Strategic Planners of the Year 2018: Jo Arden and Andy Nairn (joint winners)

The chief strategy officers of MullenLowe London and Lucky Generals respectively have shown that planning's future still looks bright.


Jo Arden

Jo Arden is overdue a little industry acclaim. She is a critical player at her agency MullenLowe London, leading a department that picked up both Effie and IPA Effectiveness Awards last year. 

Moreover, she is a serial pitch winner (most recently helping the agency land the Co-operative Bank business) and the personal architect of strategies and campaigns that genuinely matter. 

Last year, Arden was instrumental in campaigns that encouraged victims and survivors of child sex abuse to come forward and tell their story to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, tackled heart disease with the British Heart Foundation and recruited nurses with the NHS.

All three are among the toughest campaigns attempting societal change – particularly the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse. The "Truth project" strategy that Arden came up with sought to inspire people from every part of society to participate and to give a voice to victims and survivors otherwise denied it. It used the campaign line "I will be heard". The agency was unable to share the results of the campaign, but they are believed to be significant.

Moreover the agency’s work for the NHS used Arden’s strategy of taking the massive pride we all feel in the NHS to a more active desire to be part of its future. Ian Hampton, NHS England’s senior campaigns manager, said: "Jo is one of the best strategists I have encountered in my 25 years as a public-sector client. I always look forward to her presenting because I know I’m going to learn something new about my area of expertise. More importantly I know the result will be a great campaign." 

In addition to her client work, Arden has also given back to the industry. Last year she was chair of the Nabs Fast Forward course, a Wacl Gather committee member and a judge for the Warc Brand Purpose Awards. She was also granted an IPA Fellowship.

The judges praised Arden highly. One said she was a "purpose-driven strategic thinker who delivers and turned around the agency". 

Another cited the fact that Arden produces "great work for worthy organisations – but importantly delivered outstanding results".

Andy Nairn

Andy Nairn is well established as one of the UK’s best strategists and he has made a particularly significant contribution to the discipline, his clients and agency in 2018.

He has been outspoken on several key industry issues, from brand safety to big data, and diversity to content creation. And he has created a formidable effectiveness culture at Lucky Generals, which has helped clients as diverse as Amazon, Hostelworld, Budweiser and Yorkshire Tea achieve impressive returns on their communications investments.

For example, Budweiser was the most discussed brand of the Fifa World Cup and AB InBev later announced a 10.1% global uplift for the lager (excluding the US), describing the integrated campaign as its most successful ever. Yorkshire Tea grew 14% in a long-declining market, displacing Tetley for the first time in decades. Funding Circle, meanwhile, a campaign that Nairn personally worked on, grew 61%. In Q2, the brand lent British businesses more than the entire banking sector combined. The company has now been floated at a valuation of about £1.5bn.

Meanwhile, Hostelworld announced that 68 million views of Lucky Generals’ Mariah Carey campaign had helped it boost bookings by 13%. This was the latest instalment in a campaign Nairn devised four years ago and this unusual longevity in the online space won a Grand Prix and a couple of golds at YouTube’s Effectiveness Awards.

Nairn has steered his agency to its first IPA Effectiveness Award, first Effie Award and Grand Prix at YouTube’s Effectiveness Awards. He also led and won two major pitches: the Co-operative Group (lead creative agency across its food, funerals, insurance and healthcare divisions) and Celebrity Cruises (global creative agency).

He also worked on the industry’s first campaign against sexual harassment, TimeTo, where his proposition "Where do you draw the line?" became the inspiration for provocative advertising that got noticed. He has also developed a unique approach to tackling hate crime on social media. His Lucky Bastards initiative takes hate tweets and donates money to corresponding charities. For example, a message about "migrant bastards" generates a payment to the Refugee Council.

At a time when fresh questions are being asked about planning’s future, Nairn has led from the front and shown that the discipline remains an indispensable part of agency life.

As one of the judges said: "An inspiring entry. Breakthrough, provocative ideas with the customer at the heart, delivering success after success for clients as well as a sustainable business." 

Another added: "A really good paper summing up what’s clearly been a great year for Andy and his agency."


Bridget Angear and Craig Mawdsley

2018 was one of the finest years for Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO joint chief strategy officers Bridget Angear and Craig Mawdsley’s double act. They have won new clients and secured more business from existing ones, adding more than £5m of revenue to the agency through their strategic efforts alone. And they helped create some of the year’s most awarded work for Bodyform, and the most effective for Guinness. The pair has also created a standalone revenue stream for the agency, with pure brand strategy projects for diverse clients, including Sainsbury’s, Argos, WorldRemit, the National Lottery, Nutmeg and PepsiCo. These achievements are the result of a long process to build one of the best strategy departments in the industry, with the longest unbroken run of golds in the IPA Effectiveness Awards history. The department also boasts a strong alumni: the appointments last year of Raquel Chicorel at M&C Saatchi and Sophie Lewis at VMLY&R as chief strategy officers take the  total of AMV alumni now running their own strategy departments in London to seven.

Chris Herbert

Strategy director Chris Herbert leads the strategy on the7stars’ high-profile Suzuki Cars account, as well as on new-business wins including Capital One, Sofology, Nintendo and Prostate Cancer UK. His work with Suzuki was widely acclaimed throughout 2018, winning at the Marketing Society’s Marketing Excellence Awards and picking up gold at the IPA Effectiveness Awards. To put those results into context, the7stars was the only media agency shortlisted within any category at the Marketing Excellence Awards – and it was the one that walked away with the trophy. 

It was also the first media agency to have won an IPA Effectiveness gold award without a creative shop co-author. The reason behind the work’s awards success is because it has been responsible for delivering record car sales for the marque for the past two years, making Suzuki the fastest-growing car brand in the industry. The activity delivered incremental £207m sales revenue – a payback of £17.88 for every £1 spent in media and production. Suzuki Cars general manager Tammy Charnley said that the IPA Effectiveness gold was "testament to the brilliance of Chris and the team, who have helped transform our business. Thanks for helping us be brave."

Cat Wiles

VCCP head of planning Cat Wiles is the blue-sky thinker behind last year’s O2 relaunch. She goes above and beyond to search out nuggets in the outer reaches of popular culture, enlisting diverse experts from the worlds of semiotics, ethnography, anthropology, psychology and psychiatry to help her unlock brands’ hidden potential. The gatherings of expertise, something she does for her team on a bi-weekly basis, has proved to be key to the department’s success. Not only is this lunch event a favourite initiative of Wiles among the planners, but it has resulted in a Grand Prix, four golds and more shortlisted papers than any rival at the Marketing New Thinking Awards. Wiles also led the winning global strategy for the Shell pitch last year, which has led to the addition of strategic hubs in New York, Singapore and Shanghai.