1 Natalie Cummins
Chief executive, Zenith UK
Despite the pandemic, the humble and straight-talking Cummins has not spent this year standing still, having overseen Zenith’s outstanding turnaround over the previous 18 months. The Publicis Groupe agency managed to increase billings and hold up revenue, and picked up accounts for TikTok and personal products company Combe during lockdown. This year, Zenith also made efforts to save clients money and improve media forecasting in a period when normal consumer behaviour has not applied, and is reporting strong results from a new econometric technique called “morphing”. Cummins was a popular choice for the Media Week Awards’ Media Leader of the Year and won Campaign’s Media Agency Head of the Year, with judges praising her dedication to diversity.
2 Paul Knight
Chief executive, OmniGov
While most media businesses have had to grapple with a downturn in fortunes, Knight has found himself in the unique position of managing the government’s media buying during a global public health crisis and Brexit. He has proved adept at putting together teams at speed to deal with multi-various campaigns, alongside the twin challenges of managing people working remotely and treading the political minefield of the Cabinet Office.
3 Tim Pearson
Chief executive, OMD Group
The level-headed Pearson continues to impress as chief executive of both OMD UK and Manning Gottlieb OMD. The latter boasts a 100% client retention rate, including the £20m Estée Lauder business, and has launched the “Creating difference that matters” agency brand proposition. MG OMD was awarded Campaign’s 2020 Media Agency of the Year for the second year running, while Pearson was a strong contender for Campaign’s Media Head of the Year Award and praised by judges as “not just supremely capable but an all-round nice guy”.
4 Ali Reed
UK managing director, Essence
Reed appears to have justified Group M’s decision to create a UK MD role for her this year, having led the relative newcomer to the WPP stable to some of this year’s biggest media accounts wins – ITV and Zoopla. As a keen poker player and ex-member of the Great Britain ten-pin bowling team, Reed knows what it takes to compete and calculate risks.
5 Kate Rowlinson
Chief executive, MediaCom UK
The well-travelled Rowlinson has delivered a laudable first full year in charge as the UK boss of MediaCom, after holding EMEA and global roles. Its new-business record is impressive, having won Uber, Hasbro and Costa Coffee, while the agency has pledged a permanent focus on diverse audiences in its media planning approach and is pushing to improve inclusion internally.
6 Andrew Stephens
Co-founder, Goodstuff Communications
In what has been a tough year for independent agencies, the affable Stephens continues to lead Goodstuff as a progressive and innovative force in UK media. Goodstuff won the Grand Prix campaign at both the Media Week Awards and Campaign Media Awards (for the second year in a row) and Stephens pioneered a cross-indie agency marketing campaign, “Land of independents”, in response to the pandemic. Stephens was jointly shortlisted with business partner Ben Hayes for Media Leader of the Year at the Media Week Awards.
7 Rachel Forde
Chief executive, UM UK
Forde, a passionate advocate of nurturing talent, was recently named as one of the Women of the Future’s 50 “leading lights” for kindness and leadership, qualities sorely needed in an industry currently challenged by remote working and an economic downturn. UM, named Campaign’s EMEA network of the year at the Agency of the Year Awards, also delivered on the new-business front this year, with wins for Energizer, Dr Marten’s and Photobox. Forde also oversaw the launch of the agency’s Futureproof positioning of blending science and art (in that order, she stresses).
8 Jenny Biggam
Biggam has responded to the pandemic challenges by moving the UK’s biggest independent media agency towards three key areas: creative and production; ecommerce; and insight. She took the bold decision to buy out Alpha Century and rebrand it as Supernova, now a creative production arm within the7stars, and oversaw the launch of Beyond Binary, a thoughtful white paper that aims to help brands navigate gender representation issues.
9 Matt Adams
Global managing director, Brainlabs
Having joined from Havas this year, the sharp and steely Adams is on a mission to take the performance marketing start-up to the next level. He has made several key appointments that should help it to offer a wider range of (offline) media planning services, while continuing to be a go-to ad tech partner for brands that want to in-house digital disciplines. Alongside ITV’s Kate Waters, Adams co-chaired this year’s Media Week Awards.
10 Rob Pierre
Founder and chief executive, Jellyfish
Pierre, who, alongside his day job, co-owns a pan-Asian tapas restaurant in London, is hungry for more, having built Jellyfish into a £500m digital media business that is using investment from French group Fimalac to expand. Jellyfish has spent 2020 adding more creative and production talent to its recently acquired creative shop, Social Life, which won an Emmy Award in September for its work on Netflix series Big Mouth. Pierre was this year’s chair of judges for the Campaign Media Awards.