1. Sue Unerman
To help propel an agency to the top through its strategic work takes some doing, but to keep it there for ten years demonstrates a scary strength of will. Unerman is one of the most senior Group M leaders to resist the call to go international, and the UK is all the better for it. Never being completely happy with the output seems to be one of the secrets of her enduring success.
2. David Wilding
Wilding began last year setting out his three areas of focus: people are not "target audiences", data needs context and behaviour should dictate everything. These building blocks continue to imbue PHD’s work, not least its award-winning Sainsbury’s activity. They have also helped the agency secure new business in the form of Seat and Admiral. Widely admired in the industry for his strategic thinking, Wilding ended 2013 having to deploy it to fend off the advances of an amorous man in Mayfair’s Playboy Club.
3. Matthew Hook
Carat has had another solid year of growth and the considered, guiding hand of "Hooky" has played a key part in the story. One might think that London’s frenetic media scene does not befit a man who likes to wake up to the sound of Classic FM in the heart of the South Downs, but the 34-year-old can still party with the best of them. He still managed to find the time to help the agency win 40 awards in 2013 and led the successful British Airways pitch.
4. Simeon Adams
Adams may be spinning many plates as the managing partner at Goodstuff Communications, but his strategic thinking remains top drawer. Much of his 2013 has been spent working on a raft of new clients, including House of Fraser and Taylors of Harrogate. During a particularly reflective moment, he noted this year how the world has become a flatter place, with everyone having equal access to everything. More than ever, he said, the value of experience needs to be demonstrated, not just asserted. Music, no doubt, to his clients’ ears.
5. Matt Andrews
Andrews is another of our perennial top planners. Now playing a key management role as the chief strategy officer in Mark Creighton’s Mindshare team, he draws on a rare blend of skills and experience, having worked in senior positions on both the creative and media sides of the business. Andrews – who first made a name for himself at Mother, where he was part of the team that launched Channel 5 – has achieved the impressive feat of being admired and liked in equal measure.
6. Sally Weavers
Weavers’ strategic prowess has been one constant during the ongoing transition within Interpublic’s Mediabrands proposition and led to her appointment as the managing director at Initiative UK in September. Acclaimed for her communications planning work for clients including General Mills and Microsoft, the former WCRS director is the undisputed creative spark at IPG Mediabrands UK.
7. Stuart Sullivan-Martin
Sullivan-Martin was one of the brains behind MEC’s celebrated Momentum research, which maps out a new approach to analysing purchase journeys. As the chief strategy officer, he has also helped to drive innovation for Public Health England around search and social, and picked up gongs at both the Campaign and Media Week awards for the anti-smoking Stoptober campaign. Don’t be fooled by his youthful appearance – Sullivan-Martin actually joined the industry in 1994.
8. Richard Morris
Morris admitted to Campaign this year that he has a man-crush on Rory Sutherland. As one of the few planners to have made it to chief executive, Morris’ love of strategy and those who are masters at it continues to shine through. At Vizeum, he has built a successful partnership with Tech City while continuing to play a lead role in producing notable work for BMW, Heinz, AB InBev and Panasonic. Morris says his focus in 2014 will be on innovation, guided by the agency’s mantra: "Simple strategy, brilliantly activated."
9. Stuart Bowden
Bowden joins his fellow MEC leader Sullivan-Martin in the top flight this year after begrudging recognition from peers that he continues to demonstrate a hugely impressive approach to communication planning, despite now juggling managing director responsibilities too.
10. Anthony Swede
Having started his career at BLM 15 years ago, before passing through Manning Gottlieb OMD, Naked Communications, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, The Times, FRUKT and Mindshare, Swede is now quietly cutting a swathe at Walker Media. This year, he developed a new planning ethos at the agency, which has led to a partnership with The School of Life to enhance its innovation capabilities and the creation of a documentary film.