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Groundbreakers. Innovators. Creative thinkers. These outstanding female leaders are reinventing the game in marketing, advertising, tech and media in Europe

Jenny Biggam

Co-Founder, 7stars

Jenny Biggam

Co-Founder, 7stars

By Alexandra Jardine

As the founder of 7stars, the U.K.'s biggest independent media agency, Jenny Biggam has found success by striking out and doing things differently in a market dominated by big agencies that benefit from their holding companies' global client rosters.

Founded in 2005, 7stars has 250 million pounds (about $310 million) in annual billings and clients such as Nintendo, Discovery, Iceland supermarkets and Suzuki. But it's also known for its individual work culture, which has seen the company rated in the top three of the Sunday Times newspaper's 'Best Companies to Work For' survey for the last four years.

Prior to founding 7stars, Ms. Biggam had worked for large media agencies like Carat and Zenith, and "felt all the big media agencies operated in very similar ways."

In particular, she disliked the big agencies' lack of transparency with clients – and felt there was a gap in the market for advertisers that weren't huge multinationals, but who weren't small fry either. "These clients were often sidelined, even though they could be spending up to 30 million pounds (almost $40 million) in the U.K."

7stars operates under a different model, negotiating only on behalf of the client and with any rebate going back to the advertiser. But its work culture is also different: there is no limit on holiday time for staff, no job titles and no timesheets. In keeping with the "7stars" name (from a pub near the original office), employees are offered a seven-week sabbatical after seven years.

Ms. Biggam believes perks like these give employees "a greater sense of autonomy." "People feel they are being treated as adults. They feel more empowered and that their opinion matters, even at a junior level. For clients, it means that the people they are working with are more committed and more passionate about what they are doing."

But with 7stars now at 160 people and growing, Ms. Biggam is aware of the need to keep this small company ethos strong (the entire company still meets once a week to discuss ideas.) To that end this year she set up a sister agency, Bountiful Cow, with more of a data-driven focus; it operates out of a different office and has its own team. She also joined the board of Blackwood Seven, the Danish AI-driven media agency, as it launches in the U.K.

Hometown:
Islington, London
First job:
In my Grandpa's ironmonger's shop in Glasgow
Ever lived abroad:
In the States as a teenager.
Best advice you've ever had:
A principle is only a principle when it costs you money – all the best businesses act with integrity.
One thing about you that will surprise people:
My inability to type with two hands.
What advice would you give other women:
Be decisive. You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do, so always be brave, take initiatives and try not to fear failure.
Photo credit: Courtesy 7stars.

Gabriela Diaz-Guardamino

Marketing Director, Ikea Spain

Gabriela Diaz-Guardamino

Marketing Director, Ikea Spain

By Laurel Wentz

Ikea has become the most admired advertiser in Spain with a platform that associates the brand more with the idea of home and family than selling furniture, and barely mentions the retailer's name in its most popular ads.

In Spain's annual Agency Scope ranking done by advertising consultants Scopen and announced in February, Ikea was named the company most admired for its marketing and advertising (the Spaniards are a tough crowd; Coca-Cola ranked only No. 8). And Gabriela Diaz-Guardamino, Ikea's marketing director who oversees everything from brand marketing to CRM, jumped to the No. 2 spot in the top-10 ranking of Spain's most outstanding marketing professionals.

Ikea Spain's most popular ad so far, called "The Other Letter," arose from "our desire to always experiment and do things differently," Ms. Diaz-Guardamino said.

Ikea gathered 10 families before Christmas and asked the children to write a letter to the Three Kings (Spain's version of Santa Claus) about what they'd like for Christmas, and then a second letter, to their parents. The first letter asked for toys. But the kids' second letters were all about the gift they really wanted – to see more of their mothers and fathers. The parents, often tearfully, read their kids' requests to spend more time together, read stories, play soccer and more. The video quickly racked up more than 12 million views.

"We did it as an experiment without knowing what would happen, and it turned out wonderfully," Ms. Diaz-Guardamino said. "Christmas doesn't have to be all about consumption, there are more important things."

Like family meals. Ikea's insight with "Cenologia" ("Dinnerology") is that Spanish children spend more hours on homework than kids do in the rest of Europe, and that even in family-oriented Spain, family dinners often don't happen during the week, she said. So Ikea started a movement in favor of less homework, more dinners that has quickly gained supporters.

"When a company is the leader, you run the risk of being very inward looking," she said of the challenge of being the market leader in the home furnishings category. "You stop being curious and seeing what the consumer needs. We try to put the client at the center of everything we do."

As Spain's economy has gradually improved, pent-up demand helped boost Ikea's sales by 9.8% in 2016, and add an additional 1.5 points of market share, from 13.3% to 14.8%.

"We have to tell the story of our products, and be involved in the community, and not just be a retailer," she said.

Ms. Diaz-Guardamino started on the agency side in account management, joining Ikea in 1999 and rising through the ranks to head marketing. She is also on the Spanish company's board of directors, and last year became part of Ikea's new Global Brand Committee. In March, she was off to Tokyo for a week.

Ikea's agency, McCann Spain, is behind all the campaigns, as well as more light-hearted work like "Friends of Terraces," in which an Ikea squad visits people who have been turned in by their neighbors for not making good use of their terraces, and shows them through cardboard VR-like glasses how that space could be a paradise with Ikea outdoor furniture.

Hometown:
Madrid
First job:
Agency account exec
Ever lived abroad:
Two years in Paris.
Best advice you've ever gotten:
It is better to say "I'm sorry" than ask for permission.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be:
Women who have contributed to changing the world. Like Belva Ann Bennett (one of the first defenders of women's rights in the U.S.), Marie Curie, Coco Chanel, Sally Ride, Amelia Earhart, Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei, and Madonna. It would be a fun dinner!
What advice would you give other women:
Gender equality isn't a question of possibility, but reality. Three values that should inspire us: Learn from those at our side, don't be afraid to be wrong, and be courageous at the key moments in our careers. "Success" equals seizing opportunities + hard work.
Photo credit: Courtesy Ikea Spain.

Mel Edwards

CEO Europe, Middle East and Africa, Wunderman

Mel Edwards

CEO Europe, Middle East and Africa, Wunderman

By Alexandra Jardine

Mel Edwards says she is someone who "knows how to make a business good," and in the last few years, she's certainly proved it.

She joined WPP's Wunderman in London as CEO in 2012 after a dozen years at marketing agency LIDA, where she had worked her way up from group account director to CEO. In 2015, she was named Wunderman's CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in charge of 72 offices across 23 markets. Her region grew revenue by 4% last year, and added 34 new clients. The most recent win, the $19 million consolidated BT/EE account in the U.K., was one of the biggest account wins in direct marketing and CRM in recent years.

Wunderman EMEA has also made waves creatively, winning more than 130 creative awards in the past year, in particular for work from France for Danone. Ms. Edwards has high hopes for the 2017 Cannes Lions Festival, with Wunderman's "Coins of Hope" campaign from Belgium, in which the agency persuaded the Belgian Ministry of Finance to print the faces of missing kids on two million euro coins.

It hasn't always been easy, said Ms. Edwards, comparing her early days at Wunderman to trying to do a startup while turning an oil tanker around. But she believes passionately in instilling a strong culture across companies, describing herself as a specialist in "getting people to believe." "It's not rocket science, but it's about going in and sitting in the middle of the office and talking to the staff about what you are doing. And then they will do the good work for your clients."

Part of that is a strong commitment to diversity. Ms. Edwards is the driving force behind "Pass It On," a new global initiative created to demonstrate Wunderman's commitment to getting more women into senior leadership roles. Wunderman CEOs in each market have been asked to nominate women with potential and the first meeting, with 60 women from across Ms. Edwards' region, happened in March at a hotel in the Cotswolds, with sessions on setting goals, the "fear ladder" and "my gremlin."

"We are expecting women to come out feeling empowered, but we realize we also have to train to their bosses to expect that," she said.

Ms. Edwards was also invited by WPP CEO Martin Sorrell to sit on the Steering Committee for Gender Parity for the World Economic Forum; she's the only WPP representative.

Above all, diversity is crucial to business, and isn't simply about "being nice to women." "Clients expect it," she says. "Life isn't all men and you need to have that balance."

Hometown:
Brackley
First job:
Graduate trainee at DDM (agency now defunct)
Best advice you've ever had:
Treat everyone like you would want to be treated.
One thing about you that will surprise people:
Every opportunity I get, I love to dance (I think I'm the greatest dancer).
Photo credit: Courtesy Wunderman.

Tracey Follows

Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, The Future Laboratory

Tracey Follows

Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, The Future Laboratory

By Emma Hall

A trip to the Future Laboratory begins with a step into the past: visitors have to climb through a hobbit-sized door into the yard of a Dickensian townhouse before they can access the company's vision of what lies ahead.

Inside, Tracey Follows, the chief strategy and innovation officer, is preparing for every conceivable future. Donald Trump's victory and Britain's exit from the European Union did not come as a surprise to Ms. Follows, who deliberately operates outside of the London media bubble – she recently moved away from the capital and into the Midlands – and is always ready to think the unthinkable.

Brands from all over the world buy into Ms. Follows' insights. Last year she completed a four-part study for Google on the future of entertainment, and she has recently worked with Facebook, Diageo, the BBC and Telefonica. Innovation, she believes, should always be born out of a long-term vision and not a short-term activation. "It's not about being right," she said. "It's about being prepared. Looking at every possibility."

Luxury brands are another big customer. "The inclusivity of digital has been a challenge to brands that have always dealt in exclusivity," she said. "When you can get a luxury coffee, what is luxury any more?"

In these uncertain times, brands look to Ms. Follows to help them navigate change. It's not just CMOs, but CEOs, CTOs, and even HR and procurement. "They are getting a sense of overwhelm," she said. "They know they can't action all the trends, so they want to know how to prioritize."

As consumers split into progressive and traditional audiences, Ms. Fellows is invited to help brands reconcile the two. "It's like the polarization in politics, but brands can't choose one over the other."

Ms. Follows joined The Future Laboratory in February 2016, having been a marketer, mostly for telecoms brands, earlier in her career. She then worked at London agencies Lowe, VCCP and JWT, before taking advantage of a year off to fulfill a non-compete agreement to study Foresight at the University of Houston.

Through her Female Futures forum, Ms. Follows advises women entrepreneurs, and she founded the Female Futures Bureau, which promotes women futurists in a field that is still dominated by men. She also recently co-authored a book called "98% Pure Potato" about the pioneers of account planning, and joined the council of the U.K.'s regulatory body, the Advertising Standards Authority, where her views on shifting boundaries and norms are valuable. She has also spoken at the United Nations in New York about the future of gender equality and the pay gap between women and machines.

So what's next? Artificial intelligence is dominating the conversation, but the flipside, Ms. Follows says, is that emotional intelligence – a traditionally female quality – is held in even higher esteem. "We could do well out of AI," she said, "Because EI is not easily replicable. The future is whatever we want to create."

Hometown:
Lichfield, Staffordshire
First job:
Tesco checkout
Hobbies:
Sci-fi; karaoke, future-stalking.
What is one thing about you that will surprise people:
I voted Leave [in Brexit vote].
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be:
David Bowie.
What advice would you give other women:
Work out your superpower; and then bring that superpower to everything you do.
Photo credit: Courtesy The Future Laboratory

Sarah Golding

Chief Executive, CHI & Partners

Sarah Golding

Chief Executive, CHI & Partners

By Emma Hall

Sarah Golding is a woman who likes a challenge. Last year she became sole chief executive of London agency CHI & Partners and this month takes over as president of the U.K. ad agency association, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. She's determined to make a mark in both roles.

Smart, stylish, and no-nonsense, Ms. Golding's background in new business helped WPP-backed CHI win some big accounts in 2016. New clients include Toyota across Europe, Rupert Murdoch's News U.K. (owner of The Times and The Sun newspapers), and Kraft Heinz.

For News U.K. and Toyota, Ms. Golding has been instrumental in setting up new-model agencies. Pulse Creative is News U.K.'s 75-person, on-site agency, created in collaboration with media agency m/SIX (also part of CHI's parent The & Partnership), and Wunderman.

The Toyota model – called &Toyota – has 11 hubs around Europe, with the creative heart located in the London office.

Within the main agency, Ms. Golding has shaken up the creative department by hiring a new joint executive creative director and breaking apart the traditional art director-copywriter teams.

She explained, "When a brief comes in, we cherry-pick different talents and skills, so you might get three senior people or just one junior person. It's not a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach, and it's more stimulating for creatives to work with different people."

CHI's creative reputation got a big boost at the Cannes Lions festival last year, where it was the U.K.'s most-awarded independent agency.

CHI – which she joined soon after it was founded in 2001 – is only the second agency Ms. Golding has worked for, but that fierce loyalty, coupled with her zest for change, makes a powerful combination. "We've tried to keep our independent spirit," she said, "to move at a faster pace. We have the resources of WPP but we remain familial and informal. That 2% is a big difference." (WPP owns 49% of The &Partnership).

And as the new president of the IPA starting in April, she promises "a future facing" agenda.

How does she do it all? I love the industry and that helps," she says. She also admits to being "super-organized" and adds, "I've never missed a parents' evening or a kids assembly and I never will – and I hope I can say that I don't let people down at the agency either. It also helps being married to someone in the industry." [Her husband, David Golding, is one of the four founders of Adam & Eve.]

Hometown:
Blackburn
First job:
Trainee at London agency Lowe Howard-Spink
Ever lived abroad:
Lived in Marseille for a year working in a French lycee.
Best advice you've ever had:
Be yourself.
One thing about you that will surprise people:
I was in Cambridge Footlights (Cambridge University's drama club that started the careers of stars like Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie) and did the national tour.
What advice would you give other women:
Don't compromise on the job, the family or the husband!
Photo credit: Courtesy CHI & Partners.

Shelina Janmohamed

VP, Ogilvy Noor

Shelina Janmohamed

VP, Ogilvy Noor

By Angela Doland

Lately, there's been a surge of portrayals of Muslims in ads from brands like Amazon, Microsoft and CoverGirl. Nike just released an athletic hijab, and fashion designers sent models down the runway in headscarves.

Shelina Janmohamed applauds the change but wants more. What would she consider a real breakthrough for Muslim consumers? "When a major global brand creates a very innovative product line that goes hand in hand with a really innovative communications campaign."

Ms. Janmohamed, the London-based VP at Ogilvy Noor, the WPP agency's Islamic branding and marketing consultancy, is one of Ad Age's 2017 Women to Watch Europe for her thought leadership on Muslim consumers. She helps big companies like Unilever on their strategies and also works with smaller, Muslim-oriented brands, such as Ieat Foods, which offers halal versions of British and international specialties and sells in grocery stores in the U.K. and beyond. (Small startup brands have laid the groundwork for international brands getting more interested in Muslim consumers.)

Ms. Janmohamed, an Oxford-educated brand strategist and writer, says companies should do more to tap the potential of "Generation M," the millennial population among the world's 1.6 million Muslims. "Generation M" is also the title of her book published in 2016, her second after "Love in a Headscarf," a coming-of-age memoir about her search for love and experiencing the traditional matchmaking process. She says young Muslims are driving growth in the category of halal foods and lifestyle products, expected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2020.

"These are not millennials who happen to be Muslim -- their lens on the world is very much framed by faith, for them that is the starting point," she said. Young Muslims are both faithful and modern, and very brand-conscious. Consumption is a part of their identity. They're thinking about whether food is halal, or permitted by Islamic law, but they're increasingly concerned by what's tayyeb, what fits the ethos behind halal, Ms. Janmohamed said. "It's not just about how an animal is slaughtered, it's also about the way the animal lived," she said. "It's not just, 'were the clothes modest?' it's 'were the people who made them paid fairly?'"

Brands can reach Muslim consumers not just with modest wear or halal food, but also in areas they may not be thinking about, she said.

That might mean a shampoo for covered hair, since oil tends to build up faster on covered hair, she said. (Unilever's Sunsilk has tackled that issue.) Or a beverage enriched with vitamin D, since women who cover can be susceptible to a deficiency, she said. Or cosmetics with no alcohol or animal products in them.

"Muslim consumers have long said that what they are seeking is to be recognized as consumers just like everybody else," Ms. Janmohamed said. "They want to be engaged with in the same sophisticated way other consumers are dealt with."

Hometown:
London
Ever lived abroad:
Bahrain
Hobbies:
Writing, traveling, tweeting about how awesome women are.
Best advice you've ever had:
You have a bigger purpose in life.
One thing about you that will surprise people:
I've climbed Kilimanjaro, the highest point of Africa.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be:
Nothing beats a date night dinner with the husband.
What advice would you give other women:
Find your own voice and use it to make a change.
Photo credit: Courtesy Ogilvy Noor.

Tatiana Jouanneau

Chief Marketing Officer, Duracell International

Tatiana Jouanneau

Chief Marketing Officer, Duracell International

By Emma Hall

As CMO of Duracell International, Tatiana Jouanneau has nursed the brand through a transfer of ownership: Procter & Gamble completed the sale of Duracell to Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway in February 2016.

"Batteries are like a beating heart," she said, "and at P&G that heart was connected to all the vessels of the ecosystem. We've had to cut out the heart, being very careful that it doesn't stop beating, and then artfully insert it into a different body."

Duracell represented just 2% of P&G's turnover, but benefited from the other 98% in terms of scale and support. Now, that 2% has to be converted to 100% in its own right. "There are so many aspects to it," Ms. Jouanneau said, "I've had to deal with data, logistics, compliance. It's a great learning curve."

Ms. Jouanneau is also responsible for marketing Duracell in all 81 territories where the brand owns the famous pink bunny icon [only in North America is the bunny associated with Energizer batteries], and last year, the 43-year-old bunny got a girlfriend for the first time. "We wanted to introduce a touch of humor," she said.

For 2017, the marketing plan is to focus on innovation and quality, and build on an established partnership with Disney. "Duracell is only as relevant as the devices it powers," Ms. Jouanneau said. "We have to keep looking at upcoming trends."

A Christmas spot by Grey London showed the bunny following Santa's trail and making sure that all the toys had a Duracell battery. The work signaled a new strategic direction, emphasizing that toys are not just possessions, they create memories. "The importance placed on the right level of detail – like a long-lasting Duracell battery – is proving rich creative territory," Ms. Jouanneau said.

Geneva-based Ms. Jouanneau spends half her time travelling, keeping up with her 100-strong marketing team as well as with agency partners and customers. She has lived in more than 20 countries, and visited more than 80 while doing research, talking to as many as 20,000 people altogether.

Her style has always been immersive: during her years in brand management in various P&G categories, she spent weeks at a time in Africa and India, showering under palm trees instead of at her luxury hotel, or sleeping in a hut with a newborn baby and waking with the mother every two hours in order to fully experience a product.

Batteries may not require quite such extreme measures, but the principle of understanding consumers remains. She said, "I believe in a professional approach to marketing. My father tested military airplanes, where something as simple as moving a shoulder can cost a life. So I always put a huge emphasis on professionalism."

Hometown:
I don't have one. I lived in 17 different countries with my parents.
First job:
Assistant brand manager, P&G Latvia
Lived abroad:
In more than 20 countries.
Hobbies:
I follow my family. If my daughter is into dressing up and accessories, that's my hobby. If my son wants to learn about spaceships and stars, that's my hobby. And going back to my Russian roots, I love cooking. I also try to study as much as I can for professional development.
What is one thing about you that will surprise people:
When I was young, I did 17 parachute jumps.
What advice would you give other women:
Every time there is a hard situation or a potential conflict, ask yourself if you want to be right or to be happy. Happiness is a choice. Of course, if you decide you want to be right – then go for it.
Photo credit: Courtesy Duracell International.

Jana Kusick

Global Managing Director, Plista

Jana Kusick

Global Managing Director, Plista

By Angela Doland

In 2016, GroupM-owned native advertising specialist Plista underwent a whirlwind expansion to markets including the U.S., Russia and China; it now reaches countries as different as the Nordic nations and Southeast Asia. The Berlin-based company's expansion helped power a 50% increase in turnover in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Jana Kusick, global managing director since 2016, has been a driving force in internationalizing Plista, which is now part of GroupM programmatic player Xaxis. She joined in 2010, making a transition from sales manager to global managing director in less than six years. And she's only 33.

Ms. Kusick says a top priority this year is re-energizing the company's home base in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where the company did about 60% of its 2016 business.

"Last year we stressed a lot of resources and people to make this international growth happen … We need to make people feel this is our home base and will stay our home base," said Ms. Kusick. "It's important that we win here."

Plista, bought by WPP's GroupM in 2014, is in the midst of several transformations. Beyond going more international, it has also moved into programmatic technology. The company has grown from 100 people at the time of acquisition to about 200 now. Ms. Kusick has been recruiting senior management, since her three co-managing directors left at the end of 2015.

Meanwhile she worked on the expansion abroad, adjusting Plista's concept to fit the needs of very different markets. China, for example, has a lot more in-app and mobile advertising. And though Plista is a tech company, in Poland it also launched a content creation team, because that was an expectation of clients there.

International expansion will continue, perhaps with a focus on smaller markets that don't take too many resources from headquarters.

"I don't want to open another 15 markets this year," she said. "Every market we launched, we will work hard to make more successful."

Hometown:
Oldenburg, Germany
First job:
Sales manager at Disneyland Paris
Ever lived abroad:
Six European cities in six years.
Best advice you've ever gotten:
Ask yourself whether you listen to connect or listen to convince people. If you listen to convince people, you're not really listening. If you listen to connect, you don't have your own agenda.
What is one thing about you that will surprise people:
I live in a shared flat that I moved into when I was a student, and I do not own a lot of things.
What advice would you give other women:
Know what you are good at and find smart people for all other things. Make mistakes, ask questions, listen and give feedback.
Photo credit: Courtesy Plista.

Aoife McArdle

Director

Aoife McArdle

Director

By Alexandra Jardine

Until this year, Aoife McArdle, the director behind Audi's powerful, female empowerment-themed Super Bowl ad, says she had "no idea the Super Bowl was such a big deal."

She does now. The spot by Venables Bell & Partners, which addressed the gender pay gap, starting with the opening line "What do I tell my daughter?" was both controversial, as might be expected in a divided America, and widely praised.

One of very few female directors to helm a Super Bowl spot this year, Ms. McArdle describes it as "ballsy" of Audi to address the issue. Proud of the work, she says she ignores any trolling comments. "I hear it raised a huge cheer in the stadium," she adds.

Ms. McArdle, who has recently returned to her native Belfast in Northern Ireland after living in London for many years, is signed to U.K. production company Somesuch. She has found herself much in demand in the U.S. and elsewhere in the last year after high profile campaigns for the likes of Procter & Gamble's Secret for Wieden & Kennedy Portland (another spot that focused on equal pay, featuring a woman asking for a raise) and Under Armour for Droga5.

Her breakthrough comes after several years as a filmmaker – a career she decided on at the age of seven. As a child she was "glued to black and white films" and was inspired to go to film school after admiring female filmmakers like Lynne Ramsay ("Ratcatcher"). From there, she formed part of directing collective Minivegas. She moved into music videos, helming films for the likes of U2 and Bryan Ferry, but solo success in commercials came later, boosted by recognition for a Honda spot in 2015. "I guess you could say I played a long game," she said, adding that she's strict about picking projects that "fit with my taste."

As a rare woman in the traditionally macho world of directors, Ms. McArdle "almost always pitches against men," but believes that, despite her quiet and soft-spoken nature, she achieves her success "by doggedly keeping fighting for what I want." (She also has three brothers, which she believes helps her to deal with male egos in the industry.)

For the future, she'd love to do more charity and pro-bono work; however, she's currently busy on the edit of her first feature film, "Kissing Candies," a coming-of-age drama set in Ireland that she also wrote. It's slated to premier later this year – the film world had better look out.

Hometown:
Omagh, Northern Ireland
First job:
Selling (mostly eating) sweets in a corner shop
Ever lived abroad:
San Francisco for 4 months when I was 21.
Best advice you've ever had:
Try to do something you love for a living.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be:
Mary Shelley, Flannery O Connor and Martin Luther King.
What advice would you give other women:
Don't be afraid. Believe in yourself and ignore those who don't believe in you.
Photo credit: Alex Hulsey.

Michelle McEttrick

Group Brand Director, Tesco

Michelle McEttrick

Group Brand Director, Tesco

By Alexandra Jardine

Three years ago, when Michelle McEttrick decided to take a year off work after successful treatment for breast cancer, she thought carefully about her next career move and made a checklist of what she was looking for. Top of the list was "a brand in need of turnaround, with a new CEO."

Although originally from the U.S., Ms. McEttrick has become a U.K. citizen, and, after working as marketing director at Barclays bank, and on the British Airways account at BBH, she said she was keenly interested in "big British brands."

When the top marketing job at Tesco came up, fitting all her criteria, she set her sights firmly on it – and landed it. "I was obsessed," she admits. "Everything (CEO) Dave Lewis had done so far communicated that they were very serious about change."

Nearly two years on, she has made significant progress. In 2015, Tesco was recovering from an accounting scandal, a food scandal involving horsemeat and plummeting levels of customer trust. But in a recent YouGov BrandIndex survey, the U.K. retailer ranked as the most improved brand across all sectors. In particular, satisfaction among current customers rose from 6.7% to 22.6%.

Among the many new initiatives she has overseen, she is most proud of creating Tesco's private label Farm Brands, which have successfully driven sales growth. Previously, perceptions of private-label value products had been changed by the arrival of discounters such as Aldi; Tesco's own-label branding was viewed as "cheap," and was putting people off.

"We want customers to feel good about the selection they are making," said Ms. McEttrick, adding that 80% of people who have tried the brands have bought them again.

She started at Tesco by insisting on aligning marketing behind "acts, more than ads," believing "we couldn't advertise our way out of a problem." Nevertheless, she has overseen the launch of Tesco's "Helpful Shoppers" campaign, starring comedic actors Ben Miller and Ruth Jones, its new "Food Love Stories" campaign, and a series of filmed stunts in stores, for occasions like Father's Day and Halloween, designed to be shared on social media.

Her new in-store initiatives include offering free fruit for kids in larger stores and, in one store, a checkout lane specially designed for autistic people. She's also passionate about LGBT issues, and has piloted a new scheme for women returning after maternity leave.

Ms. McEttrick has certainly come a long way from when, as a creative writing student at the University of East Anglia, she first discovered a Tesco supermarket. For an American girl, suddenly finding herself in Norwich in the mid-1980s, "it was a lifesaver."

Hometown:
Spokane, Washington
First job:
Restocking the salad bar at Wendy's. Two words: sneeze guard.
Ever lived abroad:
Lisbon and London.
Best advice you've ever had:
A job that is easy to land will still be hard to do, so really go for what you want.
What advice would you give other women:
Stick up for yourself (actually, that's my constant advice to myself.)
Photo credit: Courtesy Tesco.

Amanda Morrissey

U.K. CEO, Publicis Media

Amanda Morrissey

U.K. CEO, Publicis Media

By Emma Hall

Amanda Morrissey not only talks at speed, she works at speed too. In the year since becoming U.K. CEO of Publicis Media, she has made lightning-fast progress in reconfiguring the group under the Publicis "Power of One" strategy.

Astonishingly, it's her first job in media. Ms. Morrissey joined Publicis from AKQA London, where she was general manager.

A lesser woman might have been intimidated by the move, but that's not Ms. Morrissey's style. "I've met a lot of brilliant people and I've never felt like people are set in their ways here, which is why it's such a great place to learn," she said.

Ms. Morrissey has brought in new senior management where necessary, and split the U.K. media offering into four distinctive, standalone agency brands – Starcom, Zenith, Mediavest, and Blue 449 – as well as introducing seven group practices for operations like data, technology and research.

"I'm a real change agent," she declared. "That's what I've done most consistently over the last 20 years, I've changed businesses, whether that's for our clients or for the companies I've worked for."

So were the changes at Publicis Media hers to make, or dictated from Publicis Groupe headquarters in Paris? "The vision was very clearly articulated at global level, but the genius of the vision is that it is market-led. What we do in this market is completely defined by us," she said.

Already, the changes seem to be working. Since she has joined, Publicis Media U.K. agencies have won Visa, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Mars, and Merck healthcare. "New business is a real statement," Ms. Morrissey said. "It makes people feel like they are winning, and that all the hard work and effort of transformation is working."

Ms. Morrissey describes her role as "like re-wiring the house with the lights on." She said, "You have to roll your sleeves up and make things happen. You can't transform from an ivory tower, you only transform by doing the work, understanding the challenges, and making things happen. You keep things moving on, keep things landing."

Ms. Morrissey's private life is lived at similar speed – extreme sports are her version of relaxation. To do this, she lives by the sea, and has a daily commute of three hours each way, to and from her London office.

Whether it's wakeboarding, water skiing, surfing, kite surfing, or snowboarding, she gets active with her four daughters (aged between 10 and 18) so that she can combine family time with adventure-seeking. "I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie," she admitted. No kidding.

Hometown:
Birmingham
Lived abroad:
I studied languages in college so I lived in Spain, France, and North America, studying and working in hotels and all sorts of different things.
Hobbies:
The extreme sports I do with my family. When you work as much as I do, and you're away from home a lot during the week, it gives you that centering for your family. We learn new sports and we do it together. I need to nail kite surfing.
Best advice you've ever gotten:
One coach once told me when I was trying to nail a [water sports] trick: "If your hair isn't wet, you're not trying hard enough!"
One thing about you that will surprise people:
As well as the four kids, the commute and the extreme sports, it's that I believe it's all about people and everything comes down to human relationships. Making time for people is what it's all about.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be:
My family. They keep me sane, centered and real. Having dinner with them is like a live soap opera, drama, laughs, debates – there's never a dull moment.
What advice would you give other women:
Always be yourself and be proud of it.
Photo credit: Courtesy Publicis Media.

Michele Oliver

VP-Marketing, Mars Chocolate UK

Michele Oliver

VP-Marketing, Mars Chocolate UK

By Angela Doland

Michele Oliver oversaw a groundbreaking campaign for Mars' Maltesers candy brand in the U.K. that used humor to combat stereotypes; it featured people with disabilities telling funny stories about their lives, including a very cheeky tale about an amorous encounter.

The brand won a contest from the U.K.'s channel Channel 4 that challenged advertisers to think differently about their portrayals of disability, with the prize of 1 million pounds ($1.34 million) in commercial airtime.

Ms. Oliver is the brave client behind the push to make advertising more inclusive.

"Most people want to use the influence and voice we have for something good, as well as do something that makes business sense," said Ms. Oliver, VP-marketing for Mars Chocolate UK. "We're also very aware that in an increasingly scattered media environment we need to do something that connects with people and stands out. If we can stand out in a way that's positive, that's even better."

Developed with London agency AMV BBDO in coordination with disability charity Scope UK, the campaign went viral, hitting 1 million YouTube views with no media spend within 24 hours, and eventually reaching over 2 million views.

Maltesers has a running campaign called "Look on the Light Side"; this series was part of that, inspired by conversations with people living with disabilities. One video sketch showed a woman using sign language to tell a story about a dog swallowing her hearing aid. The ad that sparked the most buzz featured a disabled actress chatting about "getting a little frisky" with a new boyfriend and how a spasm in her hand put him over the edge. She even spilled a bag of Maltesers to illustrate, errr, sexual release.

After seeing the spot, a disabled woman wrote on Reddit that she had been waiting her "entire life for something that says, 'it's OK to laugh at yourself. It's OK to be sexual.' And Maltesers just did that in thirty seconds."

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but the spots did make some people uncomfortable. Scope, the charity the company worked with, "advised that there's always some negative comments whenever you stick your neck out," Ms. Oliver said. "We were ready for those. If it meant people having a conversation about bringing disability into the media and celebrating diversity, whether right or wrong, we were very happy to have provoked that debate."

Over three months, people who saw the ads bought about 8% more Maltesers than those who hadn't. Mars had hoped for 4%. People who had seen the campaign were 20% more likely to say they liked Maltesers as a brand. The company had expected 10%.

Other Mars chocolate brands in the U.K. plan to continue with more inclusive messages; Snickers, for example, is sponsoring a page on LGBT site Gay Star News to support people coming out. Ms. Oliver said: "This doesn't stop with Maltesers."

Hometown:
Oxford
First job:
Picking peas in Sussex at the age of 14
Ever lived abroad:
In India and France.
Hobbies:
Running slowly, eating quickly and watching medical dramas.
Best advice you've ever gotten:
No one was ever successful or happy by focusing on their weaknesses. Know what you are good at, be proud of it and get even better at it.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be:
Deborah Frances-White. She hosts the The Guilty Feminist podcast.
What advice would you give other women?
Be visible. Be demanding. Support other women and minorities on your journey.
Photo credit: Courtesy Mars Chocolate UK.

Petronella Panerus

CEO, Åkestam Holst

Petronella Panerus

CEO, Åkestam Holst

By Alexandra Jardine

When Petronella Panerus isn't busy running independent Swedish agency Akestam Holst, you might find her meeting with the Dalai Lama's right hand man in India, or discussing world issues with England's former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

That's because, in addition to being one of Sweden's top agency execs, Ms. Panerus recently became a board member of the Inspire Dialogue Foundation, a charity founded to promote "human" values and promote dialogue between different communities worldwide. She became involved via her interest in meditation, something that she says helps her achieve the "balance" in her life that being a CEO and working mother requires.

Since becoming CEO in August 2015, she's not only grown the agency's revenue – which in 2016 hit 100 million Swedish kroner for the first time – but worked hard on building a more inclusive culture with broader representation. Staff are regularly surveyed with regard to equality issues, and both men and women are encouraged to take parental leave and work flexibly. As a result, Akestam Holst has been awarded "most equal ad agency" at Swedish advertising awards Guldvagen two years in a row.

The agency is known for promoting a more inclusive industry. In collaboration with the Swedish Migrations Agency, it has welcomed several asylum seekers for six month-long internships. Ms. Panerus believes schemes like this contribute to creativity – a Mother's Day campaign that ran in Syria "could not have been done" without one of the interns' knowledge of local radio.

"I believe it's crucial for us as an agency to be able to understand different people and different perspectives," she said. "For me inclusiveness is about that -- allowing differences to co-exist."

With a background in programming, Ms. Panerus co-founded one of Sweden's first digital media shops, Message Plus Media, before working for agencies including Publicis, Lowe Brindfors and Scholz & Friends, where she took the CEO job when her daughter was a baby. She was CEO at Great Works prior to her current role.

At Akestam Holst, clients include Ikea, for whom the agency has created a critically-acclaimed campaign portraying "real" family situations, like divorced parents and an unhappy teenage daughter.

"Our work aims to highlight that there are more aspects to life – not just the bright side, but everyday situations," said Ms. Panerus, who herself had a challenging childhood, with a mother who was bipolar. "Sweden doesn't look like it did 40 years ago. "We are more diverse now, and I believe it's our duty to reflect that."

Hometown:
Stockholm
First job:
Picking Canada Goose poop off a beach in my hometown (my first summer job, when I just about to start in seventh grade)
Ever lived abroad:
London for one year, Los Angeles one year, Paris one year.
Hobbies:
Meditation (more of a lifestyle really, doing my third 10 days Vipassana in May).
Best advice you've ever had:
It's a quote from Maya Angelou. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
One thing about you that will surprise people:
That I'm both very structured and focused and new age-y at the same time.
What advice would you give other women:
When I was a junior myself, a woman called Ulla Andersson recruited me to Lowe in Stockholm. Ulla really believed in me, and I realized that it's about surrounding yourself with people who believe in you. So once you're in a position to help others grow, make sure to pay that service forward!
Photo credit: Courtesy Åkestam Holst.

Eva Santos

Chief Creative Officer, Proximity Spain

Eva Santos

Chief Creative Officer, Proximity Spain

By Laurel Wentz

As one of only two female chief creative officers in Spain, Eva Santos used a data-driven approach to creativity to tackle childhood gender stereotypes for car client Audi and to skewer porn-induced misconceptions about female orgasms on behalf of an erotic products company.

"We understand the passions of people and try to create ideas that will change behavior," Ms. Santos said. "It combines a statistics mindset with a creative mindset."

To promote Bijoux Indiscrets, a premium erotic accessories brand for women, Proximity Spain looked at how most Spaniards get their sex education. It comes from unrealistic porn, with 70% of Spaniards believing what they hear is what a real orgasm should sound like.

"The falsity generated by porn affected sexuality," Ms. Santos said. "We asked women to record and upload the real sound of their own orgasms." An "Orgasm Sound Library" was created to offer a more realistic version of female pleasure. And a data visualization transformed each recording into a colorful, flower-like poster that was given as a gift to the sender.

"We didn't invest in media, it was more PR," Ms. Santos said. "The reaction was spectacular."

For Audi, the agency analyzed why people believe high-end cars are for men, with women relegated to the passenger seat, "and we arrived at childhood," she said. "Cars are for boys, not girls. So we created a Christmas tale, a metaphor."

In the charming, three-minute animated digital video "The Doll That Chose to Drive," a doll is frustrated by her motionless pink chariot and leaps across the toy store's aisle from the pink shelves to the blue shelves, where she spies an Audi8 and takes off on an adventurous drive. In the driver's seat. When the toy store re-opens in the morning, and the toys are motionless again, a boy arrives and asks his mother to buy him the blue Audi. She removes the doll in the pink dress, saying she doesn't belong there. The boy doesn't agree, and the pink doll and the blue car are bought as a set.

The idea was to open the minds of both parents and children, and Audi even made 500 real doll-and-car sets – a product in itself, Ms. Santos said – and distributed them through a lottery.

The video, launched on social media in December 2016, ends "Because playing, like driving, shouldn't be influenced by gender stereotyping. Let's change the game this Christmas."

Ms. Santos is doing a lot of game-changing herself. Last year, she teamed up with like-minded female creatives and started #MasMujeresCreativas (#MoreFemaleCreatives) to promote visibility and equal opportunity for female creatives. She said the group has a Facebook channel with 5,000 members, coaching and mentoring programs, and speaks at universities and industry events.

There is also a website now where women can upload their portfolios, to counter the argument agencies often make that they'd like to hire more female creatives, but can't find any, she said. (In addition to Ms. Santos, Spain has one other female chief creative officer -- McCann's Monica Moro – and a few executive creative directors).

In an agreement with Spain's leading creative festival El Sol, 30% of the judges will be female this year, including Ms. Santos, who is a jury president, and that number is supposed to rise to 40% next year and 50% in 2019, she said.

On the awards front, Spain's EFI effectiveness awards jury last year named Ms. Santos the best marketing and advertising professional under 41 (she's 37). Her influence will expand this year when she serves as Proximity's global chief creative officer, a post the network rotates.

Hometown:
Barcelona
Ever lived abroad:
New Zealand for three months, working at Colenso BBDO.
Best advice you've ever gotten:
Study advertising. I was thinking about studying journalism but, in the queue to present the application in high school, the concierge advised me "better study advertising."
One thing about you that will surprise people:
I am a little clumsy, I usually am a butterfingers, especially with pencils (which I love, by the way).
What advice would you give other women:
Move forward, talent always shines more than prejudice.
Photo credit: Courtesy Proximity Spain.

Monika Schulze

Global Head of Marketing, Zurich Insurance

Monika Schulze

Global Head of Marketing, Zurich Insurance

By Laurel Wentz

With years of package-goods experience, and an affinity for data and technology, Monika Schulze helps a global insurance company see its clients as customers rather than just policy numbers.

That's not easy, especially with policyholders ranging from families to multinational corporations. But Ms. Schulze has found an approach that works with the global platform "For those who truly love," developed with McCann based on the premise that people and businesses want to protect what they care most about.

German-born Ms. Schulze spent almost 20 years at Unilever, where she moved internationally multiple times (that's why she speaks Swedish!) and at one point was responsible for the Knorr brand in major markets as diverse as North America and Japan. When she met the CEO of Zurich Insurance, he was looking for someone to set up a strategic marketing department, to focus more on customer marketing.

"We clicked," Ms. Schulze said. She joined Zurich Insurance as chief marketing officer for Germany, and moved up to the global job in 2014.

"One thing I firmly believe is that trust in the insurance industry is relatively low," she said. "We communicate on a product level and scare people to death."

In a presentation earlier this year, she quoted research that found only 51% of people surveyed in 2016 said they trust insurance companies. That was up from 47% the year before, but still below other financial services like mobile banking at 63% and credit cards at 59%.

Several years ago she introduced key performance indicators, or KPIs, at the company because "before that, no one believed marketing had any correlation to sales." Apart from the KPIs, which have steadily risen, Ms. Schulze excels as a team leader who gets people on board, both inside and outside of her company.

"If you really love something, you want to protect it; that [message] sounds easy, but there was resistance in the beginning," she said. It might work for products, naysayers said, but not for B2B. In fact, it does.

In a popular video called "Kinder Views," small children were interviewed about what makes them feel safe and protected, with predictably adorable answers. "This is how you can position insurance in a positive way," she said. For the B2B market, print ads talk about how those who love their businesses can protect them.

A successful campaign for car insurance features cars entirely covered – and protected by – giant knitted caps, in Zurich Insurance's signature blue. So popular have the blue knitted hats become that insurance agents want to wear them to go skiing, and a CNN TV journalist donned one during a segment from this year's World Economic Forum in Davos. Next up: A Pokemon Go-like augmented reality contest in which people will search for special cars, put virtual knitted hats on them, and share the images on social media.

A four-week trip to Silicon Valley in 2015 as part of Zurich's innovation team sparked the always-curious Ms. Schulze's interest in new technologies and how to apply them to customers. She initiated an augmented intelligence pilot with IBM in the U.K. that sped up claims processing, and an augmented reality B2B project let risk engineers who clamber around buildings do their jobs in a safer, hands-free way. At the Zurich Insurance-sponsored marathon in March in Barcelona, which Ms. Schulze ran in with her three daughters, participants could try out VR glasses that let them feel like they were running under water.

Since last year, Ms. Schulze is an adviser to Atheer, a pioneer in augmented interactive reality computing she got to know in Silicon Valley; she helps the startup evaluate its products and advises on marketing strategy.

Hometown:
Frankfurt
First job:
Trainee at Unilever
Ever lived abroad:
Sweden, the Netherlands and Hungary.
Hobbies:
My children, and having fun and doing all kinds of sports with them. What we plan next: run the first round (12 km) at the Barcelona Marathon together.
Best advice you've ever gotten:
I am an optimist by nature. Therefore I got very much inspired by the quote from Nelson Mandela: "I never lose. I either win or learn."
What is one thing about you that will surprise people:
I worked as an aerobics teacher during the time I studied at the university in Hamburg.
What advice would you give other women:
Stay true to yourself, build a very good network and surround yourself with positive, loyal and high quality people.
Photo credit: Courtesy Zurich Insurance.

Philippa Snare

Marketing Director for Business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Facebook

Philippa Snare

Marketing Director for Business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Facebook

By Emma Hall

As marketing director for business, Philippa Snare's job is to make sure marketers get the best value from Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram by helping them – and their agencies – to navigate the many options available on both platforms.

Facebook's increasingly targeted and personal approach to marketing means Ms. Snare does a lot of traveling across Europe, the Middle East and Africa to visit her growing team and to find out what's working in different places.

She said, "The challenges in Germany and South Africa are very different. I meet with as many customers and agencies as I can to keep finding real insights and feedback."

On a visit to Dubai, for example, she discovered that people start posting about Ramadan as much as six weeks before the month-long religious observance, which requires dawn-to-dusk fasting, begins. "That's when people's behavior changes, when they start to stock up on food and clothes for the evening parties," Ms. Snare said. This information – along with the insight that people are checking in to Facebook at three or four in the morning during the month of Ramadan – has helped marketers plan their campaigns differently.

Part of Ms. Snare's role is to attend the big festivals, as well as hosting more intimate events. At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last year, marketers and agencies flocked to the Facebook Beach all week, but this year she promises an alternative to the broad-brush stroke. She said, "We like to be different everywhere we turn up, and to be in keeping with the brand."

Constant change is part of the job for Ms. Snare, who joined Facebook at the start of 2016 and was previously CMO at Microsoft U.K. She said, "We are always learning about the way people in the future will want to interact with Facebook. We recognize that the next billion online will use Facebook in a very different way."

Instagram Stories launched last August and already claims 150 million daily users. Ms. Snare brought Louis Vuitton on board, for whom Kim Jones, the brand's artistic director for men, created a high-end spring and summer 2017 campaign. But she also needs to educate marketers that, although the creative bar has been set high, they needn't be intimidated by the platform.

On Facebook, Mondelez-owned Cadbury Dairy Milk used the Audience Insights tool for its "Tastes Like Joy Feels" campaign, enabling it to identify the people who were engaging with the ads, and find other Facebook users with similar characteristics, refining a much more targeted push as it went along.

Ms. Snare said, "I've always said that marketing doesn't need to feel like interrupting. It can feel like a progressive way of learning about things. When a friend tells you about something, you don't say, 'Stop marketing to me'."

Hometown:
Orpington, Kent
First job:
Barmaid
Ever lived abroad:
Hong Kong, Seattle, India.
Hobbies:
Horse riding, skiing, saxaphone, conservation diving.
Best advice you've been given:
Help others.
What advice would you give other women:
Be the change you want to see in others.
Photo credit: Courtesy Facebook.

Amanda Sourry

President, Unilever Foods

Amanda Sourry

President, Unilever Foods

By Jack Neff

Food hasn't been the glory business at Unilever for some time, as the company has sold big chunks since 2009 in favor of making the faster-growing personal-care business bigger.

The company recently put its margarine and spreads business up for sale after segmenting them off in a separate unit two years ago. Frozen foods, Bertolli oil and Peperami pork snacks are already gone. And in response to February's unsolicited merger bid from Kraft Heinz, one efficiency move Unilever made was to announce it will merge the foods business headed by Amanda Sourry with the refreshments business, which includes such things as Lipton tea and Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Who will lead that consolidated unit is yet to be announced. But Amanda Sourry is a key player, and a funny thing happened since she took over as president of the foods business in late 2015. It may still be growing more slowly than other units, but it's started to outperform expectations. Indeed, it was the only Unilever unit to do so in the fourth quarter.

"When I became president of Unilever's Foods business in October 2015, I pledged to provide consumers with food that tastes good, does good and doesn't cost the earth," Ms. Sourry said. "We're proud of our great tasting products, and of our amazing iconic brands."

Both Hellmann's and Knorr, she noted, are more than 100 years old. Notwithstanding old age, they've learned new tricks, including an eggless vegan-friendly Hellmann's and Knorr's #LoveAtFirstTaste advertising showing strangers getting close on first dates by feeding each other Knorr-flavored dishes.

As for that "not costing the earth," Ms. Sourry took the unusual-for-packaged-goods-exec step last year of writing a column for the Huffington Post's U.K. edition supporting the rise of "flexitarianism." That describes consumers who aren't quite vegetarian but are consciously eating less meat for environmental reasons. (That position was easier to take given that Unilever sold its last meat product, Peperami, in 2014).

Earlier this year, Unilever also delivered on its pledge to switch entirely to cage-free eggs, three years ahead of schedule.

"People have never been so engaged with food culture as they are today," Ms. Sourry said. "Ensuring that our brands continue to be relevant in a new era of food trends, and demonstrating how 'big foods' brands can also be progressive food brands is a challenge that endlessly excites and invigorates me."

That's what she believes accounts for Unilever food brands outperforming expectations. But her biggest challenge, she said, is "feeding a growing global population sustainably." That means not just selling more Unilever branded food, she said, but doing so "with respect for the environment with less waste, benefiting the livelihoods of food producers and improving the nutrition and wellbeing of consumers."

A career Unilever exec with experience in multiple categories and running businesses at the country and global level, Ms. Sourry was executive vice-president of global haircare before taking over the food division, and before that was EVP and chairman of Unilever for the U.K. and Ireland.

Photo credit: Courtesy Unilever Foods.

Kate Stanners

Chairwoman and Global Chief Creative Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi

Kate Stanners

Chairwoman and Global Chief Creative Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi

By Emma Hall

In April 2016, Kate Stanners was named global chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi, and in September she became the network's chairwoman. In addition, she retains lead creative roles in the London office and on the global Procter & Gamble and HSBC accounts.

Despite that broad portfolio of duties, Ms. Stanners remains very much a hands-on role model. "I would hate for my role to be ornamental," she said. "For me it's instrumental." She was at the heart of last year's "Poo Face" campaign for Pampers, and was recently shooting with Walmart-owned Asda in the U.K.

"I very much feel my role is to be there for our clients – particularly for our global clients – and then I'm there for the creative directors of the different markets, to help get rid of barriers to great work, and also to boot them up the arse a bit," she said.

With two global roles, Ms. Stanners does a lot of travelling. "I find it much easier if I know people," she said, "so I make an effort to make sure I do know them – and that's not just being on the phone, that is having a night out with them."

After ten years working in smaller boutique shops, Ms. Stanners joined Saatchi & Saatchi as executive creative director in 2005. She relished the opportunity to work on famous global brands, and still has the same zeal for creativity. She said, "What I've always loved is never knowing what you're going to be doing, who you're going to be working with, or where it will take you."

Ms. Stanners' elevation to chairman came in the wake of a sexism row stirred up by her predecessor, Kevin Roberts, who was ousted after declaring that the gender diversity debate was "over."

She said, "It really changed my opinion. I honestly hadn't thought about it very much, but I now see that it's important for women to be visible. The whole point of what we do is being culturally relevant. You have to have gender balance in creative agencies. I think it does affect the output, and if you haven't got [women] in senior positions you don't have the opportunities to question the work at every stage."

When she joined Saatchi, Ms. Stanners had a young son, and told her employers that she was no longer prepared to work every weekend and all night without question. "They still offered me the job," she said, "so I have always felt very comfortable saying, 'I'm going home to put my baby to bed – you can ring me later'. Every woman who says that makes it a little bit easier for other women."

Hometown:
London
First job:
The first piece of work I properly made from start to finish was a Cadbury's Flake commercial for GGT [now TBWA], which is ironic because my dad [former Leo Burnett Executive Creative Director Bob Stanners] invented the Flake campaign.
Ever lived abroad:
Chicago as a child.
Hobbies:
I often have a house I'm doing up. I'm doing one up at the moment that will be our home.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be:
David Attenborough because he's incredible and would have brilliant stories. Elizabeth I who I was always slightly obsessed with as a child. Paul Newman because he's the most gorgeous man in the world apart from my husband.
What advice would you give other women:
Have self belief. Don't feel uncomfortable asking for some of the things that might make your life easier to manage.
Photo credit: Courtesy Saatchi & Saatchi.

Bertille Toledano

Co-President, BETC

Bertille Toledano

Co-President, BETC

By Emma Hall

As one of France's biggest agencies, it's not easy for BETC Paris to get much bigger, but 2016 revenues grew at 6%, double the previous year's rate. The group as a whole – which includes luxury, design, shopper, and startup divisions, as well as the record label POP– grew 10%.

Bertille Toledano is co-president of the agency group, with a remit to transform the Paris powerhouse into a full-service communications offering. She is also jointly in charge of some of BETC's biggest clients, including Air France and premium cable TV channel Canal+, as well as driving new business.

"When you lead an agency you have to be a hunter, to bring in new blood," Ms. Toledano said. "I love new business."

During 2016 she was instrumental in adding a number of clients across the group's French units -- including Mercure and Novotel, Prada, Dom Perignon, Shiseido, and Sushishop -- on top of two big wins from Bouygues Telecom and YSL Perfume the previous year.

Ms. Toledano, who describes herself as "really hands on," also teamed up with BETC London on its successful pitch for Coty last summer, and works with the BETC agency in Sao Paulo and the POP office in Los Angeles.

Creatively, 2016 was a strong year for BETC Paris. Ms. Toledano is particularly proud of the Canal+ spot "Kitchen", which compared TV content to a chef's ingredients, and "Addict Aide," which created a French Instagram star to highlight awareness of alcoholism among young people. This year, she loves the irreverent "mockumentary" BETC created for Ibis Hotels with pop band Naïve New Beaters.

Managing BETC's July move to Pantin – a 215,000 square foot warehouse in an edgy neighborhood east of Paris – has also taken up a lot of Ms. Toledano's considerable energy. The new building has made it possible to house studios for production, music, video and photography, making an agency reinvention inevitable.

"It's been a transformation year and it's a tough job," she said. "[Pantin] has helped us to work together more, and to abolish silos, and it's given us a lot of progress in terms of making ourselves into a cultural brand. We are more efficient, but we still want to do our jobs like artisans, so we have to make sure we stay a very human place, to create some social space and free time together."

The mother of two teenage boys has been married to a surgeon for 25 years, and is a relative newcomer to the top management team. Her three partners – Rémi Babinet, Mercedes Erra and Stéphane Xiberras – all founded or joined the agency in the 1990s, whereas she started at BETC as vice-president in 2012, having worked as a strategic planner at Saatchi & Saatchi, Young & Rubicam, and CLM BBDO.

Under Ms. Toledano, BETC continues its tradition of appointing women to senior roles; in March, the agency named four deputy managing directors. Three are women.

Hometown:
Paris
First job:
Communication attachée at the European Parliament's Cinema Commission
Ever lived abroad:
Mauritius, when I was young.
Hobbies:
TV series, cinema, geopolitical business, defense issues.
One thing about you that will surprise people:
When I was young, I wanted to be a police officer.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be:
Angela Merkel.
Photo credit: Courtesy BETC.

Kate Ward

Senior VP and Head of International, Refinery29

Kate Ward

Senior VP and Head of International, Refinery29

By Emma Hall

As she made her way through London during the Women's March in January, Kate Ward met many people proudly carrying banners bearing Refinery29's specially-commissioned designs.

"It was deeply moving," Ms. Ward said, "in such a moment of optimism, to see how our brand is helping to make the change we want to see in the world."

Refinery29 could not have found a more passionate advocate than Ms. Ward, the female-focused digital media site's first employee outside the U.S. She was hired from News Corp.'s Shine TV – where she worked with Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth Murdoch – to build Refinery29 internationally, with responsibility for editorial, marketing, and the bottom line.

Outside the U.S., Refinery29 still has all the hallmarks of a start-up. Ms. Ward began with no office and no staff. "It was a moment to dive in," she said, "Our audience is the most powerful generation of women there's ever been. Our moment is now."

She joined in September 2015, the U.K. site went live in December 2015, and six months later Ms. Ward opened a Berlin office and started a German edition. She now has a team of about 40 permanent staff, backed by a pool of freelance talent. Since March 2016, U.K.-based unique users have grown by 600%, although from a small base because the site is so new.

"We are building a world class brand," she said, "But there's still a lot more headroom." Beyond the U.K. and Germany, Ms. Ward is looking to open a Paris office and a French-language edition of Refinery29 as the next step to a Europe-wide presence.

As well as taboo-busting editorial content – asking women what they pray about; a candid money diary; a "Rag Week" looking at period problems – Ms. Ward has also established groundbreaking brand content partnerships.

A new monthly "Bust Your Anxiety" running club with long-term partner Adidas will be hosted by members of the Refinery29 U.K. team, each concluding with an event for participants. Other partnerships include a diversity dinner with Nars, and collaborations with Estée Lauder, Nike, Clinique and Google.

"Our audience is open to branded content, and they are aware that brands can facilitate a lot of great experiences," Ms. Ward said. In February she struck a video on demand deal with Sky TV, which she pinpoints as an important milestone in the company's international expansion.

Deal-making has always been one of Ms. Ward's key strengths. She originally wanted to make history documentaries, but settled for a job selling TV rights to Eastern Europe, which sparked her entrepreneurial spirit. On her first trip to the MIPTV festival for TV and digital content, she discovered a talent for "making deals on the back of a napkin," which she took with her to Shine, where for eight years she sold shows and franchises internationally, and led business growth strategy.

Joining Refinery29 was a "big jump" for a TV person, she admitted. "I'm thrilled by the velocity of the digital media business … I've achieved more and had more impact at Refinery29. It's a deeply powerful place with a huge amount of opportunity and an inspiring mission – that fire has fueled many long days and a lot of time spent travelling."

Hometown:
London
Hobbies:
London soccer team Arsenal, cooking.
Best advice you've been given:
Everyone has their own style. Develop your own and respect other people's.
One thing about you that will surprise people:
I've never missed an episode of Masterchef.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be:
Mary Wollstonecraft.
What advice would you give other women:
Find the person that will be your cheerleader. It's OK to ask. I've had some amazing mentors who have shaped my career.
Photo credit: Courtesy Refinery29.
Web production: Chen Wu.