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Creative Agency Leadership Inspiration

Alternative creative rankings: The Drum Network leaders’ personal pantheons


By Sam Anderson | Network Editor

March 13, 2023 | 9 min read

Leaders from The Drum Network tell us who (and what) sit atop their own personal creative rankings, in the ad industry and beyond.

Who inspires creative leaders from The Drum Network?

This month, The Drum has been sharing our World Creative Rankings: definitive lists of the industry’s most-awarded campaigns, agencies, and people. Here, we asked leaders from The Drum Network who deserves our admiration. In the name of free-flowing creativity, there are no rules here – so read on for film directors, fashion designers and rats on the New York City subway.

Guy Bradbury, creative partner, M&C Saatchi London

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best directors and production companies, who bring scripts to life on screen in ways AI could never imagine. Right now, one director is just killing it: Kim Gehrig. I genuinely look forward to watching and studying everything she does, as we all did with Frank Budgen.

Kim’s last spot, ‘The Greatest’ for Apple’s in-house agency, is as near to perfection as you can get, showing the power of film as a medium. Add to that her incredible back catalog (Viva La Vulva, Airbnb, Sport England, the New York Times, Nike and Lurpak) and you have all the markers of a storyteller who can take a script and turn it into a culturally defining piece of work.

My advice for any team that dreams of working with directors like Kim? Keep your scripts brutally simple and leave space for magic to happen. The world’s best directors’ minds work in very different ways.

Trin Basra, executive creative director, Freeman EMEA

Amardeep Singh Sura, a young self-taught creative, is my inspiration. He represents the unbounded creativity of a generation that is redefining the world of design. From his own brand to an art collective, directing for up-and-coming brands, and collaborating with McQueen and Ozwald Boateng, Amardeep is a true creative powerhouse.

What makes Amardeep’s work inspiring and unique is the purpose behind it. He has a voice, a passion and a message which override the element of just creating. His ability to stay authentic and design without limits is remarkable.

Amardeep’s creativity serves as a critical ingredient of the growing community that inspires future creativity. This new wave of creative community is one of the important aspects of his work, viewing the world without constraints, breaking from tradition and experimenting with materials and space. The community inspires each other to create and grow, uplifting each other in the process.

Sam Thorne, art director, 33Seconds

Your favorite artist should inspire an equal amount of inspiration and envy. No one does that better for me than French polymath Mcbess. With an unmistakable style that he continues to push and perfect, a clothing brand with two physical locations in London and Berlin, and huge campaigns under his belt (like for TFL and Nissan), Mcbess has made me want to push myself to the limit and/or give up entirely.

This is accompanied by an endearing ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude, multiple musical projects and an Instagram account where his pastimes seemingly consist of eating the finest meats and drinking the best beers known to man (aspirational or what?), all while drawing some of the most consistent and compelling illustration work I have ever seen. An artist with zero compromises. It’s deeply inspiring – or upsetting, I’m not sure which.

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Stephen Whelan, creative director, TRO

I grew up in a single-parent household. After a messy divorce, we were rescued from homelessness by a housing organization called Sanctuary. I never felt poor, because I was supported by the two most resilient women I’m blessed to have had in my life: my mum and my sister.

This experience has shaped how I show up in the world and the voices that resonate with me. When it comes to creative inspiration, I always try and look outside myself to recognize the experiences of other people whose strength in the face of adversity and structural inequalities makes me want to punch through.

Recently, the incredible British artist Raye, dropped a music video for a track called Ice Cream Man about surviving sexual violence, having called out the disgusting behavior of men in the music industry as far back as 2018. Hearing her singing “I’m a very fucking brave strong woman and I’ll be damned if I let a man ruin how I walk, how I talk, how I do it” reminds me of the strength and indestructibility of so many women who inspire me to this day.

Jonathan Izzard, strategy director, Wonder (part of the Amplify collective)

It’s got to be James Gunn: the creative mind behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, whose current endeavor as co-chief executive of DC Studios is to wrangle the superhuman mess that is DC’s cinematic output.

He’s a creative polymath: screenwriter, musician, video game and movie director, drawing upon diverse influences. He gets his audiences; he’s clearly a fan himself. His deep knowledge, love and respect for comic book culture give him genuine authenticity and license to act with meaningful passion. He’s got a steely creative conviction, quite happy to publicly defend difficult decisions like the departure of Henry Cavill as Superman. This approachability and openness are inspiring. Any creative can find inspiration in Gunn's honesty, credibility and creative bravery. He knows his stuff, he trusts his gut and he listens to others.

Manuel Borde, global chief creative officer, VMLY&R Commerce

When it comes to getting inspired, my muse is an NYC subway ride. Music, love, humor, horror and the occasional rat carrying a pizza slice, all packed in one place.

As aggressive as it may be sometimes, riding the subway is therapy for me. A 40 min ride to the office (and back) where problems find solutions and lightning strikes more often than not. It’s not just one; it’s an endless parade of muses hopping on and off. If you can’t make the ride in person, you can always go check @subwaycreatures on Instagram.

Jason Lucas, senior creative designer, Brave Bison

When I need that next hit of creativity I head to the movies. I think a lot about Kubrick’s imposing monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey and how it mirrors the theatre screen that the movie was projected on during its release in 1968. Cut to 2023, and here we are, each with our own personal pocket monoliths.

As a UI/UX designer, I craft the user’s journey on their laptop or phone in much the same way as Kubrick frames the cinema screen in the iconic opening scene of 2001, or Robert Zemeckis’ "Run Forest! Run!” scene from Forest Gump, or (a personal favorite) the ‘tears in the rain’ monologue from Bladerunner. It’s the careful use of information that is presented on the screen, and how that tells a story, that informs my design practice.

Creative Agency Leadership Inspiration

Content created with:

M&C Saatchi Group

We are a creative company with five specialist Divisions, connected through data, technology and culture, to deliver Meaningful Change for clients.

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Freeman EMEA

Freeman is a global event & experience agency designed for modern times.Freeman EMEA delivers positive impact through moments that matter.

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33Seconds is an independent, award-winning communications agency, specialising in climate, technology and lifestyle.

As well as offering services across strategy, PR, social, content and influencer marketing, the agency also created Earthtopia, one of the largest eco-communities on TikTok and author of the upcoming book '100 Ways You Can Help Save the Planet'.

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We are a global, full-service experiential marketing agency. We design, build and deliver creative events and experiences that bring brands and businesses to life in the real world.

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We solve problems.

At the heart of any problem is a person. A real person. What they think, believe, want or need. We help brands to connect with them and the things they love…

We break formats.

From the different blends of talent that call Amplify home to the work we create - we're continually reimagining how we engage, immerse and entertain audiences.

We build worlds.

Placing narrative design and storytelling at the heart of everything we create. Building content engines that captivate our audience with stories that are designed to be shared.

We create culture.

Not only are we inspired and influenced by the culturally-rich world that surrounds us, but our ambition is to help our clients to contribute to it in a meaningful way with the work we create.

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VML is a leading creative company that combines brand experience, customer experience, and commerce, creating connected brands to drive growth. VML is celebrated for its innovative and award-winning work for blue chip client partners including AstraZeneca, Colgate-Palmolive, Dell, Ford, Intel, Microsoft, Nestlé, The Coca-Cola Company, and Wendy's. The agency is recognized by the Forrester Wave™ Reports, which name WPP as a “Leader” in Commerce Services, Global Digital Experience Services, Global Marketing Services and, most recently, Marketing Measurement & Optimization. In addition, VML’s specialist health network, VML Health, is one of the world’s largest and most awarded health agencies. VML’s global network is powered by 30,000 talented people across 60-plus markets, with principal offices in Kansas City, New York, Detroit, London, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, and Sydney.

VML is a WPP agency (NYSE: WPP). For more

information, please visit, and follow along on Instagram, LinkedIn, and X. #WeAreVML

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Brave Bison

Your world used to be limited by who you knew or where you lived. Now we live life in infinite digital space. Dating online. Working remotely. Minting NFTs. If you thought disruption was a threat before, how about now? Expectations have exploded. New platforms, creators and trends in constant flux. And you’re expected to have this all figured out. Gone are the days when you could turn to an agency – they can’t keep up either. That’s why Brave Bison is a different beast; a media, marketing and technology company built for the new era. We connect digital experiences, creators and conversions, underpinned by a universe like no other – our own social first media network. With monthly views in the billions, we know how to build communities and make hearts roar.

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