Advertising Age brought its Women to Watch franchise to a third continent this week, celebrating the inaugural class of Women to Watch Turkey, in a partnership with local licensing partner MediaCat, part of Kapital Media.
The evening event, held in Istanbul's Swissotel on the European banks of the Bosphorus, honored 14 women in Turkey's advertising and marketing industry. Women to Watch, which has been celebrated for 16 years in the U.S. and was inaugurated in China last fall, acknowledges women who have already accomplished significant milestones--but are poised for even more achievement ahead.
"Receiving an award motivates a person to do a little bit better and it's a great recognition not only for myself but my whole team," said Galya Molinas, region president of Coca-Cola Turkey, Caucasia and Middle Asia. "And if we're able to inspire other people, particularly young people with this, there wouldn't be a happier person than myself."
MediaCat pointed to her resume as someone who has already done great things in Turkey, but is poised to expand her leadership. Ms. Molinas came to her current general-management position after more than a decade of marketing leadership roles at the company, including marketing director of Coca-Cola's Eurasia Group, which includes Russia, India, the Adriatic and Balkan states. In 2009 she was tapped to lead Coca-Cola Turkey as president (a region Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent was once led) and in 2012 was assigned to her current, larger role.
"I think it's a big honor that Advertising Age after China comes to Turkey," said honoree Arzu Ünal, CEO Young & Rubicam İstanbul, whose roster includes one of Turkey's top two advertisers, Vodafone. "It shows Ad Age sees the future and potential of this country and how it is growing."
The 2013 Women to Watch honorees also included Ece Aksel, general manager of Frito Lay Turkey, who has led several successful new product launches in the country; Alev Altınkılıç, founder of local coffee chain Kahve Dünyası, which is successfully going up against global giants Starbucks and Gloria Jean's; and Gülse Birsel, who has had significant influence on Turkish pop culture as executive producer of several of Turkish TV's biggest hits, whose characters often show up in commercials as well. There was also a bit of star power: honoree Nil Karaibrahimgil is a singer-songwriter popular in the Turkish pop music scene as well as one of advertising's most prolific jingle writers.
"It's an honor because MediaCat and Ad Age are prestigious media groups in Turkey and globally and it's emotional for me because it's the first [Women to Watch] in Turkey," said Aslı Günaydın, media director of Unilever Turkey, Central Asia, Iran and Israel. "Most of my colleagues within the Unilever team know that it's globally a very big event so it makes me so proud to be a Woman to Watch."
Ms. Günaydın noted that diversity, including gender diversity, is a key agenda item that she's involved in at Unilever, so she's especially proud to be recognized for her contributions.
The event also bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award on Betûl Mardin, one of the founders of the modern public-relations industry in Turkey. Ms. Mardin, who lectures at universities and remains honorary president of IMAGE, an agency she established in 1987, was presented the award by her granddaughter in a touching on-stage gesture.
"[Women to Watch] is a huge opportunity for the Turkish women coming up. The literacy rates are still too low on the Turkish women's side and they need a group of role models that will help them pursue a better future. ... Fortunately in the advertising sector we have a lot of smart women working and this sector enables equal opportunities for both genders," said Y&R's Ms. Ünal.
Honoree İlkay Gürpınar, chief creative officer at TBWA, Istanbul (which has been named Turkey's agency of the year for five years running) acknowledged creative departments are still a place where women are underrepresented -- and not just in Turkey. She encouraged women to be ok "breaking things, disrupting things and making it up again. ... This creativity thing is a little about breaking things and being a little naughty. Don't be afraid of going into new paths and doors."
Honoree Demet İkiler in addition to running Group M in Turkey as CEO, also works on Turkey's Gender Parity Project and serves on a women's economic development committee at the World Economic Forum, so for her the implications of the honor are all too apparent.
"Women have a lot of support in the marketing and advertising industry, unlike the rest of Turkey, so it's important that we create role models. And this is what we're doing here -- there are 15 women from different backgrounds, different ages, doing different jobs, but they all create a role model for the community of young Turkish women. It makes a lot of sense."
Advertising Age will celebrate a new class of Women to Watch in the U.S. in its June 3 issue (with an event August 1 in New York) and will celebrate its inaugural Women to Watch in Brazil on August 28, with its local licensing partner, Meio & Mensagem. Ad Age's Women to Watch will also return to China with an event in Shanghai on November 7.