Who are the individuals that shaped our industry in 2016, and who will we be keeping an eye on in the coming year? From needle shifters and ceiling smashers to folks worth listening to and folks we’ll miss, here are our people of the year.
The needle shifter
Miranda Dimopoulos, chief executive, IAB Singapore and ambassador to southeast Asia
Southeast Asian consumers are technology ‘leapfroggers’, moving to mobile faster than most, and Singapore has one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world, yet digital investment seriously lags behind the likes of the UK and US. This conundrum is huge and requires cross-industry shifts. Driving this for the region is the IAB’s Miranda Dimopoulos, who uses a small team with big ambitions to educate the industry.
The ceiling smasher
Paula Nickolds, managing director, John Lewis
Paula Nickolds was named as John Lewis’s managing director in October. She is the first woman to take the reins of the retailer in its 152-year history and is proof you can still succeed brand-side without job-hopping: she started her career there as a graduate trainee in 1994. Nickolds was previously buying and brand director and takes up the managing director mantle at the start of 2017.
Jonathan Mildenhall, chief marketing officer, Airbnb
Daring is one word to describe how Jonathan Mildenhall has chased his vision of turning Airbnb into a “community-driven superbrand” over the past 12 months. Not only has the brand broadened its reach beyond accommodation, but Mildenhall’s turnaround helped Airbnb raise more than $1.5bn in funding in 2016. He is also ruthlessly committed to spearheading diversity initiatives within the industry, overseeing Airbnb’s commitment to inclusion when it comes to hosts and guests, as well as within the business’s own walls.
The one to watch
Andy Donkin, chief marketing officer, Under Armour
Despite leading the marketing efforts at Amazon, Andy Donkin has kept a low profile. But that looks set to change in the coming year as he takes the marketing reins at sporting giant Under Armour. Andy Nairn, founder of Amazon’s creative agency Lucky Generals, which created the ‘Saw It, Bought it’ work, said of Donkin: “He is a great client to work with. Straightforward, decent and ambitious. The kind of person you want right next to you in the trenches.”
The game changer
Douwe Bergsma, chief marketing officer, Georgia-Pacific
It’s not easy to get people excited about something as mundane as paper products, but Douwe Bergsma has done just that as chief marketer of Georgia-Pacific. Since joining, Bergsma has put a premium on storytelling and the result has been innovative campaigns like Dixie’s ‘Be More Here’ initiative from Droga5 and a series of Angel Soft videos that celebrate unconventional families.
The no-bullshit media boss
Shane Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer, Vice
It takes a brave speaker to come to the Edinburgh TV festival, look the audience in the eye and tell them: “Media today is like a private club – so closed that most young people feel completely disenfranchised.” But who can really argue with Shane Smith? The Vice co-founder deserves credit for trying to prick the incestuous media bubble from within.
The side hustler
Jeff Sweat, founder, Mister Sweat
We all need some stuff outside of the day job to give us creative oxygen. Furthermore, the job of advertising industry PR is not easy. It turns out that good guy PR flack Jeff Sweat, an LA independent and legit pro, is a very good writer — to the point that he recently landed a book deal for his young adult title Mayfly, set in a world where no one lives past the age of 16, with four main characters who break away to discover the secret to reverse the trend. There’s also a yet-to-be-titled sequel. Proof that the side hustle really pays off.
The next Martin Sorrell?
Lindsay Pattison, global chief executive officer, Maxus
When coming across people who continually shine, it’s hard not to think ‘what if?’ And when coming across Lindsay Pattison of Maxus, it’s hard not to think ‘what if she became the next WPP chief exec?’ It’s difficult to imagine that she’d be anything but awesome because she continually exhibits the vision and drive to run the whole shebang. An undeniable talent, as corroborated by plenty of others: ‘force of nature’ and ‘best leader I’ve seen’ are just two of the many plaudits we’ve heard aimed at her. The perfect formula for that well-deserved promotion someday.
People worth listening to
Kat Gordon, founder, 3% Conference
Kat Gordon started the 3% Conference with a tweet. From there, it has exploded into a mission and force to bring continued awareness to gender equality in the industry. Though women now make up 11% of creative leadership, there is still plenty of room to improve. We need to keep listening to Kat and her team and bring more voices to the chorus until we truly evolve.
Derek Walker, founder, Brown and Browner
Derek Walker of Brown and Browner in Columbia, South Carolina, has something to say. Race is still a huge topic and an issue in need of addressing. The fearless Walker loves advertising — and that’s all he wants to talk about. But there are still some things that need to be said so everyone who wants to thrive in the industry has a fair shot.
Alma Har’el, founder, Free The Bid
Much like Kat Gordon, Alma Har’el saw a massive gender gap, with only 7% of commercial directors being women. Free The Bid is all about getting women in on bids for commercial jobs. Counting a number of brands, including HP, as fans, the movement also has an admirer in director Spike Jonze, who said: “I find #FreeTheBid so inspiring. It seems like a no-brainer.”
People we’ll miss
Bill Backer (1926-2016)
He turned Coke into ‘the real thing’ and appointed ‘Miller Time’ as the acceptable point in the day at which to enjoy a few suds. He’ll be remembered best, however, for teaching the world to sing (in perfect harmony) – an iconic moment from advertising’s history that was given a new lease of life some 45 years later when attributed to Mad Men’s Don Draper in the final scene of the AMC series.
Ruth Baron Ziff (1924-2016)
Latterly dubbed a real-life Peggy Olsen who brought together psychological research with sales tactics, most notably in her Mr Whipple campaign for Charmin toilet paper, Ruth Baron Ziff spent 40 years climbing the ranks of big-name ad agencies, ending up executive vice-president of research and marketing services at Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1975 – a time when women still struggled to get started in the industry, never mind make it to executive level.
Noreen O'Leary (1957-2016)
Pittsburgh native Noreen O’Leary’s career started in Brussels, in the early days of the Wall Street Journal’s Europe edition, before she joined Adweek in 1985, spending 30 years chronicling Madison Avenue’s evolution from print to digital. The publication remembers her as “a no-nonsense, hard-as-nails reporter who dug deep into the heart of every story”.
You can read more New Year Honours here.