Feature

Corporate Communications/Marketing Person of the Year 2020: Luke Pearson

He brought a new approach to PR and comms to an agency during a 'turbulent' year.

Corporate Communications/Marketing Person of the Year 2020: Luke Pearson

Former head of editorial and PR, Grey London

By its own admission, Grey London had an often "turbulent" 2019 but Pearson continued to work to improve the agency’s creative work, bringing a new approach to PR and comms.

Grey Europe’s new chief, Eduardo Maruri, featured on the cover of Campaign’s May 2019 issue. A month later, the WPP agency picked up a gold and a silver PR Lion at Cannes for the United Nations’ "The people’s seat". The award-winning campaign, fronted by Sir David Attenborough, became global headline news in more than 150 countries, generating 1,600 articles and 500 pieces of broadcast news. 

At the helm, head of editorial and PR, Pearson has effectively been leading Grey’s PR strategy and using both traditional and social-media coverage to make noise.

In addition to driving conversations around climate change with "The people’s seat", work for Procter & Gamble’s Pantene challenged beauty advertising norms by celebrating grey-haired women. The #PowerofGrey campaign enlisted influencers with naturally grey hair to share their personal "hair journeys" on social media. The work was magnified by Grey’s PR team. 

A former journalist, Pearson spent years breaking news stories, now he brings a "publishing approach to comms and campaigns". As a one-time editor at ITV News, he lends a uniquely strong editorial focus to Grey London’s creative and strategic work. 

In addition to Maruri’s cover interview with Campaign, Pearson has raised the profile of the agency’s leadership team. Former chief marketing officer Sarah Jenkins wrote for a range of publications, landed a regular column in Adweek and made TV appearances, including a Sky News feature on the new ASA rules coming into effect. In addition, former chief creative officer Vicki Maguire informed adland with a series of trenchant opinion pieces in Campaign and the wider press this year on everything from Fleabag to ageism in advertising. 

Behind the scenes, Pearson is a change agent, leading the launch of an LGBT+ group at Grey and a census report by the Advertising Diversity Taskforce, founded by Grey. 

The report, entitled "Who Are We?" and overseen by Pearson and Jenkins, found that, of the thousands of staff members interviewed at 15 companies in advertising and media, 31% of senior leaders are privately educated, compared with a 7% national average. In addition, only 8% of senior leaders came from BAME backgrounds. 

One judge said of Pearson: "He has obviously quickly contributed to the Grey offering, not only creating outstanding PR lead campaigns such as The people’s seat, supporting a global agenda and figurehead, but also giving Grey London a voice and a point of view in the trade media and on a national stage on diversity."