Five Advertising and Cultural Influencers Who Make Us Smarter

May 20, 2019

Who influences the influencer? Twenty-five-years ago, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the widow of a president and a Greek shipping tycoon, passed away on a quiet New York evening in May, a twentieth-century fashion and philanthropic icon whose legacy carries through to today. A story less known belongs to the "legendary cultural philanthropist" who mentored the First Lady through her rise to international acclaim, who cultivated an autodidactic scholarly expertise of highly regarded 17th century European Savonnerie carpets and Louis XV furniture, and who, as Hamish Bowles put it, singularly helped "redecorate the White House public reception rooms with chic and impeccably executed historicism" without fanfare or even a public acknowledgment.

So what does this have to do with us? Inside our creative bubbles, adland, we have our own influencers who are responsible for changing entire lines of thought or processes (sometimes with enormous headache and trauma involved). Some adland influencers reach us in the form of practitioners who author Insights on a company's website, whereas others loudly launch into culture across social media, devouring Natasha Lyonne's transparent clutch full of cigarettes on the Met Gala red carpet one moment then declaring we as advertisers are "like prisoners of Plato's allegorical cave, chained-up" the next.

While you can bet Jayne Wrightsman would hate the comparison, she made Jackie Kennedy shine brighter as much as Rihanna makes Kim Kardashian more fashionable. This week, we were inspired to seek out a few of the most prolific, biting, discerning cultural and marketing influencers, thinkers and practitioners who make us consider ideas we hadn't before, encourage us to challenge the status quo of industry wisdom and practice, and whose writings make us smarter creatives.

Chris Black, @DonetoDeath

The first thing you might notice about Chris Black from his Twitter is his half-satirical, half-true bio: "High-Level Cultural Commentary®". Black is the owner of Done to Death Projects, an agency whose clients have included Droga5, Stussy, Vice and New Balance, as well as the other half of brand consultancy Public Announcement. He is also the author of "I Know You Think You Know It All: Advice and Observations For You to Stand Apart in Public and Online", an "Emily Post-like etiquette guide for those more concerned about the proper way to wear Supreme caps than the correct way to introduce a dinner guest" according to The New York Times and a personal favorite of Lily-Rose Depp's.

Black covers everything from branding to fashion to music to politics with a blunt, sardonic voice. The benefit we get is seeing culture and art through the perspective of someone with high standards who's quick to call out what's in bad taste, the mundane and the remarkable. He even delivers regular lifestyle advice to New York Magazine's crowd, spanning "comfortable and sort of ugly, in the best possible way" Birkenstocks to "fun accessories" for home workouts.

Martin Weigel, @mweigel

The Chief of Planning at W+K Amsterdam, Martin Weigel is a consummate communications scholar who asks and answers existential questions pervading the creative industries. Weigel's path to planning began during his Master's dissertation research when, after scanning original diplomatic correspondences, he discovered he could apply his love for "finding things out" to a role in agencies. With over 27 years' experience in the industry, he's become at once inspired and contrarian about the role of advertising in society, advocating for a radically new approach to how clients and agencies work together. If you haven't checked out his site yet, we highly recommend it for its plethora of engaging, visually stunning essays like Bravery: The Folly And The Vanity or How to Stop Professionalising Ourselves to Death.

When asked "How can advertisers keep themselves strategically and mentally fit?", he replies: "...probably the last thing people in advertising should be interested in is advertising... If you don't bring any of yourself to the role you may as well bring a robot. Your background, your history and your story is part of the soup of chaos."

Naomi Fry, @frynaomifry

Naomi Fry is a former teacher to James Franco and a New Yorker staff writer who covers the intersection of high culture and low culture. She might write about Shia Labeouf's Uggs one day, then how "The American Meme" reflects the anxiousness that comes with being an influencer in the "online-attention economy" the next. Writer Molly Young calls Fry "a kind of cult internet celebrity among New York media people. People make pins of her face." And a quick glance at her Twitter and Instagram can tell you why.

"ever since i had the revelation i like to look like a large sausage in my new jeans my eyes have opened to beauty in its many forms" serves as her Twitter 'Welcome' mat to followers and fans. Her cultural commentary is as sharp as her wit, something she's said surprises her. "I'm constantly making stupid jokes - like very niche jokes - that people seem to find funny.... My stupidities resonate with people. I guess I'm happy about it," she told The Caret.

Nicola Kemp,

Nicola Kemp is the Trends Editor for Campaign and the Managing Editor of BITE Trends, a chronicle of marketing and advertising ideas under Creativebrief's ownership. Her Twitter feed traffics breaking news and trends across creative industries, providing intelligence into everything from gender gaps in agency leadership roles to how political events such as Brexit interact with cultural identities and branding. Named one of the "200 women redefining the creative industry by The Dots", we're inspired by Kemp's ability to cover an enormous range of trends while instilling feminist ideals in her two children.

Trudy, @TheTrudz

Her last name is a mystery, but Trudy's impactful research and essays on photography, social media, and visual media at the intersection of feminism and race has been lauded by media scholars and The New York Times journalists alike. She's also the creator and owner of four blogs dedicated to media and film criticism, food photography, and cultural identity in advertising. We think of her Twitter feed as required reading for anyone working to connect and empathize with audiences, as well as for those of us working to instill greater equality in agency leadership and community.

We're eager to hear your thoughts or who your go-to sources for new information and trends in the industry and in culture are. Let us know in the comments. As always, happy reading!

Warm regards