Marketing's rising stars

They're young and talented and you may have worked with some of them on the UK's biggest and best-known brands. Here, Campaign profiles the new generation of leading marketers.

Marketing, it's asserted with clockwork regularity, is undergoing seismic changes. Online spend is mushrooming, the mass media are fragmenting and integrated campaigns are blooming. Yet, among the flurry of copy and opinion describing and detailing what advertising and media agencies should and shouldn't do as they attempt to negotiate a post-digital landscape, relatively little mention is made of the changing role of perhaps the most important person after the consumer in this process, the marketer.

The role of the marketing department remains relatively unchanged - to drive growth through product sales. But the skill-set of those in the discipline is undoubtedly changing. "The ideal marketer is a multi-headed beast; a paragon who combines the vision and values of Anita Roddick, the communications nous of Richard Branson; the commercial savvy of Sir Alan Sugar and the looks of Innocent's Richard Reed," Nick Smith, the Marketing Society chairman, says. Add a touch of knowhow a la Tesco's Terry Leahy and you might come close to creating the type of person best placed to succeed as marketing breaks new ground in new media with greater frequency than ever before.

For those who feel that list of marketing celebrity demonstrates skills beyond their own, more modest, capabilities, there is hope. Success is as much about dedication, passion and experience as it is about innate skill; it is possible to become a better marketer. The Marketing Society's Manifesto for Marketing offers three key roles for marketers in business in the 21st century - they must be customer champions, business innovators and growth-drivers, and there are training programmes to achieve those aims.

"This means you may need to behave in a slightly different style and develop some new capabilities," Smith says. "The most important of these are to be accountable, collaborative and commercial." So, the successful marketers of the future need not only to have a vision for their brands, but also to be able to set specific goals for them and to be able to measure what has been achieved and the value created. "In a world where customers are buying experiences, not things, you also need to be able to lead your colleagues throughout the organisation so that the experience delivered to the customer matches the brand promise in the advertising," Smith adds.

The ten young marketers profiled here have all demonstrated that mixture of skill and experience that takes marketing beyond its traditional silo into a discipline that informs and affects every aspect of their company. Indeed, two of them are previous winners of the Marketing Society's Young Marketer of the Year competition, one is a runner-up, and a fourth, Honda's Ian Armstrong, a graduate of the society's Marketing Leaders Programme. "They have all demonstrated that they are outstanding marketers in their own organisations and I'm sure they'll go on to even greater things," Smith says.


Wendy McMillan has a wealth of experience gathered from years of working in such places as San Francisco, Shanghai and South Africa - mainly with the marketing consultancy Bain. She is also a marketer who has pitted her wits against some of the global business world's finest brains, and has an MBA from Insead.

When she returned to the UK two years ago, she joined BT as the head of proposition for its voice business. Since then, the 31-year-old has shot up the company's marketing ladder and, eight weeks ago, was promoted to become the director of consumer service management.

John Petter, the chief operating officer of BT's consumer division and her previous manager, says: "She has left a massive hole in my team. She is able to be analytical and smart, while being able to connect analysis with an empathy for the consumer. She is also totally undaunted by responsibility and was running a business with a £4.5 billion turnover and a £50 million marketing budget."


Matt Combes hails from that rich seam of marketing talent: Honda UK. Nine years working for a small marketing team at the car manufacturer has taught him the importance of responsibility and accountability for marketing decisions - skills that he is now bringing to bear at his new company, Vodafone.

Combes, 33, started his career at Anderson Lembke, a small advertising agency based in Bristol. He won and ran the Hitachi and Andrew Weir Hotel Group accounts before the lure of Honda drew him client-side. "I went to two interviews, at Honda and at the AA. To be honest, it was the car on offer at Honda that tipped the scales," he admits.

Six months into his new role as the head of brand at Vodafone UK, Combes now finds himself less focused on advertising and more interested in the nebulous world of brand strategy. "It's about moving the Vodafone brand from the rational to the emotional and bringing the brand to life," Combes explains.


Ian Armstrong is part of the Honda marketing team that has helped the car manufacturer move its advertising away from focusing on its generic brand values of safety and reliability to some of the most bold, confident and memorable commercials this decade.

And, there is a truth in the power of dreams. "I have an absolute passion for cars, motorcycles and all things toylike," he says about his decision in 2003 to move to Honda from Britvic after eight years.

As a graduate trainee at Britvic, Armstrong quickly found his feet and worked his way up to senior brand manager roles across two of its largest brands: Pepsi and Tango. His former boss Andrew Marsden, the Britvic marketing director, says: "Ian is very level-headed and not prone to having his strategy blown around all over the place."

Agencies agree and praise this trait. "He's quite blunt and agencies know that there'll be no dancing around handbags," Linda Smith, the chief executive officer of Starcom Group, says.


For a 27-year-old, Estelle Alty has a lot of responsibility on Unilever's Dove brand. She is currently managing the launch of Dove ProAge - a range of products targeting women aged 45 and over. This is the first full cross-category Dove brand launch, meaning it covers skincare, cleansing, deodorant and haircare.

She says: "It is part of a full global launch, and my responsibility is specifically the UK launch, managing the UK range and communications mix, media planning and full local activation plan."

She started her career at Nestle in 2001, within the Rowntree division, where she worked as a brand manager in the gifting department, before moving to Unilever in 2006.

Alty is confident that her young shoulders can handle the responsibility, and points to her 2005 Marketing Society Young Marketer of the Year award as proof. She picked up this award for not only launching six new products in that year alone, but also for implementing strategy changes and a step-change in profitability.


This marketer started her career agency-side. After completing her studies at Cardiff University, Nicola Sharpe spent three years in client services at Draft Worldwide.

Despite taking on a new role at Tullo Marshall Warren in 2000, agency work didn't satisfy her. She says: "I'm a bit of a control freak, and having a grip on the budget makes everything easier to control."

In 2003, Sharpe joined Sainsbury's as its direct marketing manager. She's since risen through the ranks and now heads the entire DM team in her role as relationship marketing manager.

As well as driving revenue for the supermarket by using its Nectar data, Sharpe has helped implement more emotional marketing tools, such as its birthday gift tokens and Fresh Ideas magazine.

Ultimately, her agency background has been the driving force of her success. She explains: "Moving client-side has given me a brilliant insight into how to get the best out of agencies. If you bring the agency with you, the results are going to be so much better."


There's little Dominic Rowell doesn't know about food marketing. The 34-year-old started in dog food at Spillers, moved to PepsiCo to work on the Walkers brand, spent seven years at Sainsbury's and then took the head of marketing role at McDonald's. So why the decision to join the Carphone Warehouse as its marketing director?

"It's a new challenge," Rowell says. "Carphone Warehouse is a very powerful brand in an exciting position."

Rowell is well positioned to take the Carphone Warehouse to the next level, as the company attempts to gain its FTSE 100 listing. He was the brand manager on the successful Sainsbury's Central concept, worked on the launch of Nectar and then took the head of advertising position - he was the man who ran the infamous Sainsbury's pitch which retained Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Jamie Oliver. He views that pitch as one of his greatest marketing achievements. "It was the brave thing to do to stick with AMV. It gave Sainsbury's a strong marketing edge," he says.


This salesman-turned-marketer has been moving up the ranks client-side, gaining a wealth of commercial marketing experience along the way. He attributes his success to his background in sales. "My approach to marketing is based on a fundamental consumer insight," Mark Inskip says.

After three years in sales, Inskip joined Centrica in 2000 and during his five-year stint at the company, he progressed from the e-business manager at house.co.uk to the prominent position of senior marketing manager for Energy Telco & Financial services.

He most recently worked for the mortgage broker TML Financial Solutions as the marketing director and contributed to the delivery of a £10 million multichannel DM plan to drive customer acquisition. This led the FTSE 250-listed company to double its return on investment from marketing.

He will shortly be joining Accenture Marketing Sciences on an interim basis to help build and launch its online proposition.


Despite their impressive credentials, not many of the marketers in this list can boast winning the Young Marketer of the Year at the Marketing Society for Excellence awards among their achievements. Nimali Weerasinghe, the international marketing manager for Visit London, did it in 2006.

She picked up the prestigious award for a campaign targeting single working Japanese women, the most profitable market sector in the Japanese travel market. The campaign resulted in more than £21 million new revenue for the City of London.

Russell Hopson, who runs the Visit London account at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, says Weerasinghe truly deserves the high praise showered upon her and he enjoys working with her.

"We got the train home together the other night," he says. "In its previous guise as the London Tourist Board, the organisation was quite simply a shambles, but with Nimali's help, Visit London has become a truly effective and well-run machine."


By her 30th birthday, Jane Walker had already trailblazed agency ranks; she joined Grey as graduate trainee, moved to Partners BDDH in 2000 and, within three years, was poached by Publicis as the account director on Procter & Gamble and Renault.

"Jane showed huge promise as an account director: thoughtful, hard-working, logical, astute," Neil Quick, P&G's global account director at Publicis, recalls, adding that astuteness is probably what prompted her move to Yum! Brands as the brand manager on KFC in 2004. There she implemented KFC's £19 million media budget, including Bartle Bogle Hegarty's "soul food" campaign. "Jane has a natural instinct for strong creative work, and she marries this effortlessly with a strategic and business diligence," Rick Hirst, the business director at BBH, says.

Walker moved to Premier Foods as the group brand manager on Hovis. Now all eyes will turn to the brand and DDB London's output under her watch.


Tom Lucas has that enviable skill-set of having worked on both sides of the advertising fence. Before joining the marketing world, he spent years working "mainly in account handling roles" at agencies such as Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and St Luke's.

However, just to add that little extra dimension to his repertoire, he then left the industry for a year to train as a copywriter at Hertfordshire College. This is something that Jeremy Hennings, his M&C Saatchi account director, thinks puts him head and shoulders above other clients.

"He has the strange ability to be both strategically astute and creatively smart, which is critical in TV, because it is such a fast-moving medium with such difficult briefs to deal with. However, Tom manages to bring clarity in everything he does."

His role at ITV sees him controlling the entire marketing mix for all of the broadcaster's output outside of its main ITV1 channel. A task he sees as much more fulfilling than his days in advertising.