Hot in 2018: Top 10 trailblazers

Throughout December, we are revealing the best of our industry in 2018. These are the people making real strides towards a more inclusive future for adland.

Hot in 2018: Top 10 trailblazers

10 Mareka Stake

Senior writer, 72andSunny Amsterdam

When Stake did the voiceover for a recent Uber commercial, she quietly donated her entire fee to Pregnant Then Screwed, a not-for-profit organisation that off ers women free legal advice, lobbies the government for legislative change and supports women at their most vulnerable. She is just one of the countless people in adland doing their best behind the scenes to push for progress, not because they want any credit or plaudits, but because they genuinely want to make a change for the better. Traditionally, they might not appear on the industry’s ever-increasing wealth of lists, awards and conference panels, but it doesn’t make their contribution any less vital.

9 Sam Phillips

Chief marketing officer, Omnicom Media Group UK, and chair, OPEN (Omnicom People Engagement Network)

A campaigning powerhouse, Phillips has made it her mission to encourage the advertising industry to evolve and better represent society. This commitment and energy has led to her being invited by the UK government to be its inaugural advertising sector champion for disability. She lit up the stage at Media 360 in Brighton this year interviewing Sarah Newton, the minister of state for disabled people, ensuring that the opportunity not just to feature disabled people in ads but also hire them within the industry remained in the spotlight.

8 Sulaiman Khan

Founder and chief purpose officer, ThisAbility

There are few greater champions for diversity and inclusion in all its forms than Khan. His energy, enthusiasm and relentless creative curiosity are successfully moving the dial on how the industry better depicts disabled people in advertising. ThisAbility is an equity consultancy, through which Khan is also amplifying the need for the industry to hire creative disabled talents to produce work as well.

7 Ete Davies

Managing director, AnalogFolk, and co-founder, Stripes

Inspiring action from the top, and building momentum at the bottom, Davies is a thoroughly progressive and thoughtful industry leader. From making the AnalogFolk office space available for SheSays events to championing and supporting BAME talent through Stripes, which champions ethnic diversity in the creative industries, he is a consistent and positive force for change.

6 Nishma Robb

Ads marketing director, Google UK

At a time when business leaders are loath to speak their mind, Robb’s straight-talking and honesty is a breath of fresh air. An advocate for diversity and inclusion not just in public forums but also behind the scenes, where she has mentored and championed companies such as The Other Box, Robb is a true asset to the industry.

5 Gina Hood

Senior account director, Snap London, and president, Bloom

Articulate, passionate and thoughtful, through her work for Bloom, a professional network for women in the creative industries, Hood has helped lift the lid on the honest reality of the barriers still facing women. The creation of a supportive space through the network’s ambitious event programme has inspired action and real change. Credit for this must go to Hood and the energetic voluntary team of women giving up their spare time to make it all happen.

4 Ali Hanan

Founder and chief executive, Creative Equals

In the past 20 months the not-for-profi t organisation has provided three scholarships for women facing financial challenges, trained 1,200 people, put 75 women through its training school and found jobs for three people returning to work after a career break. It is through the sheer hard graft, commitment and compassion of Hanan that so much of the column inches dedicated to diversity initiatives are translating into real change where it matters, with the recent launch of Creative Equals’ creative comeback "returnship" scheme being a case in point.

3 Karen Blacke­tt 

Country manager, WPP UK, chairwoman, MediaCom UK and Ireland, and race equality business champion

There are few better champions for diversity and inclusion than Blackett. This year’s appointment as the UK government’s race equality business champion was another recognition of the power of her practical and action-oriented approach to broadening inclusion and diversity in business.

2 Cindy Gallop

Founder and chief executive, MakeLoveNotPorn and IfWeRanTheWorld

If there was a year when advertising needed the self-styled "Michael Bay of business", it was 2018. Owning the stage at Creative Equals Future Leaders conference in May, Gallop inspired women across the industry with her rousing call to create the "female-led holding company of the future". Yet arguably it is what she does behind the scenes – the emails, encouragement and support that she gives young men and women across the industry – that makes Gallop such a tremendous force for championing change.

1 TimeTo steering commi­ttee 

Helen Calcraft, Kerry Glazer, Stephen Woodford, Diana Tickell, Tess Alps, Karen Fraser, Matt Bourn, Lorraine Jennings and Luke Morris – nine people who put their free time, considerable effort and empathy into tackling a problem that would have been easier to sweep under the carpet. Their shared endeavour to eradicate sexual harassment in advertising is a compelling reminder of the collective power of the industry to challenge and change culture, even when that culture is its own.