The culture he helped create changed the industry forever."

Yet McBride's inspiration comes from W&K London: "I guess we Americans are just trying to measure up to the blokes that work on Honda."


Andrew Meyer, Noel Haan - Leo Burnett Chicago

This team's consistently strong body of work for the breath-freshener brand Altoids has won numerous trophies: TV work featuring the primitive ways of the people of Altoidia won a gold Lion at this year's Cannes festival.

The duo, Burnett's executive vice-presidents and group creative heads, have also produced work for Reebok, Johnnie Walker and Starbucks. Haan nicknames Meyer "Handy Andy", explaining: "If Andrew were a print ad, he would be a long-copy print ad about a Swiss Army knife with hundreds of features." Meyer has a slightly more surreal take on Haan: "Noel rhymes with mole. I am convinced that this is not a coincidence."

Chuck McBride - TBWA\Chiat\Day San Francisco

Noel Haan cites Chuck McBride, TBWA\Chiat\Day's creative director for North America, as a current role model for young US creatives and it's no surprise when you take a glance at his reel: McBride is the brains behind spots for big-hitting brands such as Levi's, Nike, Adidas and Fox Sports, which have attracted awards galore. He has worked at Wieden & Kennedy/Portland and Goodby Silverstein & Partners. While at the latter, he helped to create the famous "Got milk?" campaign. He received an Emmy for his "morning after" spot for Nike and some of his work can be found on permanent exhibit in the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Jeff Benjamin - Crispin Porter & Bogusky Miami

Jeff Benjamin joined Crispin Porter & Bogusky as its interactive creative director in 2003, with a brief to reinvent interactive advertising. His contribution to campaigns for Mini, Virgin Atlantic, Burger King and Ikea has helped make the agency one of the US's hottest shops. The counterfeit Mini campaign picked up a Titanium Lion for the best integrated campaign this year, while online work for Burger King starring Harry Enfield as Dr Angus was a side-splitting sequel to the "subservient chicken" viral. Before joining Crispin Porter, Benjamin worked at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, where he managed interactive on HP, Saturn and Goodyear.

Tracy Wong - Wongdoody Seattle and Los Angeles

Wongdoody's Alaska Airlines campaign, which spoofed the world's worst carrier, picked up a gold Direct Lion at Cannes, making it one of the few US agencies to make an impact in this category.

Wong, the agency's creative director, chairman and founding partner, has won a host of other advertising gongs, including Clios and Effies.

He co-founded Wongdoody in 1993 with Pat Doody, who says of him: "Tracy is just a regular Joe who believes everyone should be treated as peers.

We've been working together for 14 years and don't agree on much except how to treat people and what kind of company we want to own. Beyond that, we're polar opposites who couldn't do the other person's job if our life depended on it." Wongdoody's clients include Bank of America and T-Mobile Wireless.

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