Top 10 marketing directors

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1. Greg Nugent

In this Olympic year, the top accolade must go to Locog’s director of brand, marketing and culture, who spent just over three years helping to make London 2012 the spectacular success it was. Despite keeping himself in the background, the former Eurostar marketer was able to put his stamp on the Games, ensuring that the recruitment of Games Makers, the Cultural Olympiad and the torch relays were such a hit. And, having played a part in pulling off one of the biggest events in our lifetimes, the energetic Nugent then moved to the US to volunteer for the Obama election campaign.

2. Roisin Donnelly

One of Nugent’s biggest sources of revenue was Procter & Gamble, and Donnelly’s "proud sponsors of mums" campaign proved a great success among the noise of other Olympic tie-ins. A fierce advocate of marketing’s ability to drive business, Donnelly has set her focus on emerging markets with the goal of acquiring one billion new customers by 2015. A former president of the Marketing Society, Donnelly has been appointed to the ASA Council and remains one of the marketing world’s biggest and most industrious assets.

3. Jill McDonald

Despite now occupying the chief executive’s office at McDonald’s, the Big Mac-loving former marketing chief remains a powerful voice within the industry. As well as activating the brand’s own Olympic-related marketing communications (including the world’s biggest McDonald’s restaurant at the Olympic Park), she spent her year overseeing yet another period of increased sales – aided, no doubt, by the creditable advertising produced by Leo Burnett.

4. Spencer McHugh

Having finished 2011 with a record number of new contract customers and with plans to differentiate the T-Mobile and Orange tariffs (with Orange becoming more premium and T-Mobile focusing on unlimited data), McHugh set about one of the biggest marketing challenges of his career – the launch of EE as a customer brand. Having acquired exclusivity for the roll-out of a 4G service, McHugh picked Saatchi & Saatchi for the epic task of promoting the brand and raising awareness of what the technology actually offers.

5. Mariano Dima

A former Vodafone and Levi’s marketing chief, Dima was busy this year championing Visa’s contactless payment system (and as any visitor to the Olympic sites will have noticed, used his sponsorship well, if not uncontroversially, to raise awareness of the technology). He also deserves credit for Visa’s use of the gold-medal-winning sporting icon Usain Bolt in its advertising this year.

6. Andy Fennell

Much like Donnelly, Diageo’s Fennell has long been an effective cheerleader for the industry. But, this year, he borrowed from Unilever’s "crafting brands for life" initiative, which aims to foster "more magic, less logic" with his "shooting for 10" philosophy. This encouraged Diageo marketers and its roster of agencies to take more risks and transform the creativity of its marketing. While the results are still eagerly anticipated, all credit to the clubbable Fennell for setting the challenge and empowering his team of marketers accordingly.

7. Craig Inglis

Having successfully avoided falling into the "difficult second album" trap that has befallen so many others, the likeable and fun Inglis continues to oversee powerful and distinctive advertising for the John Lewis brand (even though so many other brands now try to ape it). In the process, the former trainee on the Thomson Holidays graduate scheme has helped to make multimillionaires of the Adam & Eve founding partners who were responsible for creating John Lewis’ award-winning advertising.

8. Marc Mathieu

Unilever’s Mathieu – the ying to the yang of his boss, the chief marketing and communications officer, Keith Weed, who is pushing an equally worthy sustainability agenda – has pressed on with his "more magic, less logic" approach to marketing. Its something that now pervades the organisation as it asks its agencies to take greater creative risks. Success at Cannes for the long-running Lynx/Axe brand followed and it is hoped that this will be mirrored by others within the 400-plus brand portfolio soon. Nonetheless, it is heartening that a company such as Unilever has thrown off the shackles of the spreadsheets and accountants that previously constrained its marketing activity in its quest to "unlock the magic".

9. Sally Cowdry

Change has been on the cards at O2 – all the more remarkable given the consistency of its marketing communications for years. Cowdry, a similarly consistent presence at the brand, has sought to evolve O2 away from being seen just as a mobile telephony brand. As well as overhauling its advertising (within which the O2 Priority Moments location-based rewards service has become such a key plank), she has introduced a more fun and music-led approach with its "things are changing" TV spot.

10. David Pemsel

The former ITV marketing director, displaced when Adam Crozier rolled his job into that of the director of programming, Peter Fincham, looks rather more settled at Guardian News & Media, where he has been named the chief commercial officer. First, he helped in the process of hiring Bartle Bogle Hegarty to create The Guardian’s acclaimed "three little pigs" campaign that led to his appointment as the chief marketing officer in June. He then also took sole charge of revenue generation at the paper – a challenge given its dwindling circulation but one he’s confident of succeeding in.