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The Drum's New Year Honours 2015: Meet this year's top trailblazers

Over the past week The Drum has been celebrating the top brands and agencies of 2015 in its annual New Year Honours list.

Now its time to look at the personalities that helped shape the industry in 2015, including Wendy Clark, Nigel Gilbert and AJ Hassan.

The Drum's New Year Honours will be teased out each day over the Christmas period, with the list published in full in our first issue of 2016, published on 13 January.

Hire of the year: Wendy Clark

DDB achieved something of a coup last year when it wooed Coke’s marketing star Wendy Clark away to run its North American business.

It was a courtship that reportedly lasted about a year, with Clark’s innate understanding of why people share branded content one of many reasons why she was so highly sought after by the advertising behemoth.

Having worked on both sides of the pitch list, Clark’s extensive resume, which also includes working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has made her one of the star marketers of her generation.

Diversity champion: Tom Knox

The IPA’s president and chairman of Mullen Lowe has been using his platform to address topics relating to advertising’s role in society, including the depiction of women and diversity.

Positioning the advertising industry as a progressive force for good, he has pledged to add to existing work around attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, looking at initiatives to ensure women are better represented in creative and senior roles and committing to publish a more comprehensive agency employee league table, which will list gender split by department, seniority and ethnicity.

Programmatic champion: Nigel Gilbert

With ‘programmatic’ still largely a buzzword used by the many, but understood by the few, AppNexus has distinguished itself through its drive to educate the mass market.

Co-founded and currently led by Brian O’Kelley, one of the few to have devised the idea of exchange-based trading of media, the outfit requires a host of lieutenants capable of gauging just how prime a market is to embrace the wholesale changes posed by automated media trading, and in Nigel Gilbert, O’Kelley has found such a candidate.

With his experience of online media spanning three decades, Gilbert has seen the market go through various fluctuations, and is currently educating the mainstream on the potential disruption, and opportunity, posed by automated trading.

Also, as an IAB Europe board member, Gilbert’s influence reaches beyond the British Isles, helping to influence spend in some of the leading European economies, which have not been as quick to embrace change as the UK.

Digital personality: Anthony Rhind

Many in the digital advertising sphere seek to truly mould the industry by moving to ad tech companies; the more cynical would say they are chasing the money.

However, Anthony Rhind’s move to Denmark-based Adform stood out, given his pedigree, having held senior positions and not one but two of the advertising industry’s largest names (Havas and Dentsu Aegis Network).

Only three months after his arrival, he was able to help Adform win over $20m-plus in financial backing, underlining his company’s ambitions to expand internationally (a rarity for European tech outfits).

Creative personality: AJ Hassan

Leo Burnett creative director AJ Hassan is the key player behind Always’ much-lauded ‘Like A Girl’ campaign. A collaboration between Leo Burnett’s Chicago, London and Toronto offices, Hassan wrote the campaign – which questions when the phrase ‘like a girl’ become negative – with Angel Capobianco.

In the last year the campaign has scooped Cannes Lions, Webby Awards and Emmy accolades, with Hassan steering follow-up ‘Like A Girl 2.0’.

Described as a “natural sequel” by Hassan, the creative sees girls take back the phrase to make it empowering.

Tech personality: Whitney Wolfe

Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe struck out on her own last year to change the dating game with feminist app Bumble which aims to “give women more control” online. Similar to Tinder, users can ‘swipe right’ to indicate their interest in a potential match – but only women can initiate conversions.

The entrepreneur spent 2014 embroiled in a sexual harassment lawsuit against Tinder, which was settled out of court. She has since said that allowing women to opt-in to a conversation is “empowering”.

Since its launch, Bumble has logged more than 15m unique conversations and 80m matches, and Wolfe has set her sights on monetising the product with plans to go public.

Advertising personality: Tracy De Groose

A promotion to the executive board at Dentsu Aegis UK and with five UK acquisitions, including content agency John Brown Media under her belt following her stepping up 18 months ago, Tracy De Groose is a worthy winner of The Drum’s Advertising Personality accolade.

She’s also passionate about fostering a diverse talent base and creating a culture of trust in which people are rewarded on performance rather than hours clocked. Under her watch De Groose has plans to steer Dentsu Aegis UK to empower its own people.

“We need to start putting some targets behind diversity, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” she recently told The Drum.

Design champion: Juan Carlos Pagan

You may not be familiar with this New York-based designer, typographer and art director, but you’ll definitely have seen his work, particularly if you’re a fan of Pinterest – he designed the logo and identity for the social platform.

Pagan has won an impressive swathe of awards including a Cannes Lions Gold in 2014 for his work on Germany’s West Lotto campaign, and he’s produced bold and creative designs for MTV, The New York Times Magazine, Three Olive Vodka and ESPN Magazine. Oh, and he’s the also the design director for 72andSunny.