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We're pleased to announce our Brave Awards 2020 'virtually' went ahead on 29 July. See what we did there? Genuinely though, we were excited to announce that on 29 July we hosted our first ever virtual Brave Awards ceremony. And considering our awards started way back in 1985 we were going to be damned if we'd let a pandemic stop us celebrating the bravest and the best marketing out there.

Indeed, this year's shortlist were the definition of brave — pushing boundaries and tackling taboos, with campaigns around sexual pleasure (Durex Naturals), blood banks (LADbible), LGBTQ+ living (Coca-Cola) and vulvas (Bodyform/Libresse), to name a few.

Each attendee got an interactive experience, including the chance to mingle, message and network guests in public and private rooms. The winners got trophies posted to them the next day.

Winners and commended

The Marketing Society awards began way back in 1985. It's been called the Awards for Excellence and Excellence Awards and, just a few years ago, had a revamp to become the Brave Awards. But it's still the same. We want the best of the best, the bravest brands out there pushing boundaries and tackling taboos - and by we I mean our judges do, led by its chair, Marketing Society President Diageo's Syl Saller.

Yet this year felt different. Normally we'd celebrate with a fancy black tie affair, a banquet, hundreds of guests, entertainment - you know, an awards show? But we couldn't this year, so we went virtual. The night itself was hosted wonderfully by TV presenter, journalist and author Ade Adepitan MBE (kudos to Ade for helping it all go smoothly) and the winners themselves were a most worthy bunch.

So without further ado...


Bravest Marketing Leader of the Year 2020 — Sara Bennison, CMO at Nationwide
One to Watch 2020 — Sebastian Kroth, Brand Director: Western Europe at the Coca-Cola Company
Grand Prix (for Brand Communication) — Guinness Clear (AMV BBDO)
Bravest Team —
Most Inspirational Story winners
— ITV (Uncommon) for 'Britain Get Talking' and the Stroke Association (AMVBBDO)

Brand Revitalisation — Gordon's Gin (Diageo)
Creative Use of Media — Paddy Power (VCCP, Octagon, MediaCom)
Enhancing the Customer Experience — Ovo Energy
Insight — Stroke Association (AMVBBDO)
Business to Business — Diageo Bar Academy
Digital Marketing — Chelsea Football Club
Not for Profit Marketing — LADbible Group (Elvis)
Relationship Marketing — Formula 1 (Ogilvy UK)
Start-Ups — Habito (Uncommon)
Transforming Corporate Culture — ITV (Uncommon)


Brand Communication — Heinz (BBH) and Bodyform/Libresse (AMVBBDO)
Brand Revitalisation — TfL (VCCP)
Bravest Team — KFC (Mother)
Creative Use of Media — KFC (Mother)
Enhancing the Customer Experience — Guinness Storehouse (Diageo)
Insight — Cesar (AMVBBDO) and Bodyform/Libresse (AMVBBDO)
Digital Marketing — Dignity Funerals
Not for Profit Marketing — #Drymester (C21 Creative Communications)

And, finally, a big thanks to headline partner Accenture, and partners Unilever, Shell, Thinkbox and the Market Research Society for helping make this happen. And an additional thanks to Verizon Media, Pernod Ricard, Taylor's of Harrogate, Tesco and Sipsmith for their help and contributions to making the night just that bit more special.

Our host

Ade Adepitan MBE is TV presenter, journalist, author and former international Paralympic wheelchair basketball player. Having survived polio as a youngster, Ade Adepitan has since succeeded as an international Paralympic wheelchair basketball player and has built up a wealth of Broadcasting experience.

Flashback to his early presenting days and some of you may remember him from the CBBC series X-­‐Change and the BBC ‘dancing wheelchairs’ idents. An instantly recognisable face, Ade has travelled the world for his work including the BBC’s internationally known Travel Show exploring the history and cultures behind the globe’s most enticing countries.

Headline partner


The Bravest Marketing Leader 2020, in association with Campaign

Presenting the shortlist for The Marketing Society Bravest Marketing Leader award 2020. These are the leaders that have been making a difference to our industry over the last year, demonstrating marketing excellence, bravery in their approach while also making an impact in business and in society.

The award judges, led by The Marketing Society president and Diageo chief marketing and innovation officer Syl Saller, will be looking for evidence of brave marketing leadership over a sustained period of time, not just around a single campaign.
Gemma Greaves, The Marketing Society chief executive, said, “Bravery means different things to different people but we believe that it makes us better as individuals, as leaders and as an industry."

“For our 2020 Brave Leader we are looking for a brilliant marketer who is an inspiration to everyone in our industry and I believe our shortlist contains five of the best, each of whom truly embody our purpose to empower brave leaders. Our judges are going to have a very tough time deciding on the ultimate winner.”


Chief Marketing Officer, Burger King UK

With a career spanning agency-side, fast moving consumer goods and fast-food, Katie Evans is a marketer who actively courts controversy – creating campaigns that have been accused of mocking vegetarians, relaunching the Whopper, making jabs at Donald Trump and poking fun at rival McDonald’s.

Evans was hired by Burger King UK chief executive Alasdair Murdoch – with whom she had worked at Gourmet Burger Kitchen – in February 2018, at a time when sales were declining, the brand had lost its way and its restaurants were tired and lacklustre.

Evans plunged headlong in with a turnaround of the brand’s marketing strategy. She appointed Bartle Bogle Hegarty London without a pitch and spearheaded Burger King’s “Go Whopper or go home” brand platform, overseeing self-deprecating work and even light political satire, such as the out-of-home work bearing the message: “Another Whopper on the side of a bus. Must be an election.” She also axed plastic promo toys from kids’ meals (a fast-food convention), saving several 100 tonnes of plastic from ending up in landfill.

Evans’ often provocative approach to marketing is no mere cheeky affectation. It has translated to business success – Whopper sales were up 28% year on year and same-store sales grew 6% year on year, and outperformed the category in growth.


Chief Marketing Officer, Nationwide

Sara Bennison is a marketing boss who has no time for moral platitudes. Instead she is someone who genuinely wants to make a difference, even if that means sparking a deluge of vitriol on social media.

Her brave approach to marketing at Nationwide has seen her and her team approach online hate head on, with the building society partnering with Channel 4 and other advertisers for #TogetherAgainstHate, while its “Voices” campaign won the Grand Prix at last year’s Marketing Society Brave Awards.

Were Nationwide’s ethics limited to its marketing messages, it could perhaps quite reasonably be accused of opportunism. But that is far from the case. Its moral rigour is reflected throughout the organisation, whether that’s inspiring existing and prospective employees, whom it urges to “rise to a challenge” and “do the right thing”, and even trickling down to newly-created products, such as later-life policies for older borrowers and a pledge to keep high-street branches open.

Bennison proves too that being inclusive and promoting ethical standards can help the bottom line, with Nationwide membership levels at record numbers.


Chief Marketing Officer, HSBC UK

Chris Pitt is not afraid to defy convention. Not only that, he is a marketer who is unafraid to challenge sentiment in a politically volatile environment, launching HSBC’s “We are not an island” in the midst of Brexit angst.

In the years leading up to Pitt joining HSBC in 2014 from Tesco Bank, the financial services brand was facing a number of issues adversely affecting its metrics, from a lack of brand cohesion and  low share of voice, to a lack of relevance in the UK. Pitt had a challenge on his hands, one he realised could be overcome only by “jolting the patient”, by being brave.

While previous campaigns created by HSBC’s agency, Wunderman Thompson (then J Walter Thompson) had had their impact, Pitt has stepped up HSBC’s marketing.

The agency had come up the idea of “We are not an island”, a platform internally acknowledged as the riskiest marketing activity by HSBC in years, one that risked alienating half the UK population. Launched in January 2018 and fronted by eccentric actor, director and presenter Richard Ayoade, “Global citizen” took a stand against isolationistic attitudes, most pertinently those embodied by anti-EU Leavers.

The risk paid off: ad awareness doubled and by the end of 2018, HSBC had achieved the highest ad awareness in the UK.

But Pitt continues upping his game, laying down the gauntlet for his team to “try and get me fired”. Thankfully, he’s still there, and HSBC remains undeterred in challenging the notion of the “global citizen” in today’s fractious political milieu.


Customer and Marketing Director, Greggs

Hannah Squirrell has presided over a dramatic transformation of bakery brand Greggs. Historically renowned for sausage rolls and sticky buns, under her tenure the business has successfully broadened its remit to become a destination for coffee, wraps, breakfast and healthy eating – achieved with no small amount of wit, panache and bravery.

While Squirrell has turned perceptions on their head, she has been careful not to alienate its customers and has avoided the brand becoming gentrified.

Shortlisted for Brave Brand of the Year 2019, Squirrell has combined a modest budget with nous, creating ideas that transcend marketing and have become key to the business itself. This is probably best embodied in the vegan sausage roll, initially revealed (in a mock iPhone-style launch) for Veganuary, it is now a regular on the menu.

Writing in Campaign, TUI chief marketing officer Katie McAlister named Squirrell as a candidate for the “ultimate dream team”, a group of people who could turn negatives into positives.

Squirrell has clearly demonstrated such alchemical success, bolstering margins, with pre-tax profits for 2019 up 31% on the previous year and sales breaking the £1bn barrier.


Director of Marketing and Communications, Formula 1

It didn’t used to get more testosterone-fuelled than Formula 1, once a sport pretty much exclusively aimed at diehard petrolheads, Jeremy Clarkson wannabes and billionaires. Today, however, under new owner Liberty Media, Ellie Norman has been instrumental in shattering that image.

When she joined in the summer of 2017, she started with very little – a laptop, a smartphone and a marketing team of one – her. Marketing at F1 wasn’t a thing. Working with Wieden & Kennedy London, Norman conducted a brand study and relaunched the brand ahead of the 2018 season.

Since then, she has helped democratise the sport, attracting a more diverse following, among millennials and Gen Z for instance, and moving it way from old-school channels into the likes of TV streaming (though a partnership with Netflix), online, social media and even video-gaming via the eSports Series.

Norman, a keen racer herself, continues to break down barriers, attract more female fans and make Formula 1 less elitist, getting the drivers to come out of their shells and giving followers more content to show the characters beneath the helmet.

But perhaps most bravely given its heritage, Norman sparked the wrath of many purist fans when Formula 1 ditched those symbols of objectification, the grid girls.


Global Chief Marketing Officer, NTT

Rebranding a single company is no mean feat. But bringing together 28 businesses under a single umbrella brand would be jitter-inducing for most marketing chiefs. But not, apparently, for NTT’s Ruth Rowan.

The obstacles she needed to overcome were legion, but on 1 July 2019, Rowan successfully unified 28 companies, including Dimension Data, NTT Communications and Arkadin, creating a single $11bn business under the NTT banner, spanning 40,000 staff in 70 counties.

Strategically it made sense, enabling NTT to consolidate and thus bolster its brand presence, while remaining sympathetic to the legacies and nuances of each of the 28 companies.  Logistically, this was a super-complex process. Not only did logos have to be changed, but staff needed educating, clients informed, emails had to be changed and everything had to be integrated to the nth degree.

Rowan’s achievement came on top of another triumph, at last year’s Marketing Society Brave Awards. In her previous guise at Dimension Data, Rowan won the B2B trophy for her work in bringing to life the Tour de France using enhanced data visualisation and insights from social media channels to reach the world’s CEOs.


Chief Marketing Officer and Director of Direct-to-Consumer, ITV

The idea of interrupting one of the biggest shows on TV – and a feel-good one at that – to spread a message about mental health is either commercially questionable or extremely brave. Turns out it was emphatically the latter.

In a move that became widely-lauded, Rufus Radcliffe, ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall and agency Uncommon Creative Studio halted proceedings during Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions and had hosts Ant & Dec address viewers at home about the rise in anxiety and depression amongst children, urging people to take a one-minute silence during a soundless ad break.

Radcliffe has been a driving force behind ITV’s “More than TV” strategy, which seeks to transform a historically populist broadcaster and reposition it as a cultural force for good and an online destination.

Such is McCall’s faith in the former Channel 4 marketer, that she increased his team’s marketing coffer by £10m, which saw him bring in Uncommon, produce new screen idents showcasing artists’ work every week of the year and essentially reinvigorating and renewing a highly-established brand.