Meet the Young Innovator Award finalists

Young Innovator Award finalists announced

After 16,000+ votes, the finalists for the Young Innovator Award have been chosen.

The award, in conjunction with Google and The Advertising Club of New York, rewards excellence and innovation by young professionals in advertising, marketing and media. The winner will be chosen by a panel hand-picked by The Ad Club, comprising several high-level professionals in the field and the winner will be announced in the coming weeks. The finalists cover a wide geography and disciplines and are in the running for the $5,000 prize and industry-wide recognition.

“Through this award, we look to celebrate excellence and forward thinking by fresh, young minds,” said Gina Grillo, CEO of The Advertising Club of New York.

And what a celebration it is so far. All of the finalists have achieved a great deal already — and we asked each a few questions to get their perspectives on what innovation means to them, top innovation in the world today, their innovation heroes and what they will do, should they win the competition.

Jonathan Lacoste, co-founder & president, Jebbit

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation represents the risk of being willing to try something new in exchange for potential progress. Go about your daily life, find problems, think of simpler solutions to those problems.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

I'm very intrigued by the power of the "voice economy," with products such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, and how that might impact every aspect of our daily life.

Who is your innovation hero?

Elon Musk. I admire those that take bold risks in an effort to improve the world we live in. Elon has consistently done both.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

Truthfully, I feel the most innovative companies are the ones we aren't aware exist. The scientist at MIT playing around with molecular engineering or the military defense contractor.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

100% of winnings will be put into Jebbit, with the goal of finding new, innovative channels to acquire customers more profitably.

Rachel Renock, CEO & creative director, Hatch

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation is all about perspectives, and new perspectives shed new light on things. That's why diversity is so important. Having people come from different experiences and backgrounds automatically introduces innovation.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

Cindy Gallop launched a venture called "Make Love Not Porn" that's on a mission to dispel the sex myths that male-produced porn has created. In her own words, "women challenge the status quo because we are never it".

Who is your innovation hero?

Dan Pallotta wrote a book called "Uncharitable" which completely blows every archaic perspective of the nonprofit sector away. He's saying things no one has said before. It changed my world/company.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

Honestly, I think it's my company Hatch. We're starting a nonprofit revolution by standing up for the organizations solving our toughest problems. We aim to completely disrupt the way everyone sees and works with charity.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

They will go directly to market to new users. We're bootstrapped, working 80 hours a week doing everything we can, and the money would be a huge boost. We believe when you revolutionize 1.5m nonprofits, you help them revolutionize the world.

Brennan White, CEO, Cortex

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation means seeing a trend and going after it so hard that your friends, family, and competition think you're crazy until they experience the impact of your final product.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

Tesla solar roof tiles – They successfully execute the obvious part of innovation, creating something that changes the world, and the less obvious part, making something that’s easy to adopt.

Who is your innovation hero?

Elon Musk. He’s taking on several of the most challenging problems facing humanity, simultaneously, against entrenched businesses and politics – and winning.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

Amazon. From their new announcement, shopping in a store without checking out, to their original vision, “the everything store”, they’ve consistently imagined a better world and built it.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

I’ll take the Cortex team out for a bourbon. They make the vision real and work fun. The rest will go into more research to continue innovating.

Christine Göös, head of content, Kiosked

What does innovation mean to you?

In advertising, innovation is often mistaken for the big idea that drives a brand forward. To me, innovation is a storytelling tool, a vessel for the brand narrative.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently? Why is it so great?

Rent the Runway’s monthly clothing subscription fights throwaway consumerism. They’ve harnessed the non-ownership economy to create an ingenious new category in fashion retail.

Who is your innovation hero? Why is that?

Advertising maven Cindy Gallop for building up sex tech – a category conventionally regarded as unfundable. Additionally, Gallop is an important voice for gender equality in the agency world.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion? Why is that?

Thinx for disrupting the hygiene market with a do-good business model and taboo-shattering advertising. A stellar example of why increased VC money should be directed to female founders.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards? Why?

Planned Parenthood. All women should have affordable access to reproductive health services.

Joseph “Fitz” Maro, senior innovation strategist, 360i

What does innovation mean to you? How does it inform your daily work life?

To me, innovation is something that's new, valuable and realized. I co-founded 360i's Innovation Lab in that spirit to research, concept and prototype with what's new and next.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

SolarCity’s surprise announcement last month of their Solar Roof shingles. They're a mass-market offering of a powerful, clean, renewable energy source; they’re incredibly affordable and they’re super beautiful.

Who is your innovation hero?

Elon Musk. He's successfully tackling major issues humankind needs to address (energy, transportation, space). Not to mention, he's doing so against incredibly powerful titans in historically monopolized/subsidized markets.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

SpaceX. They're winning the modern rocket/space race with never-before-imagined innovations over not just private behemoths like Boeing, but also over massive state-run programs from Russia and China.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

I've vowed to donate half of the post-tax winnings to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Sierra Club – to help defend vulnerable people and protect our delicate ecosystem.

Nitya Noronha, senior experience designer, Isobar

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation’s an exciting process that combines inventing and repurposing with a goal, often to make things easier. Baby Nitya would pull the rug below toys just to save on crawling.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

Mixed Reality has immense power to change the way we learn, work and play. I dream of a day when everyone, irrespective of age, sex or upbringing has access to it.

Who is your innovation hero?

“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” – Richard Feynman. When I‘m stumped by a problem, I reflect on his work and humor to feel inspired.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

Change by Design. Tim Brown beautifully articulated a method of thinking used at Ideo, which has motivated other companies and individuals (myself included) to innovate.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received throughout my career, so I’d love to pay it forward, specifically to Indian girls back home with a passion to learn.

Jarrod Dicker, head of ad product technology, The Washington Post

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation is execution, not conviction. It is production manufactured through pushing components to a point where it’s uncomfortable. Question everything, and know there are no dead ends. Everything will evolve.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

Amazon Echo. With Echo, “Amazon is building the Operating System for the home,” as labeled by Ben Thompson. Amazon is on the forefront of all voice strategy and innovation, and is allowing partners to integrate within and leverage open source to build voice systems of their own leveraging Alexa. If audio and voice is the future, Amazon is writing it.

Who is your innovation hero?

It’s cliché, but it has to be Steve Jobs. Not only was Jobs responsible for disrupting and evolving an entire industry, he was able to sell it and convince the world of its value. The best innovators not only build to change but believe in it so strongly it influences others.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

Amazon. They’re disrupting every space. Innovating the entire economy, not just one sector.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

Animal Haven. Rescue animal associations are close to my heart and purpose. I have two rescue dogs and volunteer at animal shelters in New York City. Animal Haven, a non-kill shelter in NYC, will receive 100% of my proceeds.

Connor Blakley, founder and CEO, YouthLogic

What does innovation mean to you?

To me, innovation means continuously asking yourself the question: “Is there a better more effective way to do this?” Asking yourself this question with everything you do is forcing you to view everything from multiple lenses.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

The best innovation that I have seen recently would have to be the new global outdoor ad campaign that Spotify just executed. This campaign is a perfect example of taking “complex problems” and fixing them with creative, simple, fun solutions everyone can resonate with.

Who is your innovation hero?

My innovation hero is someone I owe a lot of my success to, Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary sees things years in advance, purely because he does not get romantic about the state of industry and reacts to where consumers' attention is at.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

Facebook has continuously been the most innovative company in the world for years. Both from a product standpoint and forecasting the future of consumer behavior and then acquiring companies that fit the future that Facebook sees.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

If I win the competition I am going to put my winnings towards a trip to Iceland, and to help fund a new non-profit I am working on called Kicks For Kids.

Taylor Wiegert, planning director, UX strategy, The Martin Agency

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation is key for brands to stand out and earn attention. That’s my daily mindset and what motivates me to always be curious and never stop pushing the possibilities.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

The Microsoft Surface Studio marked a pivotal point in consumer computing because Microsoft did the impossible – out-innovated Apple with a product that has ignited a new era for Microsoft.

Who is your innovation hero?

The team of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky because their work in behavioral economics upended our assumptions on decision-making, paving the way for a new era in human understanding.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

Snapchat has successfully played by its own rules and built a groundbreaking company. In the process, it’s forced social networking giant Facebook to rethink everything across its suite of products.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

As the first in my family to go to college, I have student loans. I’d put my winnings toward paying for the education that’s given me so much, including consideration for this award.

Christopher Vega, creative resident/copywriter, BBDO

What does innovation mean to you?

Doing more with less. Coming up with new ideas. Mashing up old ideas. Improving on an existing idea. It’s what I do when I work, make music, or create initiatives.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

Diversity and equality. That our culture is making progress in treating people fairly in workplaces/entertainment/everyday life in the face of racism, sexism and hate in general is great.

Who is your innovation hero?

Sal Khan for creating Khan Academy. Building a free education platform and empowering people to learn almost anything is an incredible achievement and something I really respect.

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

I admire Google’s vision for global domination based on putting a few words on the side of search pages (AdWords). I don’t think anybody saw that coming.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

Diversity is the future of innovation. So 100% of my winnings will go toward expanding my program (that puts diverse creatives on track to get jobs) into more jobs/industries.

Corbin Brown, associate director of strategy, Giant Spoon

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation is translating observations about how things work into ideas about how they should work, and having the courage and grit required to put those ideas into market.

What’s the best innovation you’ve seen recently?

Autonomous driving will change life as we know it. Amazon Alexa will change our living room, but it won’t impact housing, logistics, city architecture, insurance, or 1.25m annual road deaths.

Who is your innovation hero?

If you agree with my definition of the word, it’s indisputably Alexander Hamilton. The iPhone is great, but it doesn’t exist without the Bank, the Mint, or public credit!

Which brand/company is the most innovative, in your opinion?

Patagonia does everything differently. They’ve built a brand around regeneration, investing in materials, ingredients, and even a business model (B-Corp) that puts mission before money.

If you win the competition, what will you put your winnings towards?

At the outset, I announced that I would be donating the winnings to Crohn’s Disease research to honor my mother, a brilliant artist and writer, who is my creative inspiration.

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