Last chance to vote! Marketing Leader of the Year 2017

The shortlist for this year's coveted Marketing Society Marketing Leader of the Year, in association with Campaign, has been announced.

The nominees, showcased here and grilled on key issues, are brave marketing leaders making a difference, growing their brands and championing their customers. The winner, voted for by readers of Campaign and members of The Marketing Society, will be revealed at The Marketing Society’s Excellence Awards at The Artillery Garden at The HAC on 14 June.

To vote, visit

The deadline is 5pm on 19 May.

Tell us on Twitter at @themarketingsoc and @campaignbrands who you are voting for, using the hashtag #msocawards

Sara Bennison - chief marketing officer - Nationwide

Since her move last year from Barclays to the UK’s biggest building society, Nationwide, Bennison has cemented her reputation as a brave marketer who understands what customers most value. Bennison hit the ground running by refreshing Nationwide’s brand strategy using the tagline: "14 million members, building society, nationwide." As Nationwide’s first-ever CMO, don’t underestimate Bennison’s graft and skill in launching its "Voices Nationwide" campaign using spoken word. Bennison’s powerful articulation of how its membership model makes a building society different from banks has created a compelling story. At Barclays, Bennison earned praise for her commitment to rebuilding the bank’s reputation. Now her role is subtly different – it’s about giving Nationwide a relevant voice. 

What is your biggest marketing challenge this year?

Sifting the significant from the space debris as ever-more options and supposed opportunities arise remains the challenging balancing act at the core of the job every day. However, stepping back from that, I suppose the biggest marketing challenge that maybe we should all consider more is the unintended consequences of the seismic shifts in advertiser spends from traditional to digital channels. Have we really understood the broader social impact in terms of a free press and quality content? Are we truly happy with the dominance of very few global players? Are we all, in fact, chasing fool’s gold?

In the rush to adopt new tech, is the role of creativity in marketing being overlooked?

I think it has been. The promised land of data and digital seemed so very alluring at the beginning in its seeming certainty of targeting and effectiveness. People are not such rational beings, though, and nor do they believe marketing is personal just because it is more personalised. Brands are bigger than that and their value is created beyond numbers. That’s why creativity is an important competitive advantage and differentiator. If we ignore it, then marketing is merely another industry that can be done as well by machines as humans.

Does the current agency landscape fulfil your needs as a client?

I don’t think about the "agency landscape" but the "people landscape" of talent able to think, plan, create and execute in ways that add disproportionate value to the business over our competitors. Raising the profile and purpose of careers within the industry to attract and retain people who have that magic alchemy of business and creative brainpower is something we all need to focus on with urgency.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne - executive director, customer, marketing and M& - Marks & Spencer

It is on Bousquet-Chavanne’s watch that Marks & Spencer introduced the Sparks customer loyalty scheme, which has attracted five million members since its launch in 2015. Bousquet-Chavanne has described it as "a transformative building block… It touches everything in the business." Similarly, M&S’s glamorous Christmas campaign starring "Mrs Claus", a spectacular swansong by Y&R London, led to the retailer’s first increase in clothing sales at Christmas for six years. In May 2016, Bousquet-Chavanne was promoted to his current role, adding the website and sustainability through the Plan A strategy to his responsibilities. 

In the rush to adopt new tech, is the role of creativity in marketing being overlooked?

Not at all! Technology is opening a huge new space within which brands can express their creativity in an unprecedented way. From virtual reality to shoppable Facebook videos, the internet ecosystem is seeing an ex-plosion of new formats and channels through which innovative media-rich content can be delivered. This is a true revolution in the way brands can engage with customers and represents an amazing opportunity for marketers to fully express their creativity. These are exciting times to be in marketing. 

How confident are you that your digital advertising is well-targeted and measured properly?

I am confident that, with the advent of Sparks, we have greatly deepened our understanding of our different customer segments both in food and clothing and home. Using this insight is no doubt helping us deliver much more precise digital advertising plans and we are actively testing different constructs to optimise performance. Our ambition is to tie all marketing touchpoints back to our target customers’ engagement with M&S and to measure, wherever possible, conversion using advanced analytics. It is, how-ever, fair to say that, with mobile now the main port of entry into the mindset of consumers, it brings some very substantial challenges when it comes to measuring effectiveness of digital spend and building reliable attribution models that reflect the cross- platform customer journey. 

Does the current agency landscape fulfil your needs as a client?

What I am after first and foremost is for an agency to partner my creative team and to jointly deliver brilliant creativity that will capture our customers’ imagination. 

Having fairly recently undertaken a pitch process, it isn’t the creative talents that are missing in the industry (we are privileged in the UK to have a very rich creative ecosystem), it is the ways of working that have to evolve. We all must master speed, lower costs and technology, and embrace data-led insight. This can’t happen unless chemistry, trust and a mutual appetite for breaking new ground are present.

Leah Davis - head of marketing - Team GB

Following the resounding success of London 2012, it sounded like a dream role – but, in reality, Davis had her work cut out to make a success of Rio 2016. Without the home advantage, Davis had to encourage support for a team at an event thousands of miles away in a different time zone. Through the "Take me closer" strategy, she transported fans behind the scenes to bring them closer to the athletes. Team GB’s Facebook Live reached 38.5 million fans. Davis and her team used creative hashtags to support different athletes. For example, #UpAtThreeForAdamPeaty encouraged the nation to watch the swimmer win his race at 3am. Partly as a result of the overall social campaign, 80% of the country engaged with Team GB, helping to amplify the gold rush. 

What is your biggest marketing challenge this year?

Digital transformation and how we can sift through the seemingly endless opportunities and apply those that are going to help revolutionise our business. No small job, then.

In the rush to adopt new tech, is the role of creativity in marketing being overlooked?

At times, yes. Technology for the sake of technology is seen on a daily basis in our industry. Those who are blazing the trail successfully are brands that stay true to their instincts of developing a creative solution to a business challenge in the first instance and are channel-neutral at the planning stage. Once you know you have a strong idea built on a solid insight, then adoption of emerging technology becomes a lot less daunting. 

How confident are you that your digital advertising is well-targeted and measured properly?

We have such a broad fan base, so this is an ongoing challenge for us. We are currently undergoing a detailed study to analyse sporting fan behaviours to ensure that we are delivering content where, when and how our fans want it. The power of the fan is growing and we must develop more sophisticated metrics to ensure that we stay relevant and aspirational to our fans. Behaviours and characteristics are increasingly insightful as we witness the blurring of traditional classification parameters.

Does the current agency landscape fulfil your needs as a client?

For us, content is king and there are some fantastic agencies out there that really understand that content needs to be a combination of good data and a great creative idea and execution. Every brand should have a story to tell, and a good agency will capture this narrative and help you to deliver chapters in your story. What I would like to see more of from agencies is the ability to deliver the above but in a way that is commercially viable in terms of delivery, measurement and ROI.

Barnaby Dawe - global chief marketing officer - Just Eat

Dawe is changing the way we eat at home. With takeaways no longer resigned to a Saturday-night treat from the local Chinese, Just Eat connects more than 17 million hungry customers worldwide to 67,000 restaurants. Dawe has worked hard since joining the start-up in 2015 to lead a brand transition from disruptor to market leader. He is encouraging the brand’s appetite for technological innovation, using virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics to help Just Eat stay ahead of the curve. The company has also launched an accelerator initiative to support food-tech start-ups. Dawe’s background in media, including ex-perience at Sky, The Sun and Channel 4, means that he understands how to build communities. The trick at Just Eat is continuing to drive growth. 

What is your biggest marketing challenge this year?

Ensuring that our new vision, purpose and values continue to be brought to life throughout our organisation and don’t just become words on a page or images on a wall. Having a strong brand in a fast-growing category is key to our success.

In the rush to adopt new tech, is the role of creativity in marketing being overlooked? 

Getting teams and agencies to think beyond traditional routes to market is challenging. It’s important to ensure there is a central creative idea that has a life well beyond TV and outdoor. It’s very easy for brands to treat multichannel content as an afterthought. Each execution needs to be considered against the context in which it’s being delivered, ensuring the right message, at the right time, to the right audience. 

How confident are you that your digital advertising is well-targeted and measured properly?

Viewability is a key challenge facing any brand today. It’s hard for any marketer to be 100% confident that all of their digital advertising is hitting the right audience 100% of the time. That said, as a data-driven business, we’re continually optimising and enhancing our digital advertising to deliver sales growth. We have very strict brand-safety rules to ensure we aren’t buying blind. This is an area that requires much greater transparency and we are constantly pushing our agencies and the media owners to deliver on this. 

Does the current agency landscape fulfil your needs as a client?

The agency landscape is changing dramatically as consumer behaviour is revolutionised by technology. Some agencies are adapting quicker than others and there are some really interesting outfits, big and small, doing groundbreaking stuff. The closer you get to the technology and data-driven communication channels, the more important it is to have a specialist by your side to advise of the opportunities and pitfalls. Every day, there is something new to learn and having specialists equip us with the know-how is key to winning.

Mark Evans - marketing director - Direct Line Group

Evans is building on his bold move to reposition Direct Line, embedding the brand promise throughout the organisation and changing preconceptions of the insurance industry in the process. His Pulp Fiction-inspired "Winston Wolf" campaign has made customers consider Direct Line as a problem-solver. But work has also gone into the back end to bring the brand promise to life. For example, a three-week process to get a car repaired now takes seven days or Direct Line pays you £10 a day. And Evans has not been resting on his laurels – new marketing initiatives include the Fleetlights campaign, which uses drone technology. Meanwhile, Evans’ brainchild Sprintathon saw 422 people collectively run a marathon to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer. 

In the rush to adopt new tech, is the role of creativity in marketing being overlooked?

Creativity is an utterly indispensable part of marketing and a critical accompaniment to rapidly evolving marketing technology. I think the marketing departments that will enjoy the greatest success are those that maintain a balance between the logical/analytical/technological and the intuitive/inferred/creative approaches. 

Many have commented that all marketers need to become more whole-brained. I have a slightly different perspective that the role of the marketing leader is to create a whole-brained team in aggregate and, within that, ensure that a diverse group of individuals are allowed and encouraged to simply be the "best them" and utilise their unique "spike" or super-strength. 

How confident are you that your digital advertising is well-targeted and measured properly?

I’m confident. Our highly unique agreement with our long-standing media agency MediaCom aligns our commercial interests brilliantly, whereby we share a mutual benefit as a result of beating trading plans. 

Does the current agency landscape fulfil your needs as a client?

Having just been through a successful creative pitch process for Green Flag, I am reminded that London is still awash with agency talent. Let’s not forget that London is the envy of the world as a centre for creative talent and innovation. It is a shame to see small agencies succumbing to competitive pressure, but this is very much a Darwinian thing that arguably makes the agency world stronger in the long run.

We are happy with the diverse range of agencies that we work with and always try to have honest conversations with them so as not to sleepwalk into a bad place. There is currently a prevailing wind to in-house more capability and we have done that on a selective basis. However, we chose not to be philosophically biased towards either in-housing or outsourcing but instead evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

Michelle McEttrick - group brand director - Tesco

It was a brave career move to take on the marketing challenge at Tesco, but insiders say chief executive Dave Lewis viewed McEttrick as a vital ingredient in his turnaround strategy. Her experience at previous employer Barclays taught McEttrick that you can’t advertise your way out of a situation you behaved your way into and she has brought this ethos to bear at Tesco. 

Re-establishing the Tesco brand in the hearts of British consumers may be the toughest obstacle of her career but McEttrick is already making progress. In just two years, she has helped to rebuild trust by focusing communi-cations on improved services, such as the same-day click-and-collect service and free fruit for children. 

It’s paying off: UK like-for-like annual sales for 2016/17 were up 0.9%, the first growth in seven years. In January, McEttrick launched the "Food love stories" campaign as part of a mission to put "food at the heart of the business". 

What is your biggest marketing challenge this year?

What was once shopping is now shopping around. Retailers need to earn every repeat visit every time and marketing has a huge role to play in this.

In the rush to adopt new tech, is the role of creativity in marketing being overlooked?

I don’t think it needs to be. Some of the most creative work we did last year was entirely enabled by technology. Our Father’s Day campaign used retargeting to serve "little helps" to people who watched our hero film and customers responded really well. 

Does the current agency landscape fulfil your needs as a client?

Having worked hard with my team to create our agency roster, I’d have to say the answer is yes. We work with three strategic partner agencies – Blue Rubicon, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Media-Com – each of which brings complementary skills. We also use very specialist agencies for the likes of programmatic and we are fine with this portfolio approach. It’s hard to think of a marketing strategy that couldn’t be supported by the variety and breadth of agency models in the market at the moment.

Michele Oliver - vice-president, marketing - Mars

There is a tipping point in advertising with inclusion and diversity at its heart – before Maltesers and after Maltesers. And Oliver is the marketer behind the striking ad campaign that first aired during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games opening ceremony. The three ads featured disabled people joking with friends over a bag of Maltesers. The brand won Channel 4’s £1m Superhumans Wanted competition, which was launched to encourage advertisers to feature disability in their ads. On Oliver’s watch, the Mars brand held on to its positioning based on fun and lightness while demonstrating a greater social relevance. Oliver is now on a mission to change the face of communications and represent the British population in all its diversity. 

What is your biggest marketing challenge this year?

Long-term versus short-term thinking. It’s going to be an interesting and important year for marketers, especially in the FMCG businesses. The combination of currency moves and increasing prices leading to tight budgets with a highly competitive retail market is likely to lead to businesses focusing on short-term results delivery. This can be a challenge for marketing departments and leaders who always need to have (at least) one foot firmly placed in the future. It is absolutely critical that my marketing department and I are future-focused and equipped with a deep understanding of our consumer. 

In the rush to adopt new tech, is the role of creativity in marketing being overlooked?

Absolutely not! We know that creative is the biggest single determinant of ROI, far more so than the medium through which it is delivered. In my team, we have leaned into this space heavily and are seeing new tech as a huge creative opportunity. We are finding that this new data-rich environment is incredibly fertile for creativity because we can really understand the wonderful diversity of our consumers and shoppers more deeply. It’s allowing us to generate personalisation at scale as we better match our creative with our audience for even more amazing storytelling on our great brands. 

Does the current agency landscape fulfil your needs as a client?

I, like many people, am frustrated at the pace of change in the industry but am truly heartened by the col-laboration and drive of MediaCom and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO to accelerate the agenda. Just a couple of examples: first, we have "stolen with pride" MediaCom’s brilliant initiative on apprenticeships for lower socioeconomic backgrounds to unlock diverse talent at the grass-roots level in my marketing team; and, second, we have partnered AMV to sponsor women and ethnic minorities into the National Film and Television School on their much-coveted directing course to get more diversity behind the camera as well as in front of it.

Aline Santos - executive vice-president, global marketing, and head of diversity and inclusion - Unilever

When Ridley Scott’s movie Alien was released in Santos’ home country, Brazil, it was translated as "Aline". Instead of focusing on the unfortunate coincidence, Santos drew inspiration from Ellen Ripley, the strong female hero, and it shows in her work. Since stepping into the second-most-senior marketing role at Unilever, she has been blazing a trail. 

Her #Unstereotype initiative aims to break gender stereotypes and close the gap between what the ad industry is saying and how consumers are living. And Santos is very clear that she’s not simply fighting a moral case but a business case. A Unilever lifer, Santos joined the FMCG company as a marketing trainee in 1989. She was part of the Dove global brand team in 2002 when the Dove "Beauty theory" campaign was created and, more recently, the architect of "Dirt is good" for Persil/OMO and Surf. 

What is your biggest marketing challenge this year?

The digital world is evolving at such pace that it is a huge task to upskill our marketers. Digital never stops and it will continue to evolve. Last year, we put 5,500 marketers through a comprehensive learning programme including 90,000 online lessons, from basic skills such as search through to optimising mobile content.  

In the rush to adopt new tech, is the role of creativity in marketing being overlooked?

New tech and creativity can coexist. They feed each other – data and technology boosts creativity. The "Romeo Reboot" initiative we did with Axe created more than 100,000 individually tailored short films, targeting different audience segments with specialised content depending on interests and relevancy. This represented a real move forward in how we think about what creative on mobile can do.

How confident are you that your digital advertising is well-targeted and measured properly?

There is no doubt that the digital ecosystem is complex. We have been talking about the "3Vs" of digital advertising (viewability, verification and value) for some time. We need to ensure that transparency across the chain is in place to maximise the value of our investment. Our strategy continues to focus on the following:

• Educating and working in partnership with the industry towards an end goal.

• Further motivating the agenda by speaking with our wallets.

• A pullback on spending for the stragglers who were not delivering for us.

Does the current agency landscape fulfil your needs as a client?

There has certainly never been more choice than there is now. This gives us great opportunity to try new partners and new ways of working, as we do with start-ups through The Unilever Foundry. But too much choice can also lead to a lack of coherence and discipline for our brands. So at Uni-lever we look to make a few big choices that help us get the best out of the agency landscape. We have an agency relationship framework that helps us carve up work between our long-term global partners, nimble local partners and now our in-house studios, U- Studio. This approach lets us enjoy the richness of the current agency landscape, while balancing that with the need for consistency, cost- effectiveness, consolidation and, of course, creativity.

To vote, visit, have your say on Twitter: tell us who you are voting for @themarketingsoc #msocawards

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