1. DAVID AXELROD
Chief strategist of the Obama campaign as well as a close friend of the candidate, the former Chicago Tribune reporter played a dual role in the campaign, also serving as its highest-profile spokesman. Behind the scenes Mr. Axelrod's AKP&D Message & Media brought campaign chairman David Plouffe to the table. Working with GMMB in Washington, Mr. Axelrod and AKP&D had a major role in the Obama campaign's advertising.
2. MICHAEL PHELPS
Michael Phelps rocked the sports–and sports marketing -- universe by winning a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. The record-setting haul instantly made the swimmer one of the most desirable endorsers on the planet. But he signed with Subway after months of public adoration of McDonald's and, after shunning General Mills' Wheaties for a deal with Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, he was caught with GM's Honey Nut Cheerios.
3. LEE SCOTT
The Walmart CEO will go out on a high note when he retires next year, which seemed impossible only a couple of years ago. After taking over much of U.S. supermarket-retailing on his watch, Walmart has adapted to hitting the end of its geographic expansion frontier in the U.S. It's gone from lagging key rivals to beating almost all of them. The stock's still down during his reign, but at least he's beaten the S&P 500.
4. PATRICK CESCAU
In four years as CEO, he's shed Unilever's reputation as sick man of Europe by finally leading a restructuring that worked. He made share and organic sales growth priorities, and has beat rivals Procter & Gamble and L'Oréal on the top line lately as a result. He also ushered in a truly independent chairman, Michael Treshow, then stepped aside to let him bring in outsider Paul Polman for the considerable work left to be done.
5. STEVE JOBS
The Apple CEO is always a candidate for this list, but 2008 was particularly noteworthy. He survived cancer for another year. He watched Apple's stock get rocked by the souring market, and in turn rocked the market with the iPhone 3G, which brought hefty sales. Ongoing ads, of which he's a close shepherd, fired aggressively on all competition. Watching MS go down with its Gates/Seinfeld and "I'm a PC" ads was just a bonus.
6. LAUREN ZALAZNICK
After the Bravo chief turned the "Queer Eye" network into a series of hit franchises ("Project Runway," "Top Chef," "The Real Housewives" series), Jeff Zucker promoted her to president of NBC Universal's women's lifestyle networks. She now oversees all of NBCU's women's properties, including Oxygen, iVillage and the BlogHer ad network.
7. JASON KILAR
The critics said NBCU and News Corp. would never get a TV website right, there wouldn't be enough advertising, and people didn't want to watch TV on the web anyway. Good thing Jason Kilar wasn't listening. The CEO of Hulu created a service that puts users first and commerce -- even advertising -- second. Hulu became the No. 6 video site in just a few months, and surpassed 235 million views in October, according to ComScore.
8. TOM CARROLL
Last year Omnicom's TBWA
Worldwide promoted Tom Carroll to CEO-president. He did not disappoint, as his agency won global creative and strategic marketing for Visa, an estimated $600 million account, and took over communications responsibilities for Pepsi from Omnicom sibling BBDO
. As chairman of the 4A's, Mr. Carroll has driven the advertising community to prioritize diversity and digital.
9. SAM ZELL
Sam Zell made his mark in 2008 all right -- in red ink. The real-estate magnate took Tribune private in a deal that left the company with $13 billion in debt. He promptly embarked on dramatic revamps of many of its newspapers, built around reducing them to 50-50 ad-edit ratios. But as businesses like the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times saw severe ad-revenue declines, that burden drove the hallowed company into bankruptcy.
10. HOWARD SCHULTZ
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has become
the face of his company's much-talked-about implosion. He retook the reins in January, following a stint on the board of directors, publicly accepting some of the blame for cost-cutting and time-saving measures that devalued the Starbucks brand. Known for his quick-fire decision making, Mr. Schultz calms investors. But company stock has lost more than half its value this year.
People to Watch in 2009
1. CARLOS BRITO, CEO, INBEV
How he proceeds with Anheuser-Busch's iconic marketing machine will have a profound impact.
2. ALAN MULALLY, PRESIDENT-CEO, FORD
Mr. Mulally told Congress recently that unlike GM and Chrysler, Ford doesn't need a federal loan -- unless the economy doesn't start improving in '09.
3. CYRUS MEHRI, ATTORNEY
The civil-rights lawyer has won some of the biggest discrimination suits in the country. Now he's got his sights set on agencies and their woeful lack of diversity.
4. SHERYL SANDBERG, COO, FACEBOOK
The pressure is on for the chief operating officer, who joined from Google, to figure out a way to make money. While it'll probably be an innocuous model of charging of developers for use of the platform, people seem to be expecting something more. Something Google-like.
5. MILES YOUNG, GLOBAL CEO, OGILVY & MATHER
The agency world is watching with interest as Mr. Young officially takes the reins . He has big shoes to fill in succeeding the legendary Shelly Lazarus.
6. QUINCY SMITH, CEO, CBS INTERACTIVE
The former Allen & Co. banker engineered one of the year's biggest deals: the $1.8 billion acquisition of CNet by CBS. Now he has a much harder job: turning CBS into a new-media powerhouse.
7. MAINARDO DE NARDIS, CEO, OMD
In taking a seat that has been vacant for nearly two years, Mr. de Nardis will look to expand the agency's global presence.
8. NICK DENTON, FOUNDER, GAWKER MEDIA
Mr. Denton started laying people off in 2006, proclaiming, "Better to sober up now, before the end of the party." This year he laid off a bunch more people, shut down Valleywag and sold Wonkette, among others.
9. MARC PRITCHARD, GLOBAL MARKETING OFFICER, P&G
Mr. Pritchard is a low-key leader replacing a rock star, but many think he'll bring P&G into the digital age and wring more efficiency from its $8 billion-plus in spending and massive marketing ranks.
10. PAUL POLMAN, CEO, UNILEVER
After missing the brass ring at P&G and Nestlé, he got his chance at Unilever. He faces a tough job navigating a very different corporate culture and trying to accelerate growth amid recession for megabrands such as Dove and Axe.
People With Inspired Names
Johnny Surprise: VP, ad agency Mile 9
Wing Pepper: Exec VP-Microsoft Worldwide, account director, MRM Worldwide
Jessica Ring: Spokeswoman, AT&T
Anne Globe: Head of worldwide marketing and consumer products, Dreamworks Animation SKGLord Sharman of Redlynch:
Former chairman, Aegis GroupDavid Dollar:
Country director for China and Mongolia, World BankBen Money:
VP-international advertising sales research, Asian media firm StarEd Moneypenny:
CPA; director and audit-committee Member, New York & Co.Chris Fortune:
Bank analyst, T. Rowe PriceCarolyn Buck Luce:
Global pharmaceutical leader, Ernst & Young