Top 10 most inspirational independent agency leaders revealed

This content is produced by a member of The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Founded six years ago, BenchPress, an annual agency benchmarking report commissioned by The Wow Company, has grown to become the largest survey of independent agency owners in the UK. Having previously identified the UK’s most inspirational agencies, this time round we focus on the independent agency leaders that are inspiring the rest of the industry…

Wil Reynolds of Seer

Voted as the most inspirational person by fellow agency owners is Wil Reynolds.

Wil is the founder and director of strategy at Seer, a digital marketing agency with offices in Philadelphia and San Diego. Founded in 2002, it started life as a one-person search firm. Today, it's a talented team of over 100 people.

Wil has worked across every vertical, from pharmaceuticals and hospital systems to e-commerce and SaaS. He’s one of the world’s leading experts on search and is often found speaking at conferences about the future of the industry, using big data, and how to bust silos between divisions. He also shares the tough side of running a growing agency on his YouTube channel.

Nichola Stott of Erudite

Nichola is the MD and founder of Erudite, a technical marketing agency offering consulting services in SEO, CRO and data insights from web analytics. Following a position as head of UK search partners at Yahoo!, she founded Erudite (previously called theMediaFlow) in 2010 in Hampshire.

Nichola’s professional recognition includes being named in the BIMA Hot 100 Digital People, winning Best Use of Search at both the UK Search Awards and Wirehive100 Awards and co-authoring books including Econsultancy’s SEO Best Practice Guide and Hit me! How to Get Your Small Business to Punch its Weight Online.

Nichola is also a very sought-after SEO speaker. Her training services provide an infectious way to learn SEO.

Duncan Cook of 3 Sided Cube

Duncan Cook is group CEO of 3 SIDED CUBE and was in the BIMA Top 100 2017. He motivates his global digital agency to ‘build tech for good’. A leader inspired by impact, he and his team strive to create award-winning and life- saving apps for clients including RSPB, RNLI and Mind.

His vision to change the way people donate blood saw The American Red Cross revolutionise the donation process into a digital system that has created over $70 million of revenue. Recognised for his drive to improve global disaster preparedness, he was invited to The White House to present his agency’s work on the world’s largest alerting app, which saves millions of lives in areas affected by tornados, earthquakes and other natural disasters every day.

Alex Myers of Manifest Group

Alex Myers is founder and CEO at Manifest Group and has overseen the growth of the agency from just one person, to a multiple award-winning agency with offices in London, New York and Stockholm.

Alex has instilled strong values into Manifest, including 'if you can’t find what you’re looking for, build it'. This approach has had Manifest develop a reputation for representing businesses that aren’t simply competing in their category but are redefining it, including the likes of BrewDog, Macmillan, The Body Coach and Innis & Gunn.

Over the past six years, they've been awarded countless accolades including in a year alone - PR Agency of the Year, Best Agency with Digital Expertise, Best Consumer Campaign, Best Use of Video and Best Integrated Agency titles.

Jenny Kitchen of Yoyo Design

Jenny Kitchen is MD of Yoyo Design, a digital agency based in Kent. Yoyo Design has gone from strength to strength over the past six years, growing rapidly from four to 18 staff.

Jenny's fiercely passionate about delivering the best service to each and every Yoyo client. She's a huge inspiration to the team at Yoyo and has an amazing ability to recognise each team member's strengths, pushing for them all to produce the best work they possibly can. This has seen Yoyo work with some big brands like the RNLI, RSPCA, YoungMinds, Universal Music, England Athletics and Freesat.

Jenny is an excellent speaker and has been named as one of the Top 30 Under 30 Women in Digital by The Drum, Young Business Leader of the Year and recognized by BIMA as one of the Hot 100 in digital.

Lisa Myers of Verve Search

Lisa Myers is the founder and CEO of SEO and content marketing agency, Verve Search, which was named Best SEO Agency three years running. The agency has since been acquired by Omnicom Media Group, in September 2017.

Lisa plays an active part in the SEO community worldwide and contributes regularly to publications, as well as best practice guides and roundtables. She is the founder of Women in Search, and co-founder of Lisa also speaks frequently at conferences and is often hired to train internal teams, agencies and universities on SEO, content marketing and social.

Lisa has won a row of prestigious personal awards including BIMA100 CEO & Leaders 2017, Search Personality of the Year at the UK Search Awards in 2011, and Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 in 2009.

Simon Barbato of Mr B & Friends

Simon Barbato founded Mr B & Friends in 2006, a digital creative marketing and branding agency that has expanded from a bedroom operation to a 26-person, global company.

Their agency mantra: 'Where next?' guides their thinking. It reminds them every day that standing still isn’t an option. This has seen them grow and work with some of the UK’s most ambitious brands.

Simon has also developed customer experience consultancy, CXCo, and launched Noble Digital Marketing in the UK to provide a range of performance marketing services. Simon won South West Director of the Year at the 2016 Institute of Directors Awards.

Susan Hallam MBE of Hallam

With more than 30 years’ experience working in the digital industry, Susan Hallam MBE is a leading influencer in the Internet world. She has always believed in the power of data and knowledge, and that successful digital engagement and transformation drives business success.

She is a practising digital marketing consultant, a public speaker, and managing director of Hallam, one of the UK’s leading digital agencies. Susan founded Hallam in 1999, which has grown to a team of 50 in Nottingham and London.

Susan was awarded an MBE for services to entrepreneurship and innovation in the Queen’s Honours 2018. Also in 2018, Susan was made a Fellow of the Institute of Direct Marketing.

Casey Bird – Refinery29 and SheSays

Casey Bird is currently Refinery29's creative lead on branded content in the UK. In 2017 she was elected the first ever president of SheSays London, doubling their events and continuing to grow their online and offline community. In 2015 she also co-launched their mentoring arm, Who's Your Momma, and to date, the scheme has paired over 200 women with mentors.

Aside from supporting women in the industry, Casey also launched The Freelance Circle last year, with the aim to improve and add a level of transparency to the gig economy for both freelancers and agencies.

Over the past few years, she's been recognised by Campaign Magazine's Future Female Leaders 2017, The Hospital Club 100 2017 and, most recently, Creative Review's Creative Leaders 50.

Steven Bartlett of Social Chain

Steven Bartlett is the 25-year-old CEO and co-founder of Social Chain, which has grown to be one of the world’s most notorious social-first marketing agencies. Social Chain Group also includes Media Chain.

In just a few years, Steven has become an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker and investor and now leads a company of 200+ like-minded individuals who are quickly disrupting the ever-changing social sphere. Social Chain now operates through five locations: Manchester, London, Berlin, Munich and New York, but its presence is felt worldwide.

Along the way, Steve has amassed a following of over 1 million online, due to his inspirational videos covering topics from entrepreneurship, business and marketing. This has led to a number of profiles in the world's leading publications and being voted by his peers as the most influential and impactful individual in marketing in 2017.