In terms of the work it is producing, MediaCom, driven by Unerman's "Real World Communications" approach, seems at the peak of its powers. Sweeping up several awards at this year's Campaign Media Awards, its work for Masterfoods' confectionery brands especially impressed the rest of the industry. Unerman remains a passionate and opinionated talent without stepping over the line into arrogance or the land of jargon and mumbo jumbo.
2. Ivan Pollard, partner, Naked Communications
Pollard's agency may be going down the creative execution route, but he remains one of the sharpest media planning brains around. A football fanatic, he's somehow managed to find himself working across football World Cup build-up activity for both Coca-Cola and Sony PlayStation. Dream work if you can get it and a welcome distraction to his other job helping to rebuild Naked's London offering.
3. Jon Gittings, executive director, Manning Gottlieb OMD
A serious trendspotter, Gittings is one of the driving forces behind OMD's "Influence" planning approach. The results were there to see this year when Manning Gottlieb OMD captured the massive £75 million communications planning brief for the Department of Health's anti-obesity drive. Like most top planners, Gittings also likes to draw lessons from his passions in life, such as wine, which adds a nice element of nerdish enthusiasm to his presentations.
4. Matthew Hook, managing partner, Vizeum
He's not even 30 yet, but this year Hook was handed the strategic reins at Vizeum. It doesn't seem an over-promotion, though, as he has helped the agency to a number of new-business wins and strong work on existing clients. Hook was also given his own bespoke planning approach called Jump, complete with a team, to lead. Always a sign that a man has arrived in life.
5. Steve Hobbs, deputy managing director, Carat
Hobbs was promoted last year from the role of head of planning and integration to deputy managing director, but must take significant credit for the agency's bid to move upstream. He has had a significant impact in refining Carat's planning approach across the board, and the awards have followed - notably for work on Diageo, the Department for Transport and Adidas.
6. Marie Oldham, chief strategy officer, MPG
Oldham continues to lead MPG's strategy effort as the agency builds its reputation for strong media thinking across a range of clients (notably the BBC, Magners and Camelot). She might appear to come out of the left-field of the media planning community, complete with a bohemian appearance and time management issues, but her approach is firmly rooted in effectiveness and the world around her.
7. The Michaelides & Bednash table
In acquiring what was left of Michaelides & Bednash, Mindshare has tapped into some of the brightest media talent around. Sadly, the founders, Graham Bednash and George Michaelides (along with senior colleague Paul O'Neill and five other staff), were unable to bring their famous 70-foot table with them to their new offices, but they have replaced it with an even larger version on Mindshare's top floor. Cue collective creative thinking and oodles of brilliant ideas for clients.
8. Stuart Sullivan-Martin, chief strategy officer, Mediaedge:cia
It's not just down to Group M that Mediaedge:cia has done so well in recent years. The agency also has a clever, planning-led philosophy that is proving attractive to clients. Sullivan-Martin is behind this and has supplemented his own sharp planning skills with a strong team around him, including the former PHD and BT planner Stuart Bowden.
9. Hugh Cameron, chief strategy officer, PHD
Cameron, the former DFGW and Freud Communications director, seemed an inspired hiring as PHD attempted to recapture some of its formerly great strategic reputation. Cameron's input has already been felt on accounts including ING Direct and Sainsbury's, and he is part of the team that so impressed Cadbury during the agency's successful pitch for the business.
10. Stephen Farquhar, head of strategy, ZenithOptimedia
Farquhar is a fiercely bright, no-nonsense Edinburgh man, who works well with his fiercely bright, no-nonsense Glaswegian chief executive, Gerry Boyle. This year, ZenithOptimedia's work for O2 was of exceptionally high standard and Farquhar's strategic leadership helped the agency capture the Best Total Communications award at this year's Campaign Media Awards for its Ariel "turn to 30" campaign.