Skip to the content

Marketing Leader of the Year

Presenting the shortlist for The Marketing Society Marketing Leader of the Year 2018. These are the brave marketing leaders that have been making a difference to our industry over the last year, adding value for customers, growing brands, proving day in, day out, that marketing is an investment not a cost.

The winner, voted by readers of Campaign and Society members, was announced at our Excellence Awards on 13 June at City Central at the HAC, London.

Congratulations to Direct Line's Mark Evans. Watch his speech here.

The nominees

Sara Bennison
CMO, Nationwide

Steve Challouma

UK&I Marketing Director, Bird's Eye

Mark Evans
Marketing Director, Direct Line

Lisa Gilbert

Chief Marketing Officer, IBM

Fernando Machado
Global CMO, Burger King

Michelle McEttrick

Group Brand Director, Tesco

Mitch Oliver
VP Marketing, Mars UK

Cindy Tervoort

Head of Marketing, Heineken

Nominee: Sara Bennison, chief marketing officer, Nationwide

Sara Bennison has been Nationwide’s CMO for two years and her impact is undeniable. Her decision to use spoken word with contemporary, edgy poets like Hollie McNish is giving the building society a relevant voice. Bennison has also become a vocal and active campaigner against bullying and bigotry on social media working with ISBA’s Digital Action Committee alongside the Met police. What is the rightful action for marketers in a world where hateful language is an everyday occurrence? She’s convinced that turning a blind eye is not an option. She has called for brands to actively confront users who post hate and bigotry on their social media rather than simply delete comments. At Nationwide, she has a whole team tasked with addressing comments on the brand’s social media pages.

Nominee: Steve Challouma, UK & Ireland marketing director, Bird’s Eye

Captain Bird’s Eye is winning with consumers and Steve Challouma, a twenty-year veteran at the frozen food company is the marketer who’s making it happen. In a remarkable first year as marketing director, Challouma has overseen a turnaround of the £550m brand, which had been in decline for six of the last eight years. Challouma has worked up the company since joining as a graduate when the brand was owned by Unilever. An innovation focus on vegetarian products alongside increased digital confidence leading to partnerships with Buzzfeed is ensuring frozen foods stay relevant. Spontaneous awareness for the brand as a food brand moved from 33% to 40% in one year, and similarly advert awareness moved from 25% to 31%.  Challouma is also a passionate supporter of the MSC to protect marine life.

Nominee: Mark Evans, marketing director, Direct Line

This is the third year Mark Evans has been shortlisted for Marketing Leader of the Year, and it probably won’t be the last. Following the impressive turnaround of Direct Line, with a pin-sharp focus on customer experience and the energising Winston Wolf campaign, and Evans shows no sign of losing momentum. He has become a champion for neurodiversity, stating that this is the conversation around diversity that hasn’t happened yet. Indeed, Evans is a passionate believer in the ‘superpowers’ of those with neurodiverse conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD and their ability to drive innovation and creativity from the edges. This new way of thinking is evident in Direct Line’s innovative campaigns, like Fleetlights Legacy (drones adapted for sea search and rescue) and Smart Crossings (the world’s first responsive road).

Nominee: Lisa Gilbert, chief marketing officer, IBM

In an industry increasingly fascinated by the potential and pitfalls of artificial intelligence, Lisa Gilbert, CMO, IBM is at the bleeding edge. She isn’t scared about AI but believes it can improve marketing capability. She’s described IBM Watson as akin to a new member of the marketing team, a researcher like no other who can give you competitive advantage. Gilbert has been with IBM for over twenty years working in Shanghai, Paris and New York before becoming CMO IBM, UK & Ireland in September 2016.  A popular leader for her 200-strong marketing team, she is highly respected for her energy and determination to think differently.  Gilbert is a brave marketer who encourages her team to take risks, to fail, to learn and to strive to become bolder in everything they do.

Nominee: Fernando Machado, global chief marketing officer, Burger King

2017 was a stellar year for Burger King. The global fast food giant, with an appetite for risk taking, won Cannes Lion’s creative marketer of the year, alongside eight more Lions a. It was also the year Burger King won eight D&AD pencils. It’s recognition for big, brave creative hits like McWhopper, which invited McDonald’s to combine their two sandwiches to mark International Peace Day (McDonald’s declined). Or, the Whopper Burger ad that hacked Google Home devices to begin reading the Whopper definition from Wikipedia. Machado is a fearless, instinctive marketer who knows what it takes to get people talking about his brand. “Every time we become a little bit vanilla, a little bit generic, we failed,” he says.

Nominee: Michelle McEttrick, group brand director, Tesco

Former BBH chairman, Jim Carroll once described Michelle McEttrick as a marketing leader who, “leads from the shop floor rather than the stage, who prioritises relationships over personal recognition and people over power.” So although McEttrick isn’t the most visible marketer in our industry, rest assured she’s working hard making a difference. Since joining Tesco from Barclays in 2015, McEttrick is adamant that, “You can’t advertise your way out of a problem you’ve behaved your way into.” Communication that focuses on improved customer services and creating more value for customers through Clubcard are rebuilding Tesco’s reputation. As is a focus on women - Tesco became the first retailer to cover the VAT cost of shoppers’ sanitary products leading to a 5% price drop in branded and non-branded tampons and sanitary towels. Bravo.

Nominee: Mitch Oliver, vice president, marketing, Mars UK

Mitch Oliver isn’t scared of diversity. In fact, she calls it the mother of creativity, and the business results from her brands’ brave embrace of the diversity agenda suggest she’s probably right.  Snickers’ partnership with Gay Star News saw the chocolate bar rebranded in rainbow colours to encourage people to ‘be who you are.’ Maltesers’ disability campaign won a hat trick at The Marketing Society Excellence Awards and was the brand’s most successful campaign for a decade. Having set a target of 4% sales growth, Maltesers achieved an 8.1% uplift while the campaign was on air. Critically, a focus on diversity has not diluted the fun of Mars’ brands.  On her watch, Maltesers has moved to a position of greater social relevance fit for today’s times.

Nominee: Cindy Tervoort, head of marketing, Heineken

Heineken got the world talking with its ‘Open Your World’ campaign, which racked up over 14 million YouTube views.  It challenged two people with opposing opinions to work together assembling furniture before having a debate over beer. By pairing an environmental activist with a global warming denier, a feminist with a sexist and so on, Heineken, under Tervoort’s leadership, showed us that we have more in common than we think. Tervoort’s stance was a welcome antidote to Pepsi’s misplaced political campaign with model Kendall Jenner. “We’re not suggesting we will achieve world peace…so it’s about being humble about the role you can play,” she said. A former Unilever and PepsiCo marketer, Tervoort also dipped her toe into entrepreneurship launching and selling a successful online fashion brand for socks, Dr Finkelbaum.