1. JUSTIN BASINI, VICE-PRESIDENT OF MARKETING, CAPITAL ONE EUROPE.
Basini jumps to number one this year based on his crusade not only to change perceptions of Capital One as a carpet bomber, but to take a leading role in urging the industry to improve its environmental record. Basini's ongoing mission is to position Capital One as a more discerning, less commoditised brand, and move it away from its association with junk mail.
Among his plans are switching to recycled paper and investing heavily in online, and he has already started to create a roster of agencies, including WWAV Rapp Collins, Tullo Marshall Warren and Partners Andrews Aldridge, for different tasks. Basini has been vocal about his vision and he is not afraid of making himself heard. That this voice is coming from such a large financial institution and one of the country's most prolific direct mailers makes his mission all the more significant. If Basini accomplishes what he sets out to, it could have very positive ramifications for the discipline as a whole.
2. MARC MICHAELS, DIRECTOR OF DIRECT AND RELATIONSHIP MARKETING, COI
It was a difficult decision to nudge Michaels off the number one spot, not least because of his commitment to the DM discipline and the care and diligence he takes in getting to know agencies and suppliers. After almost two decades at the COI, he is still enthusiastic and energetic about improving quality. Last year he launched a response, conversion and analysis service called Artemis, and used it to present on evaluation at a marketing conference. He hosted a Government Communications Network live event on data in segmentation and evaluation, and completed a third edition of the better-practice guidance for government contact centres. Additionally he continues to chair the ISBA Direct Marketing Action Group and presents regularly at events such as the Green DM Conference and the Digital Youth conference.
3. RACHEL BRISTOW, MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS AND BUYING DIRECTOR, UNILEVER UK AND IRELAND
The former Sainsbury's direct marketer made her name at Unilever when she overhauled and combined its direct and digital rosters in the UK. A great believer of integration, Bristow advocates responsible collection of consumer data and its use as a way of integrating a marketing strategy across channels. Her work at Unilever in the past two years resulted in her promotion in September from marketing services director to communications planning director, and she now heads all of the group's marketing services.
4. JOHN ORRISS, DIRECTOR OF ACQUISITION, AND MARK ANDERSON, CUSTOMER MARKETING DIRECTOR, BSKYB
This impressive double act is responsible for BSkyB's 8.8 million customers and charged with increasing that figure to 10 million by 2010. Given the scale of the task ahead of them, it is surprising that last year Anderson found time to complete an MBA.
Orriss, a former Telewest marketer, has been with Sky for four years, and his acquisition programme resulted in customer growth of 167,000 in the last quarter of 2007. Anderson joined from Centrica two years ago. His customer marketing strategy resulted in the company's average annual revenue per customer hitting £421 in the last quarter of 2007. Direct marketing continues to play a large role in both strategies, and BSkyB currently works with Dad, its only roster agency, EHS Brann and RMG.
5. JULIAN ELLIOTT, DIRECTOR OF CUSTOMER AND MARKETING INTELLIGENCE, AND JUSTIN BELL, HEAD OF MARKETING EFFECTIVENESS FOR CUSTOMER MARKETING INTELLIGENCE, LLOYDS TSB
According to insiders, Elliott does not describe himself as a classic marketer. However, he has overall responsibility for the effectiveness of the bank's marketing. Bell, who reports to Elliott, has been brought in to deliver programmes that strengthen the bank's relationships with its customers. He works with agencies such as Rapier, which won the £50m consolidated direct marketing account last year. Previously at Tullo Marshall Warren, one of the former incumbents on the business, Bell impressed Lloyds TSB so much that it hired him. He is involved in budget optimisation, performance evaluation and best practice. He is currently leading a study of green opportunities in direct marketing and helping to shape environmentally friendly marketing initiatives.
6. JANET SMITH, CLUBCARD MARKETING DIRECTOR, TESCO
Smith, a former Olympian, ran in the 4 x 400 metre relay in Seoul in 1988. While that may have been her focus as a 20-year-old, two decades later she has the task of filling the shoes vacated by Andrew Mann, who has been promoted to Tesco marketing director of planning, strategy and innovation. It has been three years since Mann introduced the Clubcard's simplified offer to customers, so Smith will be looking to take the programme to the next level.
7. MICHAEL CUTBILL, MARKETING DIRECTOR, THE AA
The publicity-shy former Saga marketer was brought in to run the AA's combined marketing operations following its takeover by the group that caters for the over-50s. Cutbill's brief is to apply Saga's communications strategy (its direct mail spend in 2006 was £27m) to the AA. He is overseeing a review of its agency relationships, involving the incumbents Rapier and Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners and two non-roster agencies. The prize is the combined roadside assistance, financial services and corporate account with an emphasis on direct response.
8. ANDY HAWKINS, GENERAL MANAGER OF CUSTOMER PERFORMANCE AND CONSUMER STRATEGY, BT RETAIL, AND SARA BENNISON, HEAD OF CUSTOMER COMMUNICATIONS, BT GROUP
Hawkins, who emerged as BT's most senior direct marketer after it scaled back its operations at the end of 2006, is described by colleagues as the company's data guru. Bennison joined from Grey London in May last year to manage BT's agency roster, including OgilvyOne. She is responsible for ensuring campaigns represent the brand consistently across all channels.
9. NATASHA HILL, DIRECT MARKETING DIRECTOR, CANCER RESEARCH UK
Hill, who joined Cancer Research UK in September, has succeeded Anthony Newman, who was appointed as director of supporter relationship management earlier this year. Hill oversees a team of 60 and reports to Richard Taylor, executive director of fundraising and supporter marketing. The charity has a heritage of strong creative work and last year won the UK's only Gold in the direct category at Cannes and the Campaign Direct Grand Prix for the second consecutive year.
10. LISA MCCORMACK, MARKETING DIRECTOR, BRAND AND ACQUISITIONS, VIRGIN MEDIA
Former Telewest marketer McCormack has survived two mergers - first with NTL and then Virgin Mobile - to take the top marketing job at communications giant Virgin Media. She has long been a supporter of Rapier, which landed the lion's share of the firm's marketing account in 2006. Not only was this a great win for the agency and a vote of confidence for the direct response discipline, but also a rare example of a below-the-line agency taking a lead role. This brave decision is paying dividends. In the fourth quarter of 2007, Virgin Media's customer churn fell to 1.4 per cent from 1.7 per cent in the previous year. Cordell Burke, the Tequila\London executive creative director and a former Campaign Direct jury chairman, says: "Lisa is judged on awards juries I've chaired and comes across as a huge supporter of creative work."
11. MIKE TILDESLEY, MARKETING DIRECTOR, DIRECT LINE
Direct Line is one of the original and most recognisable direct brands, and Tildesley is a charismatic and popular marketer. This makes a winning combination. Since joining Direct Line owner RBS in 2006, Tildesley has remained a keen supporter of direct mail. The company still spends in excess of £5m on the channel, while its total direct marketing spend is over £30m - and these figures do not look likely to fall. Tildesley has been vocal about how well the discipline performs for the company, particularly the uplift in response rates when DM activity is supported by TV advertising.
This year Direct Line backed a competition through the IDM that invited sixth-form students to create a mailing campaign for its No Claims Discount offer; more than 4,500 schools entered.
12. GARY KIBBLE, BRAND DIRECTOR, LITTLEWOODS
Kibble jumps from number 20 last year following an impressive year for what was once the dinosaur of the catalogue world. An integrated campaign to support a successful online strategy has breathed life back into the brand and distanced it from its old associations with the football pools. The makeover, which involved the closure of its high-street stores and relaunched the company as an online brand, saw website visits increase by 76 per cent. The number of people requesting a catalogue rose by 84 per cent, while orders jumped by 102 per cent. At the time of writing, online sales were predicted to rise to £500m for the year ended April 2008.
13. MICHELLE HENDERSON, GROUP DIRECT MARKETING DIRECTOR, THE CARPHONE WAREHOUSE
The likeable and friendly Henderson is quietly increasing her powers at The Carphone Warehouse, having had responsibility for the company's retail business added to her role. Henderson is a regular and popular fixture on awards juries and a great supporter of eyecatching creative work, as supplied by the company's direct marketing agency WDMP. The discipline is an important part of the company's retention and acquisition strategy across the Talk Talk and The Carphone Warehouse brands.
14. ANDREW WILTON, MARKETING DIRECTOR, READER'S DIGEST
Keeping one of the world's oldest direct mail brands relevant is a constant challenge, but it is one that Wilton manages to meet with success. Reader's Digest surpassed 100 million readers in 60 countries last year with a strategy that involves developing its traditional publications business as well as overhauling its digital operations. Wilton continues to look at growth opportunities and has tested an outdoor hiking catalogue, an educational family board game and a kitchen merchandise catalogue, as well as non-publishing products in development.
15. CHRIS PITT, HEAD OF DIRECT MARKETING, HSBC UK
Given the current economic climate, heading up HSBC's direct marketing operations in the UK might seem a hard task. But Pitt continues in this role with confidence, aided by a rigorous approach to customer insight, segmentation and testing - the main tenets of DM. Alongside TV, says Pitt, HSBC now regards the discipline as its most important marketing channel, and budgets continue to increase due to clear evidence of ROI from the direct approach.
Having relocated the DM operations to a central office in Leeds, Pitt has also employed more staff and now manages a team of 35. He is passionate about sharing experiences and knowledge throughout the department, and says he views the agencies with which HSBC works as an extension of his team. For a man with a self-proclaimed "data-driven" approach, however, he may well be embarrassed by the recent security breach, involving the loss by HSBC of a computer disc containing the details of 370,000 customers.
16. PAUL AYERS, HEAD OF DATABASE DEVELOPMENT AND CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT, AND IAN GRIME, HEAD OF DATA STRATEGY AND ANALYTICS, MBNA
In 2006, MBNA Europe increased its direct marketing spend by 41 per cent to £41.3m, with the bulk of it going on direct mail. However, many feel the bank is stuck in its ways and could adopt a more responsible approach to its comms activity. Parent company Bank of America is believed to be considering axing the MBNA brand altogether and replacing it with the Bank of America moniker. Attempts to boost targeting would also be welcomed, given the public perceptions of junk mail, particularly in the financial services arena, and in the light of increased environmental awareness. MBNA is currently seeking a media planning and buying agency to handle its pan-European account, which may well signal a shift of strategy. The brand has increased focus on digital activities, with online spend coming in at well over £2m in 2007. Grime and Ayers have had shared responsibility for the firm's database for a year and a half now. Apparently, Ayers' strength is in technology, and Grimes is a dab hand at data strategy and analytics. "They're now unambiguously on a mission like never before," we're told. Let's hope they succeed.
17. ELIZABETH CHAMBERS, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, BARCLAYCARD
Part of every credit-card marketer's brief is to identify, attract and retain low-risk but valuable customers. Another part of the job is keeping the brand alive and innovating. One of Barclaycard's big launches last year was the "contactless" Barclaycard OnePulse, an Oyster card combined with a credit card. It is concentrating much of its DM, overseen by Chambers, on promoting the use of such cards to businesses, and attempting to roll out a more co-ordinated customer contact programme with improved segmentation.
18. GAIL PARKER-RENWICK, HEAD OF DIRECT MARKETING, BRITISH GAS ENERGY
Environmental concerns raced up the consumer agenda in 2007, spurring a fundamental change in the way companies communicate with their consumers. Parker-Renwick has been central to this 'green revolution' within the industry, pioneering practical and effective strategies for British Gas. A firm believer in backing words with action, she has led a number of approaches to ensure consumers do not lose faith in British Gas, despite price hikes and fierce competition. Customer publisher Redwood has been appointed to revamp customer magazine Ways to Save, which targets over a million households, and British Gas's database has been segmented according to the environmental attitudes of a representative sample of consumers. British Gas's commitment to providing a bespoke report on energy use in individual households, in return for completing a customer survey, reflects Parker-Renwick's down-to-earth philosophy: give customers something in return, and they are more likely to respond.
19. TRACEY MERRETT, GLOBAL MARKETING DATABASE MANAGER, DIAGEO
Merrett is responsible for co-ordinating Diageo's data strategy for its brands globally. Her tasks include ensuring the drinks company's data is consistent and educating different markets on how to capture and store consumer information and use it responsibly and effectively. Diageo's Guinness brand scooped the 2007 Grand Prix at the DMA Awards for its digital work. It wasn't just the creative that led to the judges' lofty praise - it was also the "outstanding strategic thinking" and "innovative use of media" - impossible to achieve without a carefully tended database. Merrett is described by those who know her as "always positive". One says: "She is able to spin many plates at once, and she needs to. (Diageo) can be a tough place to work."
20. NIGEL SWABEY, CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, SCOTTS OF STOW
"King of home shopping" Swabey remains a force to be reckoned with. His brainchild, not-for-profit trade body The Catalogue Exchange, has seen membership expand to 300, up from 100 a year ago, and it continues to grow. Peers say that he is always at the end of the phone and willing to help out - even if he is on his yacht. A regular commentator on industry issues, Swabey is not afraid to speak out. "I made my mistakes, and I've learned from them. If, after 35 years in the business, you haven't, you should be shot," he says.
No doubt a man with phenomenal energy and drive, Swabey claims it is Scotts of Stow's strength in database marketing that makes it stand out. Swabey is currently developing new websites across the group's brands, which he admits have been "relatively poor" in the past. The ex-head of e-commerce at JD Williams, Wendy Derbyshire, has been recruited to aid this process.
As for comments about the state of the economy, Swabey's upbeat response is: "What recession?"