RANKED: The 30 Most Creative People In Social Media Marketing
Brands are finally beginning to understand that dedicating resources to reaching consumers on social media — be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or another platform du jour — is not only beneficial, but necessary.
But companies need to do more than simply pay for a Sponsored Tweet or have a Facebook fan page. At this point it is only the truly creative and innovative campaigns that get noticed.
You all saw Oreo’s tweet during the Super Bowl blackout and Lay’s 3.8 million-submission “Do Us A Flavor” competition on Facebook. Now it’s time to meet the people who brought those campaigns to life.
We have compiled a list of the most creative people in social media. Our picks were selected from nominations by peers and competitors, and our own research.
While creativity is subjective, our ranking takes into account the type and size of clients (it’s harder to be creative with large corporate clients than small startups), their history of innovation, respect in the field, and the ability to get talked about months, if not years, later. These people are ordered based on their contribution to the medium and history of influence.
30. Jonathan Nafarrete, director of social outreach at Blitz Agency
As brands begin to experiment with Vine, some have been more successful than others.
Playstation had one of the most impressive Vine six-second video campaigns we have ever seen. To introduce the video game “MLB 13: The Show” to the world, Playstation teamed up with Nafarrete (@Jonathan360) and Blitz to create the next generation of baseball cards on Vine.
Nafarrete and the Blitz team animated the faced (via Twitter avatars) of influential sports bloggers, baseball stars, and superfans and turned them into baseball cards for their favorite teams. The content was engaging, sharable, and created a lot of buzz for the game. (Read about the elaborate process here.)
Nafarrete is also known for his personal Instagram work for various brands.
Here’s the baseball card Vine (click for animation):
29. Ginny Sidell, senior social strategist at DraftFCB Chicago
In less than a year on KFC, she helped the chain’s Facebook page grow more than 1.5 million likes and Twitter engagement has gone up almost 300%.
She scours the internet for any trends or fried chicken news/content to share with KFC fans, and identifies celebrities talked about the brand and engages with online. Sidell tweets creatively (“Eating KFC is like a hug in your mouth”), makes funny KFC ecards (garnering more than 1 million impressions), and even helps deliver KFC to influential followers in real time.
She gets how to build a brand’s social media presence.
Sidell creates sharable Facebook content.
And she scours the web for appropriate “celebrities” on Twitter.
28. Calvin Stowell, director of digital content at DoSomething.org
Do Something is a nonprofit organization that aims to motivate teens to get up and take action to facilitate social change.
With the assistance of celebrity partnerships, socially relevant projects, and emotionally engaging social media content, Do Something says that Facebook’s internal data recently listed it as having the third highest engagement score of any company — profit or otherwise — on the social network.
Stowell (@aurosan) is the man behind the viral social campaigns. With a complete understanding of online engagement and audience interaction, Stowell handles one of the largest Twitter accounts of any charity in the world and creates Facebook posts that are regularly seen more than one million times. The page itself has more than 360,000 followers.
Stowell regularly posts Do Something content that accumulates more than one million views. This post was seen more than 1.578 million times.
27. Michael Kaltenhauser, founder and creative director of Astronaut
Kaltenhauser spent years at McCann, BBDO, Wunderman, and Y&R in Europe before he decided to take his expertise further East. He founded a socially driven agency called Astronaut that is taking the Chinese market by storm. While Western shops are focused on Facebook, Kaltenhauser is focusing on Weibo.
Astronaut won a 2012 Effie for a Swiss Airline online campaign that went viral. The agency printed out 60,000 red and white sticky pads and asked users to build the Swiss International Airlines fin, take a creative picture, and post it to the campaign’s Weibo account with a specific hashtag. The winner would get a seven person, all-inclusive trip to Switzerland.
The campaign got 180 million impressions; 5,000 images in 2.5 weeks; and 20,000 Twitter entries using the hashtag.
Astronaut’s sticky not campaign for Swiss Air went viral.
26. David Lubars, chief creative officer at BBDO North America
Although Lubars is best known for his television advertising work, he was also the brains behind many successful social projects.
Facebook awarded the company’s “You’ve Got a Case” digital ad campaign for AT&T with a golden Facebook Studio Award. The campaign had users make individualized court cases for why they deserve a new smartphone and be represented by Kent Wesley (or Will Arnett).
On Vine, Rather than just making random video product, BBDO created mini — but very useful — lifehack Vines for Lowes.
Here’s an example of a brilliant and innovative Vine for Lowes. In this one, you can learn how to unscrew a stripped screw in 6 seconds.
And here’s a screen grab from the AT&T campaign in which kids could build a case explaining why they deserved a phone upgrade.
25. Julian Cole, communications planning department head at BBH New York
Cole (@juliancole) moved from Australia to the U.S. to work at BBH NY in 2011 to help expand the company’s digital and social media capabilities.
He has played a major role in the social component of campaigns like AXE’s “Susan Glenn,” which was launched with a unique social seeding strategy. The campaign began with BBH’s social team creating unbranded memes about Susan Glenn online. This created internet chatter, and according to BBH “The online response quickly made it clear that guys knew exactly who Susan Glenn was: the girl who blows you away so completely that you never muster up the courage to approach her.” Cross-promotional work with MTV and Spike TV helped build up momentum for the campaign before the first commercial was even released.”
Cole also worked on the Weather Channel’s “Doppelganger” campaign. Now that BBH has the PlayStation, we can expect to see his social work shine for that client as well.
Here’s AXE’s “Susan Glenn” campaign which Cole hyped with a teaser campaign before the actual video premiered.
24. Robin Fitzgerald, creative director at CP+B
Whereas most brands are begging people be fans of their Facebook page, Fitzgerald took a different approach when planning the social media marketing campaign for Grey Poupon — its first ad campaign in 15 years. Since 1777, the mustard brand has prided itself in being the symbol of good taste, so Fitzgerald helmed an all digital “Society of Good Taste” campaign. The Facebook app asked fans to apply to be members. It then judged them based on grammar, misspellings, education, music and book tastes, and more and then only allowed in the top percentile.
That’s right, a Facebook “members only” club.
Fitzgerald also works on the Old Navy accounts. She previously worked at TBWA/Chiat/Day LA.
The “Society of Good Taste” screened all possible Grey Poupon fans/applicants.
Only a select few were granted access to the page and its membership perks.
23. Tom Buontempo, chief business development officer, kbs+
Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners told BI that it just promoted Buontempo (@TBinNYC) following his success in leading social and content marketing in his former role as head of digital engagement. He has worked with clients including America Express, BMW, Intel, Nielsen, AOL, and PUMA.
While Buontempo has extended the social footprint of BMW on Instagram and Twitter, one of his main claims to fame is his work for American Express on LinkedIn. He helped the company launch a group for small business owners, creating a community that helped them overcome challenges. Buontempo also helped humanize Goldman Sachs socially following the recession.
BMW has a very aesthetically pleasing Instagram.
22. Tricia Melton, senior vice president of entertainment marketing and branding at TNT, TBS, and TCM
Melton joined TBS in 2004 and has overseen marketing campaigns of “Conan,” “Men at Work,” and acquired series’ like “Cougar Town” and “Sex and the City,” rebranding them as if they were her own.
One of her most noteworthy recent social media campaigns, however, was for TNT’s “Dallas.” (She began overseeing TNT marketing in 2006.) Melton oversaw the creation of an in-depth Facebook Timeline for the show that chronicled everything that happened in the original show’s 14 seasons and then filling in the holes during the 20-year break prior to the reboot.
The timeline got 500,000 likes in its first two weeks, and the number grew to more than 20 million.
The “Dallas” social campaign also summarized every old episode in a 140-character tweet and according to TNT “created the “Rise to Power” social loyalty program, which gave each character a power ranking that could be influenced by fans.”
Here’s a peak at the “Dallas” Facebook timeline.
21. Andrew White, director of social business strategy at Sprout Social
White (@white) started his job at Sprout Social in April, but he became famous in the social sphere for his work for Audi at M80.
In 2011, a woman tweeted at Audi with the hashtag #WantAnR8 … every day. Because the social media team was listening, Audi decided to surprise her with the sports car for the weekend. Thus a social campaign was born. Audi then put ad dollars behind the wildly successful #WantAnR8 campaign. Now thousands of people tweet with the hope of getting to drive the car for a couple of days. It’s one of the most successful campaigns in Twitter history.
White also helped launch the successful #ProgressIs Audi campaign during the 2011 Super Bowl.
This Super Bowl, White and a “mission control center” sat waiting to find ways for Audi to interact with the game on Twitter. When the blackout occurred, Audi tweeted the popular: “Sending some LEDs to the @MBUSA Superdome right now ….”
It didn’t get the same acknowledgment as the Oreo Super Bowl tweet, but it was still pretty great.
Here was White at his “mission control” Super Bowl center.
20. Jarrod Dicker, director of social media and mobile product at Time Inc.
Before joining Time Inc., working for every publication from InStyle to Fortune, Dicker (@jarroddicker) ran social media at The Huffington Post. While there, he created an in-house social consultant agency that helped advertisers present themselves in a compelling manner socially while leveraging HuffPost’s social amplification platform.
Dicker also likes to develop his own social products. One example is called Amplify Social which allows marketers to pair brand messages with branded Time content on Twitter, Facebook API, and FBX.
Here’s an example of a branded tweet using Amplify Social.
19. Kyle Bunch, group director of mobile and social platforms at R/GA
Bunch (@kylebunch) has led most of R/GA’s award-winning social media campaigns for brands including Nike, MasterCard, Google, L’Oreal, and Microsoft. He was even responsible for Microsoft’s massive Windows 8 social media launch last year.
Under his guidance, L’Oreal started using the #AskHairGenius hashtag for consumers in need of hair care tips. He also helped A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” really capitalize on social media. The show is huge on Twitter, so R/GA made sure that hours before the show “copywriters, art directors and videographers are developing custom content that can later be deployed,” Ad Age reported.
He’s also a social media teacher at the Miami Ad School and IE Business School, Madrid and the co-founder of a sports social media events series called Blogs with Balls that works with ESPN, SB Nation, Bloomberg Sports, and more.
R/GA makes sure that “Duck Dynasty” is on its Twitter game.
18-17. Mikal Pittman and Britt Nolan, SVP creative directors at Leo Burnett Chicago
This duo are the brains behind the epic social campaign for Allstate’s Mayhem.
The team won a Gold Facebook Studio Award for Mayhem’s Facebook page, which created intricate timeline with facts and drawings illustrating how Mayhem has been causing, well, mayhem since the dawn of man.
During the infamous Super Bowl blackout, Pittman (@mikalpittman) and Nolan (@ThatBrittNolan) also immediately changed Mayhem’s Facebook status to “I meant to turn off the scoreboard. Sorry, everybody. Wrong Switch.” It’s not the Oreo tweet, but it’s still incredible quick and creative. The status received 89,000 likes; 1,700 comments; and 20,000 shares.
Here’s just one of Mayhem’s many Facebook timeline features.
16. Steve Baer, managing partner of the brand design group at Code and Theory
Code and Theory
Before Baer (@steviebaer), there wasn’t social media and content offerings at Code and Theory. Come 2010, he created the company’s first social media program for Dr Pepper. In only nine months, Dr Pepper’s fan base grew from 1.4 million to 7.2 million fans. It is currently at 15 million. Baer believes in “creating a “social persona and branded content that reflects conversations Pepper fans are having — This means puppy pics, food pics, eCards, current events, midnight snack ideas posted at midnight, you name it.”
The agency tells us, “Steve and his team churn out videos, Vines, images and contests that focus on niche celebs who are also Dr Pepper fans (e.g., fashion blogger Man Repeller and pro skateboarder Mike “Mo” Capaldi, which was shot in 3D).”
Baer also created the company’s “Brand Newsroom” which creates quick, reactionary content for brands based on news, memes, and of-the-moment trends. The newsroom is comprised of writers, social media strategists, product strategists, and designers.
Here’s Dr. Pepper’s reaction to “The Walking Dead” finale.
15. Steve Babcock, ECD at Evolution Bureau in San Francisco
When Domino’s began its corporate rebranding campaign, promising customers it was paying more attention to food quality, Babcock (@stevehappens) helped create the award-winning “Pizza Tracker” at CP+B. It allowed customers to literally track their pizza’s journey from ordering, to baking, to delivery, to the front door.
He also won prizes for Best Buy with “Twelpforce,” which allowed customers to have real-time conversations with Geek Squad on Twitter.
Babcock now works at EVB, specializing in campaigns involving customer interaction. He has led the campaigns for “Elf Yourself” for Office Max, “Serenading Unicorn” for Juicy Fruit, “Gagaville” for Zynga, “Black Mamba” for Nike, and “Mob the Rainbow” for Skittles.
According to EVB’s summary, “In 2011, Juicy Fruit released a sugar-free gum with an indescribably sweet flavor called Juicy Secret. To launch the mystery-flavored gum, Serenading Unicorn returned to sweeten days with three new, full-length music videos.” Wrigley’s fan-base grew by 40,000 in the campaign’s first month.
14. Victor Piñeiro, associate strategy director at Big Spaceship
Piñeiro (@victorpineiro) has led the management of many big-name brands’ social media presence. He has worked on Starburst, Extra, Orbit Gum, and Life Savers Gummies. Piñeiro is currently handling Chobani’s social marketing.
When Piñeiro first started at Big Spaceship, he was a copywriter and social strategist for Skittles. Under his leadership, the candy’s Facebook fan base grew from 3.5 million to 20 million people.
Piñeiro has also written a documentary called “Second Skin” and regularly writes for Fast Company, Vice, and Psychology Today.
Piñeiro’s hilarious copywriting skills and social strategy made Skittle’s Facebook fanbase grow.
Piñeiro is currently overseeing Chobani strategy. Here’s the yogurt on Pinterest.
13. Ram Krishan, VP of marketing at Frito-Lay North America
For Doritos and Lay’s Krishan is the guy behind “Crash the Super Bowl” and “Do Us A Flavor.”
Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” is all over the social sphere. Users are asked to submit and share their own flavor combinations on Facebook. This year, more than 3.8 million people submitted a weird, made up flavor. Voting for favorite can be done via the website or through tweets like #SaveSriracha.
Doritos’ annual Super Bowl campaign is one of the biggest marketing campaigns out there. And the competition, which allows fans to create their own ad that has the chance to play during the big game and make them $1 million richer, lives almost entirely on Facebook. It’s how people sign into the program, share their favorite spots, promote, and vote for winners.
Prior to Frio-Lay, Krishnan spent six years as a marketing brand manager at Cadillac, launching the Cadillac Escalade.
Different consumer-created Lay’s flavors battled on Facebook. Users got to vote for which one would eventually get sold in stores.
Krishnan’s social work produces good “traditional” advertising, too. Here’s a past winner of Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl competition.
12-9. “The Squirrels” from DraftFCB
DraftFCB has a team of four creatives who worked together on one of the most successful Facebook campaigns of 2012: Oreo’s Daily Twist campaign, “the Squirrels.”
Jared Isle (senior art director, @jaredisle), Noel Potts (senior copywriter, @Noelephant), Mike Lubrano (senior art director, @michaeljlubrano), and Jackie Anzaldi (senior art director, @jackie_anzaldi) all helped create the platform.
In honor of Oreo’s 100th birthday, the Squirrels helped the cookie brand create 100 different, culturally relevant posts to put on Facebook for 100 consecutive days. Some memorable posts celebrated the landing of the Mars Rover or celebrating gay pride.
Here’s a Oreo Daily Twist post about gay pride that went viral.
The gay pride Oreo, from Kraft’s Facebook page.
Kraft / Facebook
The posts would often relate back to a relevant news or cultural item. This was posted when the Mars Rover was making headlines.
8. Jeff Greenspan, freelance, previously chief creative officer at BuzzFeed
Prior to freelancing, Greenspan’s (@JeffGreenspan) last three gigs have been at BBDO, Facebook, and most recently as BuzzFeed’s first-ever COO.
He is one of the few creatives who has experienced social marketing from every end of the spectrum. He has worked inside agencies, experimented with native advertising on one of the most viral publishers out there, and even has insider knowledge of what works on social media from his days at Facebook.
Greenspan oversaw a small creative team at BuzzFeed that worked with agencies and brands to create content compelling, sharable content that truly takes advantage of all the internet’s possibilities.
One result was the Reaction Cam, developed for Starbucks, that allows readers to make and share a 3-second facial expression GIF reaction to a story. Usually readers can only react by pushing an OMG, WIN, LOL, CUTE, etc. button.
Here’s how the reaction cam works:
And here’s another one of Greenspan’s BuzzFeed projects with Improv Everywhere. The video shows what the world would be like if there were Seeing Eye People.
7. Sarah Hofstetter, president of 360i
Hofstetter (@Pezmeister1) is the leader of one of the hottest social shops out there right now.
If you’ve heard about one Twitter marketing campaign this year, then it’s definitely when Oreo stole the show during the Super Bowl’s halftime show. In an immediate reaction to an unexpected blackout, Oreo tweeted “You can still dunk in the dark” with a funny image. It went insanely viral, earned 525 million earned media impressions (which is more than five times the number of people watching the game), and won many awards.
360i did it because it had a mission station gathered and ready to react to any occurrence in real time.
But Hofstetter isn’t a one trick pony. She is also doing work for Ben & Jerry’s, encouraging every major city to come up with its own ice cream flavor via Facebook, Twitter, and a microsite.
6. Mike Monello, partner and chief creative officer at Campfire
Monello (@mikemonello) started getting a reputation for successful social media way back in 1999, when Mark Zuckerberg was only 15 years old. A co-creator of “The Blair Witch Project,” Monello helped engage audiences in the digital sphere by create a website, message boards, fake newspaper clippings, etc. to amplify hype for the movie months before its release. Forbes called it one of the best-ever social media campaigns.
Eight years later, Monello co-founded Campfire, a marketing agency that tells brands’ stories socially and digitally. He does work for HBO, A&E, FX, Snapple, L’Oreal, and Harley Davidson.
“The Blair Witch Project” exhibited good social media marketing before Zuck had a driver’s license.
5. Matt O’Rourke, interactive creative director at Wieden + Kennedy
Wieden + Kennedy
Old Spice is known for pushing the limits on the web, and a lot of that is thanks to Matt O’Rourke (@copymatt).
To promote the Danger Zone scent, O’Rourke was instrumental in a campaign in which consumers could make Terry Crews play a drum with flexed muscles by just typing on their keyboards.
When Old Spice launched its Wild Collection, W+K invented the spokescharacter Mr. Wolfdog to represent the campaign. the social team incorporated the man-beast on all forms of interactive media. He hosted Google + Hangouts with real people as he interviewed them to be his personal assistant and appeared on Xbox Live to talk to fans and give them NFL free agent negotiating tips.
O’Rourke created a gauntlet for digital strategist applicants for the account. Those applying had to complete a series of crazy internet-related tasks, including creating a new Twitter account and getting the most followers as possible when only using the nouns “BLUEFUDGE,” “HAMMERPANTS” and “GREEK YOGURT.” All verbs were fine.
O’Rourke was shepherding clients like L’Oreal, MasterCard, and Weight Watchers into the digital, interactive sphere before it was really a thing. He has worked at McCann Erickson, CP+B (on Burger King, JELL-O, and Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese), and now Wieden + Kennedy.
Here’s Mr. Wolfdog conducting personal assistant interviews on Google + Hangout.
4. Lisa Mann, SVP global gum category at Mondelez International
Mann is the woman who led the Oreo Facebook and Twitter campaigns that got so much attention this year.
Mann dialed into 360i’s office throughout the Super Bowl. When the blackout occurred, she signed off on the tweet heard ’round the world.
3. Laura Olin, senior adviser at Blue State Digital
Courtesy of Laura Olin
Olin (@lauraolin) is the mastermind behind one of the biggest, most creative, social media platforms in the world: Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
As the first staffer in the division, Olin built Obama’s social media presence from scratch. She also oversaw the social media voices of Joe Biden and Michelle Obama from April 2011 to January 2013.
On election night, Olin posted a picture from Obama’s account that became the most shared photo of all time: Obama and the first lady hugging, eyes closed. It was retweeted more than 816,000 and shared on Facebook more than 4 million times.
She also creates presidential memes: the photo of Obama’s chair with the message “this seat’s taken” went up shortly after Clint Eastwood’s infamous speech at the Republican convention; Obama has also posed with Olympian McKayla Maroney making her unimpressed face.
This became the most shared photo ever.
Obama’s social media persona stays up to date with memes.
2-1. Kristin Maverick and Colin Nagy, director and executive director at the Barbarian Group
The social team works for clients including GE, Pepsi, and Samsung.
Barbarian is behind General Electric’s innovative Instagram account — which gives followers inside looks at factories and new inventions — and ended up winning a 2013 Webby in the native advertising category for a Pepsi campaign. Pepsi teamed up with TaskRabbit (an app that outsources chores and odd jobs to pre-screened people in the neighborhood) to give consumers a 25th hour of the day.