Ad Age and MediaCat Celebrate Second Annual Women to Watch in Turkey

Honorees Include Leaders From Coca-Cola, Danone, McDonald's, Vodafone and More

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From L-R: Gamze Çuhadaroğlu, Okşan Atilla Sanön, İpek Zeren Süel, Aslı Bleda, Faika Ergüder, Dilek Dölek Başarır, Lale Saral Develioğlu, Caroline Koç, Pemra Ataç Açıktan, Ajda Pekkan, Bengisu Önal, Elif Çoban, Pelin Özkan, (Editör-in-Chief of MediaCat), Oya Ünlü Kızıl, Bilge Çiftçi Photo Credit: İstavrit Görsel Çözümler 

The theme was "women who make a difference" at the second annual Women to Watch Turkey event, held by Ad Age and its local media partner MediaCat, part of Kapital Media.

The gala celebrated 15 honorees in marketing, advertising, media and popular culture in an evening at Istanbul's Swissotel overlooking the Bosphorus on May 8. Women to Watch, in its 18th year in the U.S., is now held on four continents.

This year's Women to Watch Turkey honorees include Ipek Zeren Suel, integrated marketing communications manager at Coca-Cola Turkey, who is behind such innovations as Coke's first TV billboards and is currently overseeing the campaign celebrating the brand's 50th anniversary in Turkey. Ms. Suel said that one of the campaign's biggest initiatives is the unprecedented transformation of the Coca-Cola logo. Now, on cans, the soda's name is written with a "K" instead of a "C."

"We are the only business unit in the more than 200 countries of Coke that has changed the Coke name into the local language," she said. The move shows "we are part of the culture and how we recognize the happiness and optimism of the Turkish people and how that meshes with our DNA."

The packaging, featured in a TV spot in April, became a Twitter trending topic for 23 hours, starting 10 minutes after the spot aired.

After being named a Woman to Watch, Ms. Suel said, "I'm very excited, honored and happy. You're always proud of your son, your husband, your friends at work, but you don't really have time to be proud of or think of yourself. So I think it's very special."

Another honoree, Gamze Cuhadaroglu, president of Turkey & the Middle East region for Danone Early Life Nutrition, helped to grow the category by 25% a year for each of the last three years in Turkey.

On the creative side, Pemra Atac Aciktan is a double threat who not only runs her own design-driven agency Daniska but also serves as the creative group head-VP of Turkey's first digital ad agency Rabarba, know for its standout creative work.

"I prefer the 'to watch' part of the honor," she said. Ms. Aciktan said she's most proud of her very diverse output, given her different roles. "I'm an art director, I studied fine arts, I have a design company and an advertising company. So I have a lot of toys and produced a lot of things in design, advertising and digital advertising. I hope next year will be the same, and I'll have many more toys to play with."

Honoree Vuslat Dogan Sabanci is chairwoman at Hurriyet, one of the most influential news dailies in Turkey. She is known for both her business acumen and her social responsibility efforts. In 2011, for example, she helped launch a platform for uniting all womens' issues-related NGOs under one roof in order to more powerfully lobby for better political representation of women in Turkish Parliament.

Marketers from major brands including McDonald's, Vodafone, confectionery marketer Solen, and Turkcell along with ad agency execs from Publicis and Medina Turguy DDB were also named Women to Watch (See full list of honorees below).

Honorees also came from pop culture, including writer Elif Safak, the most widely-read female novelist in Turkey. And Turkey is the only Women to Watch country to include a Lifetime Achievement Award, given this year to Ajda Pekkan, a musician, actress and entrepreneur. The prolific star has released more than 20 albums in her career and started her own fashion brand Twist. She closed the event wiith a spectacular duet with up-and-coming Turkish singer Bengisu Önal, who provided the night's entertainment. Their performance was covered by Turkey's news media.

Women to Watch Turkey was the first Women to Watch event of the year, and will be followed by the U.S., where honorees will be announced in the May 26 issue of Ad Age and honored at the annual luncheon on Aug. 6. Then it's off to Sao Paulo for the second annual Women to Watch Brazil event in August, followed by Women to Watch China, in its third year, this fall in Shanghai.

The complete list of 2014 Women to Watch Turkey honorees:

Vuslat Dogan Sabani, chairwoman, Hurriyet

Elif Safak, Turkey's most widely-read female novelist

Women to Watch Turkey Lifetime Achievement Winner Ajda Pekkan
Women to Watch Turkey Lifetime Achievement Winner Ajda Pekkan

Oya Unlu Kizil, Director of Corporate Communication and External Affairs, Koc Group

Caroline Koc, Founder of Turkish home textile brand Harmelique and Turkish coffee brand Selamlique

Elif Coban, CEO, Solen

Oksan Atilla Sanon, Eczacibasi Holding, VP-Corporate Communications and Sustainable Development

Dilek Dolek Basarir, Managing Director, McDonald's Turkey

Gamze Cuhadaroglu, President, Turkey & Middle East Region, Danone Early Life Nutrition

Vilge Ciftci, Brand and Marketing Strategy Director, Vodafone Turkey

Ipek Zeren Suel, Integrated Marketing Communications Manager, The Coca-Cola Company

Lale Saral Develioglu, Head of International Business Development, Turkcell

Faika Erguder, CEO, Publicis Turkey

Pemra Atac Aciktan, VP-Creative Group Head, Rabarba and Founder, Daniska

Asli Bleda, Board Member, Strategist, Medina Turgul DDB and Member of Administrative Council, Turkish Association of Advertising

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