Published on September 9th, 2019Ad Age’s annual 40 Under 40 list recognizes the up-and-comers shaping the marketing, media and agency industries. All of our honorees stand out because their careers are white hot, including some who trace their passion for the job to childhood. Georgina Gooley, the co-founder of women’s razor brand Billie, acted in commercials as a youngster. Gary Coichy, founder and head of partnership at Pod Digital Media, a podcasting agency, got interested in advertising by listening to radio ads when he was a boy. Our list, culled from more than 700 entries, includes executives from well-known companies such as American Express and Twitter, as well as emerging brands like Bark and Cargo. No matter how they got started, they’re all making waves. Find out how.
Gatorade, Head of Consumer and Athlete Engagement
Gatorade, Head of Consumer and Athlete Engagement
By E.J. SchultzJill Abbott is a self-described “PepsiCo boomerang.” After seven years working on Gatorade, she left the food and beverage giant in 2015 for startup Bucketfeet, which sells handmade-to-order shoes. She then took a job at food marketer Boulder Brands before returning to PepsiCo in 2018. Her time away made her a better marketer, she says. “The pendulum swing from a $5 billion brand to a tiny small scrappy upstart was crazy. But it was awesome,” she says, because it taught her how to do more with less. You “learn more about what you have, and where you need to put it, after you’ve had an experience where you haven’t had a lot.” Now Gatorade’s head of consumer and athlete engagement, the 39-year-old is leading initiatives that are paying big dividends for the sports-drinks giant. That includes spearheading the brand’s “video everywhere” strategy, which includes using mobile devices to engage teen athletes. For example, she oversaw the launch in June of Gatorade’s “Highlights” app, which makes it easy for high school athletes to create their own highlight reels.
Group Strategy Director, Africa DDB
Group Strategy Director, Africa DDBBrazilian planner Vitor Amos was the strategic brains behind Budweiser’s “Tagwords” campaign by Africa DDB, which won a Grand Prix for Print & Publishing at Cannes in 2018. With the brand sponsoring Lollapalooza in Brazil, Amos, 29, researched its links with the festival and discovered many photos online of rock stars like Mick Jagger drinking Bud. Print ads invited people to search online for the photos using “tagword” prompts—thus getting around copyright laws. “We had a story and didn’t know how to tell it,” he says. “Then we realized we could just invite people to do the same as we did.” The result—zero lawsuits. Now heading strategy for Latin America’s biggest telecom provider, Vivo, Amos has also dipped into copywriting, including at W&K Sao Paulo on Nike’s World Cup 2014 campaign, and says it’s made him a “better planner.”
Group Creative Director, Grey New York
Group Creative Director, Grey New YorkAsan Aslam, group creative director at Grey New York, joined the WPP Group agency in 2014, not long after it won the global account for Procter & Gamble’s Gillette. His early initiatives for the brand included forging movie partnerships with blockbuster films such as “James Bond” and “The Avengers.” Aslam would go on to help craft Gillette campaigns, including “Perfect Isn’t Pretty” for the 2016 Brazil Olympic Games that was viewed more than 70 million times, and this year’s “We Believe” campaign that challenged negative stereotypes of men, tackling issues such as bullying, sexism and toxic masculinity. The campaign generated a lot of controversy and a lot of attention—and a sales lift for the brand. Beyond advertising, 37-year-old Aslam says he’s been taking a crack at other creative ventures, including writing and directing his first film, which he says “is really just a test, a fun thing” that is expected to debut in the coming weeks. “Ten years ago, I’d look up to CCOs and think, ‘I want to be like that guy,’” Aslam says. Now, “regardless of title, what I enjoy most is really just having a creative outlet.”
VP Global Brand Creative, Beats by Dre
VP Global Brand Creative, Beats by Dre
By James ChaseSam Bergen, 37, arrived at Beats by Dre with the daunting task of overseeing all creative output, agencies and markets. A year later, there’s still nothing he’d rather be doing. “It’s the perfect combination of my experience and passions,” he says. Bergen’s résumé is something else; he studied neuroscience, not art. He started out in Hollywood making movie trailers, then blazed a creative trail across agency land (Saatchi & Saatchi, BBDO, Deutsch, Ogilvy) working on behemoth brands (Nintendo, Bud Light, Toyota and more). Bergen built Omnicom’s McDonald’s shop, We Are Unlimited, from the ground up, before creating Vice’s Virtue agency. Bergen believes creatives should always assume the risk for developing their ideas, an approach he calls “creative entrepreneurship.” “You can’t just have an idea and walk away from it,” he says. It’s a philosophy that’s working for Beats. “You don’t win by process, by having the best practices, by being a follower. You win by innovation and positivity,” says Bergen. “It’s got to be about the creative, about the fun, about what’s going to move culture and, ultimately, move people.”
E. Garrett Bewkes IV
Publisher, National Review
E. Garrett Bewkes IV
Publisher, National Review
By James ChaseE. Garrett Bewkes IV took the reins of National Review in September 2016, right after it dropped a controversial issue urging readers not to vote for Trump in the primaries—prompting swaths of subscribers and donors to desert the conservative publication. Adding to the challenge, this was a title without a digital plan. Was Bewkes, the Review’s first openly gay publisher and then a 29-year-old rookie among political powerhouses, destined to fail? (Spoiler: He didn’t.) But Bewkes, whose uncle Jeff was CEO of Time Warner at the time (yes, that Jeff) has built a career on turning adversity into opportunity. While at The New York Post he overcame losing three bosses in two years to rise as a star of digital media ops. He had been brought in at the National Review to create and execute a digital strategy, but Bewkes soon realized he would need to restructure the entire company. “It was an incredible learning experience,” he says. “I hate when people say, ‘But that’s not my job.’ I figured it out.” Three years later, his efforts have yielded spectacular increases in subscriptions, digital revenue, web traffic, email response— and donations.
Exec VP, Digital Media and Marketing, HBO
Exec VP, Digital Media and Marketing, HBOHBO obviously has a killer product, but it doesn’t exactly sell itself— especially in an increasingly diffuse TV ecosystem overflowing with prestige programming. Enter Sabrina Caluori, 38, who became a “social TV” pioneer when she joined the network as director of marketing and social media back in 2007. Four promotions later, she now oversees a staff of 100-plus social/digital pros who have deployed everything from the “Westword: The Maze” Alexa voice skill (a Cannes Lions Grand Prix winner in Radio and Audio created out of 360i) to the Sopranos Name Generator (which prompted even Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey to briefly change his handle to “Jackie No Edits,” a reference to his service’s notorious lack of an edit button). Along the way, Caluori and her team obsessively track data to make sure every activation moves the needle. “Positive word-of-mouth and cultural resonance drives viewership,” she says, and the ultimate goal is always “new subscriber acquisition at a more efficient ROI. Because social media KPIs are meaningless if they don’t tie back to real business metrics.”
Lisa Borromeo Checchio
Chief Marketing Officer, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Lisa Borromeo Checchio
Chief Marketing Officer, Wyndham Hotels & ResortsLisa Borromeo Checchio says that traveling shouldn’t be for just the privileged. “Travel is and should be for all people,” says the 38-year-old Wyndham Hotels & Resorts executive VP and chief marketing officer. Since joining Wyndham in 2015, her marketing efforts have been centered on making travel attainable and personable. “The hospitality industry is about creating memorable experiences through a personal touch that you can’t replicate in a spreadsheet or algorithm,” she says. Checchio leads revenue generation strategy for the company, which includes 9,000 hotels that fall under 20 hotel brands, including Super 8, Days Inn, Howard Johnson and La Quinta. As CMO, Checchio has the considerable task of giving each brand a distinct identity and unique brand positioning. Checchio and her marketing team managed to tie together all of these brands with “10 Minutes Away,” a recent integrated marketing campaign that reminds consumers that Wyndham Hotels & Resorts lodging is within easy reach.
Founder and Head of Partnership, Pod Digital Media
Founder and Head of Partnership, Pod Digital MediaAfter 15 years of working with agencies like Mediacom and Laundry Service and brands like Lacoste and Verizon, Gary Coichy saw an open opportunity in the market for podcasts with African-American, LGBTQ and women hosts. He founded Pod Digital Media, a podcast agency he says is the first to work with multicultural podcast creators who are looking to monetize their channels and advertisers looking to reach diverse audiences. Since it launched about a year ago, Pod Digital Media has grown to service more than 100 clients—from Toyota and HBO to Harry’s and Hint Water—that work with the 400 podcasts it represents. Within 10 months, Coichy had grown Pod’s revenue by 120 percent. Coichy’s fascination with advertising began when he was a boy listening to radio commercials. “I was really curious with who came up with the script and who decided it was the best radio station to advertise on,” he says. Now, at 37, he is focused on working with bigger advertisers and creators, with a dream of one day working with Oprah.
Founder & CEO, Cargo
Founder & CEO, Cargo
By Jack NeffCargo Founder and CEO Jeffrey Cripe, 29, wanted to start a business after he graduated college in 2012, but didn’t know what kind. Working for direct-to-consumer beauty sample retailer Birchbox planted an idea. Helping Christie’s Auctions develop its online business refined his skills. And by July 2017, he founded Cargo, which distributes snacks and consumerpackaged- goods samples via Uber and Lyft rides. Cargo has since doled out nearly 9 million samples of items like Kit Kats and Larabars, and paid drivers nearly $10 million in 13 cities in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. It counts Kellogg Co. and Uber as investors—the latter is also a partner—and has promotional deals with NBC Universal, iHeart, SeatGeek and more than 100 CPG brands. With 30,000 active drivers, Cargo also has thousands more in 50 states and 40 countries signed up for expansion. “I think cars of the future will be personalized, modular media hubs,” Cripe says. “The money on the ride ultimately is going to be made from services you opt into on that trip."
Former VP of integrated marketing and media, American Eagle Outfitters
Former VP of integrated marketing and media, American Eagle OutfittersKristen D’Arcy is no teenager, but she certainly knows how to market to them. As VP of integrated marketing and media at American Eagle Outfitters, the 39-year-old led digital initiatives targeting the brand’s young customers, like a recent partnership with TikTok and bringing social media in-house. She also had a hand in the body positivity messaging from American Eagle sibling brand Aerie, an early pioneer of the no-retouching ad strategy that many other retailers have since adopted. “You’re targeting 15-to-25-yearolds and giving them access to experiences and content that feel unique— the challenge is if you’re not in that age group,” says D’Arcy, who cut her teeth building e-commerce at Oscar de la Renta and Coty. “Trying to get everyone to understand how this stuff works, what the ROI is, even if you don’t see it, was the most eye-opening.” Now, D’Arcy plans to use what she’s learned at another youthfocused apparel brand—she starts as chief marketing officer of PacSun in November.
Managing Partner, ICF Next
Managing Partner, ICF Next“Ideas can come from anywhere,” says Tricia Ewald, managing partner at ICF Next, previously Olson and Olson Engage. She leads the brand engagement group, a team of more than 200 people working across public relations, advertising, media, strategy and social media. It’s a structure that promotes cross-pollination. “The definition of a creative has really expanded,” says Ewald, 38. “It’s no longer just a big group of people in a room with a locked door, spending two weeks unbothered. Sometimes it has to turn around in 10 minutes. Or one minute.” Ewald knows from personal experience. She was on the team working with Mars in 2016 when Donald Trump Jr. compared refugees to poisoned Skittles, and some people thought the brand had solicited the tweet. An hour after the brand decided it needed to respond, the group had decided on the right message: “Skittles are candy; refugees are people.”
Senior VP, Managing Director, Carat
Senior VP, Managing Director, CaratChanelle Flavell was an integral player in Carat’s successful bid to retain the global Microsoft media account last year and has since overseen 60 percent of the tech giant’s roughly $1 billion in billings—all the while managing a team of more than 100 employees. Flavell, senior VP and managing director of the Dentsu Aegis-owned agency, says she operates her team with a “people-based” as well as a “test-learn-apply” approach, meaning “We take calculated risks and aren’t afraid of failure.” But the 36-year-old wins a lot. Under her watch, Flavell’s team crafted the media strategy for Microsoft’s 2018 “Reindeer Games” and “We All Win,” which appeared during the Super Bowl and spotlighted the diverse needs of gamers. That campaign collected a Grand Prix, two golds and one bronze at the 2019 Cannes Lions.
Founder and President, Summerjax
Founder and President, SummerjaxProduction pro Lauren Franklin channeled her experience working at surfwear brand Roxy into creating her own company to feed marketers’ need for compelling content. Her Los Angeles-based production firm, Summerjax, embeds itself into in-house marketing teams to help them produce campaigns that connect with consumers in out-of-the-box ways. “There has to be customer engagement and you have to grow beyond the tagline,” 37-year-old Franklin says. “When your audience participates, your message will maintain its authenticity.” Summerjax teamed with Disney, for example, to modernize the idea of “princess” with the empowering #DreamBigPrincess global video series. For the effort, Summerjax taught 21 girls from around the world the fundamentals of filmmaking, helping them create inspiring shorts featuring their female heroes, including a quartet of Disney-related women: actress Emily Blunt, Walt Disney Animation Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee and TV hosts Robin Roberts from "Good Morning America" and Victoria Arlen of ESPN. Summerjax also worked with Hollister on the brand’s “Sit With Us” anti-bullying effort and counts Franklin’s former home Roxy, Vans and Abercrombie & Fitch as clients.
VP, Global Brand Engagement, American Express
VP, Global Brand Engagement, American ExpressGrowing up, Walter Frye was taught that being successful meant making a lot of money. It wasn’t until he landed in marketing that he discovered his passions were more important. Frye, 38, is responsible for modernizing American Express’ entertainment portfolio and forging new relationships with artists. In his 12 years with the company, Frye has replaced AmEx’s legacy partnerships, such as the Tribeca Film Festival and Cirque du Soleil, with activations and experiences at Coachella, Austin City Limits and Art Basel. He led an Emmy win in 2015 for the “AmEx UNSTAGED: Taylor Swift Blank Space Experience”; the brand’s first partnership with Wimbledon; and its largest Pride activation to date, which extended AmEx’s leadership program to nonprofit leaders of the LGBTQ+ community. Frye says experiential events are where the brand “comes to life.” Next up is an event around the 10th anniversary of Small Business Saturday, which Frye calls “our biggest activation yet.”
Co-founder, BillieFew consumers might have been aware of the “pink tax,” the uptick in price on women’s products, until Billie came along two years ago. The female-focused razor subscription brand, which Georgina Gooley co-founded, used shrewd marketing to break through the clutter in a category that had traditionally been dominated by shaving companies targeting men. “They were all started by men to give them a better shaving experience,” says the 33-year-old, who formerly worked at Wieden & Kennedy as the account lead on Old Spice. “Maybe for them it makes sense to just slap some pink on it and think women will pay more.” In contrast, Billie has made authenticity its focus. The company’s internally created Project Body Hair campaign, which destigmatized body hair, went viral last year; as a result, the brand has tripled its staff and quadrupled production capacity. That the Australian- born Gooley should see such success is no surprise; she learned the marketing ropes early on as a child actress in commercials for shoes and face cream.
Brand Strategy and Marketing, The New York Times
Brand Strategy and Marketing, The New York TimesWhen you think about it, “The Truth Is Worth It” is an entirely depressing— but absolutely essential—thing to have to state in present-day America. For Sabena Gupta, 27, who leads brand strategy for the marketing team at The New York Times, it’s not just the tagline of the paper’s award-winning campaign, it’s a summation of the organization’s very raison d'être. “We’ve seen such heartening feedback from our readers regarding ‘Worth It’,” she says. “It helps them understand why quality journalism requires their support.” Working with Times Chief Marketing Officer David Rubin and Droga5, Gupta has led the way in engineering a strategic framework for all brand communications. She adds that she’s especially gratified to see her team’s efforts resonate in the Times newsroom itself, where “the journalists whose journeys we bring to life in each ad” are “always so excited to see their reporting represented in this way. Being able to tell the story of the courageous and impactful work they do is an honor.”
Co-founder and CEO of White Ops
Co-founder and CEO of White OpsIt’s not often the ad industry sees one of its own working with the FBI to take down a criminal operation said to be bilking marketers $3-to- $5-million dollars each day for nearly three months. But that’s exactly what White Ops co-founder and CEO Tamer Hassan has done through his company. Hassan’s company flagged perhaps the best-known ad-fraud scheme in digital advertising history in Methbot. Hassan, 39, later teamed with the feds for what’s known as the biggest ad-fraud bust ever with “3ve,” which used bots—computer programs that mimic human behavior— to siphon millions from marketers. White Ops’ discovery later prompted the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab to roll out ads.txt, now an industry standard adopted by behemoths such as Google and The New York Times, to prevent the type of fraud Methbot specifically exploited.
Head of Marketing and Communications, Virgin Hyperloop One
Head of Marketing and Communications, Hyperloop OneRyan Kelly is all about the challenge. “Most things worth doing are challenging,” says the 33-year-old head of global marketing and communications at Virgin Hyperloop One, an all-electric system that enables ground-level transportation at the speed of air travel. Certainly, building awareness, understanding and advocacy for a technology that, frankly, many people have never heard of is difficult. However, Kelly says he is motivated. “Being able to create understanding and seeing people start to engage in making this a reality is incredibly rewarding,” he says. Since joining the company in 2016, Kelly has underscored mass transportation’s unsustainability. Kelly predicts by 2029 passengers will travel between major cities in just minutes via levitating pods. He has designed several marketing campaigns, including the Global Challenge, that resulted in five feasibility studies in the U.S., an intent-to-build agreement in India and a development deal in Spain.
Global VP, Ad Sales and Strategy, Roku
Global VP, Ad Sales and Strategy, RokuIn 2014, it wasn’t quite yet obvious to a lot of brands that they were going to have to rethink their approach to TV thanks to ad-supported streaming/ OTT (over-the-top) media. That’s the year Alison Levin joined Roku as its very first sales executive, and she faced the uphill battle of convincing marketers to break their addiction to old-school linear TV. Five years (and a few promotions) later, Levin, now 34, heads a growing international sales team of 40-plus and has helped propel Roku toward what it expects to be its first billiondollar revenue year by the close of 2019. Today, more than two-thirds of the marketers on Ad Age’s 200 Leading National Advertisers list do business with Roku. “Streaming is mainstream,” Levin says, and now that every brand understands that, her focus at Roku has been on iterating and launching new advertising solutions. “As this shift continues, marketers have an incredible opportunity to reimagine and push the boundaries on traditional TV buying and ultimately drive the best experience for their brands and consumers.”
Inclusive Design Lead, Wunderman Thompson
Inclusive Design Lead, Wunderman ThompsonAbout nine years ago, Christina Mallon noticed two of her fingers weren’t typing as fast as the rest. She is now paralyzed in both arms. Doctors still don’t know why. “I wasn’t very comfortable talking about my disability for the first few years,” she says. Now, it propels her work. “I didn’t see myself in many ads, nor could I use many products,” says Mallon, 31, who is now the inclusive design lead at Wunderman Thompson, helping brands such as Tommy Hilfiger promote inclusivity and adaptive products, down to making sure shipping boxes can be opened by their end recipients. At night and on weekends she devotes hours to Open Style Lab, an organization working on functional, stylish apparel for people of all abilities. Even her January wedding was inclusive, from the pockets added to her gown to support her arms, to Braille invitations and noise-canceling headphones. “Inclusive design is the better way to design,” she says.
U.S. President and Chief Media Officer, Omnicom Media Group
U.S. President and Chief Media Officer, Omnicom Media Group“My claim to fame was building Omnicom’s paid social capabilities,” says George Manas, whose digital marketing expertise propelled the 37-yearold to U.S. president and chief media officer at OMD earlier this year. “My role is to continue what I was doing but on a more significant scale,” Manas says, which is “to put digital and data capabilities at the core of the agency’s offerings.” Manas was an early proponent of integrating with Facebook as a preferred marketing partner, an official designation that agencies and marketing firms covet. Now, he’s forging similar relationships with Amazon, Pinterest and other digital platforms essential to the future of advertising. Manas almost wound up in the halls of academia, but left a Ph.D program at Fordham. He has a master’s in American literature and history from Columbia. “I realized that sort of college life wasn’t necessarily for me anymore,” Manas says. He can still discuss Ralph Waldo Emerson’s use of chiasmus as a literary trope, though. And he still draws inspiration from Robert Frost, who once wrote, “The best way out is always through.”
Partner, Reed Smith
Partner, Reed Smith
By Jack NeffNegotiating the massive $3 billion commercial production contract between the ad industry’s Joint Policy Committee and SAG-AFTRA talent unions has never been easy, and given the complexities added by social and digital media, it seemed particularly tricky last year. Leading the effort as chief negotiator for the JPC, which includes the Association of National Advertisers and 4As, was Stacy Marcus, 39, partner with Reed Smith, who was the first woman and youngest person ever in the role. The deal, completed earlier this year, broke new ground, adding a flexible alternative encompassing a single payment for online and conventional uses of work alongside the original option of piecemeal payment. One reason for the success, Marcus says, is developing a relationship with the unions as “an ongoing process” rather than just re-starting things every three years. Marcus also represents luxury-goods retailers, beauty players and digital platforms in celebrity endorsements deals—such transactions totaled $58 million last year—plus digital, social media and increasingly plentiful influencer deals.
VP Executive Creative Director at Pandora
VP Executive Creative Director at PandoraThe proliferation of smart speakers, connected cars and frankly, connected everything, has prompted many brands to start thinking about how they sound and not just how they’re seen. Pandora is tuning into this trend, leveraging its rich data to help brands navigate the audio arena. Spearheading this effort for the company is Lauren Nagel, who, in her role as VP and executive creative director, oversees an 85-person team of artists, designers and more than 200 voice actors who work with outside brands as well as Pandora itself. Nagel, 36, played a significant role earlier this year in developing Pandora’s first-ever sonic logo—the first major audio streaming platform to adopt one. Nagel’s team is also responsible for Studio Resonate, which aids brand marketers in developing sonic strategies through creative development, workshops and a suite of production solutions including visual design, web experiences and live activations.
CEO, OmeletThas Naseemuddeen loves Kermit the Frog memes, ’90s R&B and once taught ice skating. She’s channeled these diverse interests and experiences into building Los Angeles agency Omelet, where she assumed the CEO post in June. Naseemuddeen has helped the company evolve from its quirky boutique roots to a more mature agency delivering big brand-led ideas for clients including Princess Cruises, Walmart, Pokemon and Nickelodeon. Naseemuddeen, 37, joined Omelet in 2015 as partner and chief strategy officer, later adding managing director to her title before becoming CEO. Her impact at Omelet has been steady and immediate: since she joined the agency, net revenue jumped 36 percent and in 2019, the shop more than doubled in profitability. But she’s most proud of having nurtured a well-rounded team. “Talented, entrepreneurial, independent, smart and kind people are the core of our success,” she says. “Finding new ways to be better for them and create an environment that they love and feel real ownership of is what's critically important to me now.”
Head of Addressable Media and Technology, Hershey
Head of Addressable Media and Technology, HersheyVinny Rinaldi started out at a small agency in New Jersey, followed by résumé builders in New York including roles at ESPN, Adap.tv and Google, and overseeing the integration of Merkle into the Denstu Aegis network of agencies. “Constantly knowing I made an impact using data and technology to drive a business outcome is really important to me,” says Rinaldi, 35. Now he’s putting those skills to work on the client side, pushing an old-school marketer to embrace the power of data-driven media buying. When he joined Hershey two years ago, Rinaldi says the company was doing 3 percent of its total spend in addressable media. In 2020, it should account for 33 percent. Last Halloween, Hershey tracked retailers’ sales data and used addressable media to target underperforming markets by Zip Code. The result: $4 million in incremental sales attributable to the program and the highest Halloween sell-through in the company’s history, he says.
Innovation Director and Head of Multicultural Marketing Diageo
Innovation Director and Head of Multicultural Marketing DiageoRyan Robertson, 37, is doing double duty at Diageo, overseeing rum innovations and spearheading U.S. multicultural marketing strategy. At this year’s Essence Festival, which draws thousands of African-Americans to New Orleans, he oversaw a Crown Royal-backed effort to stuff bags filled with necessities for military families. In Atlanta earlier this year, Diageo’s Ketel One Botanicals brand sponsored a “pajamas and lipstick” event at the Summit21 conference, an empowerment and networking event for women of color. Over cocktails, participants “just got a chance to just let loose and talk,” he says. “I really live by the philosophy [that] if you tell consumers something, they won’t remember,” but “give consumers experiences, and they will never forget.” He assumed rum innovations duties about four months ago after overseeing “new-toworld” vodka brands. In that role he launched American Anthem Vodka, which donates $1 per bottle sold to military charities.
Head of Global Content Partnerships, Twitter
Head of Global Content Partnerships, TwitterTwitter became the official partner of the Oscars red carpet this year after losing out to Facebook two years in a row. Snagging the social media coverage of the glam event fell under Sarah Rosen’s purview at Twitter. Rosen, 39, last year became head of global content partnerships, and one of her missions was to “inject new life into an old-school awards show,” she says. She’s been with Twitter for five years, after cutting her teeth in Hollywood at Fox Searchlight and Viacom. Now, she applies her knowledge of the entertainment world to tech. Rosen helped build one of Twitter’s core marketing programs, striking partnerships with entities like Disney, Viacom and NBC Universal and splitting the ad revenue from their Twitter programs. “We are not looking to create or develop our own content,” Rosen says. “We’re looking to work with partners to extend their content onto Twitter.”
Marketing and Commercial Leadership Director, Coca-Cola Co.
Marketing and Commercial Leadership Director, Coca-Cola Co.
By E.J. SchultzFor Coke, it doesn’t get any bigger than the World Cup. And for last year’s tournament, the company scored a major victory, thanks to Brad Ross, 39, its global director of football (soccer) marketing, who oversaw a 185-country campaign that Coke says led to sales volume gains and boosted key brand metrics such as loyalty. The effort included signing up a “virtual ambassador”—a soccer player who only exists in Electronic Arts’ popular FIFA video game. Ross was rewarded with a promotion to marketing and commercial leadership director for Coca-Cola’s West Africa business unit, overseeing 33 countries, whose economies vary greatly. The company must develop campaigns and products “that can go across all areas of the spectrum and that’s been quite an interesting challenge, but also an opportunity to work through,” Ross says. In Nigeria, for example, he oversaw an effort to grow consumption with a new 1-liter package that used local celebrities like rapper 2Baba.
Co-Founder Chief Brand Officer, Away
Co-Founder Chief Brand Officer, AwayIn recent years, once-sleepy retail categories like mattresses and oral care have been undergoing overhauls. In the luggage sector, Jen Rubio got there first. Three years ago, Rubio co-founded Away, the direct-to-consumer travel brand that started with a suitcase equipped with a battery for consumers to charge their electronic devices. Shoppers clamored for the sleek, minimalist styles and a travel legacy was born. The 32-year-old Philippines native, who got her start in branding through work at big companies such as Johnson & Johnson and startups like Warby Parker, works as the chief brand officer of Away, which has inked deals with larger retailers such as Madewell and Nordstrom. As of last May, the company’s valuation hovered around $1.4 billion, and Rubio plans to use new funding for growth into categories such as apparel, wellness and lifestyle accessories. Already, Away has seven stores, including an international location in London that Rubio and her team opened last year.
Director of Live and Licensed Marketing, Hulu
Director of Live and Licensed Marketing, HuluWhile there are many video-streaming services, only a few are topof- mind for consumers, and Hulu is certainly among those that are. One reason for that is Michael Schneider, who has helped solidify Hulu as a leader in the digital-video space. Schneider, 37, played a significant role in launching Hulu’s Live TV service in 2017 and is now responsible for the company’s efforts across the Live TV business, overseeing all licensed-content marketing campaigns. His work on “Hulu Sellouts,” for example, marked the first time one of the company’s ad campaigns took home a Cannes Lion. “Sellouts” poked fun at influencer marketing in a refreshingly honest and funny campaign featuring National Basketball Association athletes, such as the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Aketokounmpo, to promote Hulu on social media.
Head of Global Partner Marketing, Youtube
Head of Global Partner Marketing, YoutubeThere are few jobs where watching YouTube every day is a requirement, but Alandha Scott, 30, is one of the lucky ones. As the head of partner marketing, Scott is heavily involved in not just YouTube the video platform, but YouTube TV, YouTube Music and YouTube Kids. “When I started, it was just YouTube,” Scott says. “So, really seeing us stand up these new businesses has been pretty incredible.” One of Scott’s proudest initiatives was putting together YouTube’s first summit for creators in 2015. These days, Scott is working with companies including Amazon, Samsung and Verizon to get YouTube’s family of services on their devices like Fire TV and Galaxy phones. “When I was asked to take on this role, there was no team in place,” Scott says. “There was nothing. Partner marketing wasn’t even a function for the business.” Scott also devotes time outside work at Real Industry, a nonprofit devoted to mentoring a diverse and inclusive next-generation of tech talent.
Editor-in-chief, EsquireMichael Sebastian has been on something of a rocket ride since joining Hearst Magazines in 2015. He started as a senior news editor, overseeing a shared news team for 18 media brands and helping drive monthly unique visitors for his newsroom’s content from 1 million to 15 million. Two years later, Sebastian, 38, took over as digital director at Esquire.com, tripling site traffic to more than 20 million uniques and launching lucrative new membership and e-commerce initiatives. This year, Sebastian— a former Ad Age reporter— was handed stewardship of the print magazine, while holding onto its digital operation. Suddenly, a transformative publication that served as a hotbed of 1960s New Journalism is itself set to get transformed. Sebastian sounds a bit awed by the task ahead, while committed to having fun doing it. “We’re going to give readers a thoughtful evolution of this iconic American brand, with stories, photos and videos of personalities that create their own news cycles and drive the culture,” he says. “We’ll also tell a few jokes along the way.”
Co-Founder, VerbAt this year’s Essence Fest in New Orleans, Verb Co-Founder Shannon Simpson Jones brought the “Somebody’s Son” meme to life on stage, bringing in a host of male influencers and models to do a fun choreographed dance. That’s one example of the kind of zeitgeist-capturing work that’s led the hybrid experiential agency, which 36-year-old Simpson Jones cofounded with Yadira Harrison two years ago, to work with clients including Amazon, Everlane and Coinbase. Simpson Jones says that “cultural nuance trumps trends; it can be very enticing to hop on the next new thing, but we always look at what will really resonate with your audience.” Verb’s work comes mainly via referral, and it prides itself on working super closely with clients and diving deep into their businesses. Another recent project linked CRWN Magazine, which is dedicated to celebrating black women’s natural hair, with Netflix to launch the film “Nappily Ever After.”
Co-Founder and CEO, Unanimous Media; CMO, STEPHEN CURRY 30
Co-Founder and CEO, Unanimous Media; CMO, STEPHEN CURRY 30At just 34, Jeron Smith is a key architect in Stephen Curry’s budding brand empire: He serves as co-founder and CEO of the NBA star’s production company, Unanimous Media, and CMO of Stephen Curry 30, through which he oversees the athlete’s personal brand and portfolio of partnerships. Founded in 2018, Unanimous has already produced the feature film “Breakthrough,” which earned more than $50 million globally, two documentaries and shows for ABC and Quibi. Meanwhile, brand Curry continues to grow, adding tie-ups with Facebook, Sony, Tencent and Rakuten on top of ongoing relationships with Under Armour and Infiniti. “Athletes shouldn’t just aspire to be defined by who they are in uniform,” Smith says. “Today’s athletes are so multidimensional, with many interests outside of sports, and with huge platforms and the ability to reach millions of people. The key—as with most things—is authenticity and selectivity. It’s important to work with partners with shared values and sensibilities and on projects that are meaningful, authentic and are reflective of who they are.” Before working with Curry, Smith led marketing of Nike’s Jordan brand in the Western region and helmed notable campaigns, including “Basketball Never Stops” that ran through the NBA’s 2011 lockout. He followed that with another impressive gig—at the White House, where he developed and executed a digital strategy for the executive office of President Obama.
VP of Marketing, Bark
VP of Marketing, BarkAllison Stadd joined Bark in 2017, after working at Sweetgreen, where she helped morph the salad chain’s Sweetlife Festival into more of a block party, and Shake Shack, where her work included the 2016 launch of its mobile app. Stadd looks widely for inspiration, “adapting ideas or concepts from spaces entirely unrelated to the subject matter at hand” and reading more than 100 books a year. All that led to the creation of Bark-Park, a membership-based dog park in Nashville that’s helping Bark think outside the BarkBox toy-and-treat subscriptions its known for, while still pampering pets. Members stop by for “experiences for dogs and their people,” as Stadd says. Those include monthly grooming sessions (for the canines) and parties for pooches and their pet parents. “I get to make dogs happy every day and there’s really no better work than that,” says 32-year-old Stadd, who spends her off hours caring for her cockapoo, Franklin.
Head of Global Industry Marketing, Facebook
Head of Global Industry Marketing, FacebookShauna Sweeney began her career teaching international relations rhetoric at the University of Southern California. It was an unconventional start to a marketing career, though it offered useful lessons, she says, for “putting together a strong argument and what persuasion really means. Today, as New York-based head of global industry marketing at Facebook, 34-year-old Sweeney oversees the company's outreach at gatherings like the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Advertising Week and CES. She sees Facebook’s role there as going beyond the traditional speaking gigs to form meaningful partnerships. Sweeney also works with Ad Age on The List, a grouping of thought leaders who identify and tackle industry challenges. This year, the topic is the lack of adequate family-forward leave. She also focuses on diversity and inclusion, including the 4As’ MAIP Talent Initiative. “My focus is, what can we accomplish that we couldn’t accomplish without partnerships, and how to create a lasting impact on the industry,” says Sweeney, who is also a board member of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Another issue she’s working toward now: “banishing all-male panels.”
Global Managing Partner, Initiative
Global Managing Partner, InitiativeAt 35, Jonathan Vu is the youngest global managing partner at IPG Mediabrands’ Initiative, but that by no means is a hindrance. Since joining the agency two years ago, Vu is credited with guiding Initiative in its successful global pitch for Converse and developing the planning platform based on child psychology and development that was key to winning Lego. Now leading Converse, Vu has helped the shoe brand solidify its positioning with Gen Z and millennials in sports, music and street culture through youth-focused partnerships with Overtime and Trap Karaoke in the U.S. and Kyria in the U.K., among others. Vu leads the agency’s diversity and inclusion council, ensuring there is both diverse representation in the work Initiative puts out and in the workplace. Vu, the son of Vietnamese immigrants, says he breaks diversity and inclusion down to “the three Rs: recruitment, retention and representation.” He explains: “Agencies do a really good job to bring employees in” at the middle, but not senior, level. “We see a drop-off at the VP, senior VP level, and that’s where we need to work on the second R, retention, to make sure there is representation in leadership.”
Managing Director, MediaLink
Managing Director, MediaLinkMark Wagman might not be on this list if it weren’t for U.S. mail. The 36-year-old managing director for MediaLink began his career as a data engineer for Accenture’s technology lab. His task, he says, was to build predictive models for the Postal Service to make sure “your birthday card got from New York to Los Angeles on time.” Turns out he loved the work. The post office? Not so much. “I taught myself how to be a player in the marketing and tech space,” says Wagman. “It’s sexier than mail.” Wagman, known as “Wags,” joined Omnicom’s digital trading desk Accuen and digital marketing firm Turn before moving to MediaLink three years ago. He’s a CMO whisperer with a gift for breaking down the intricacies of everything from tech stacks to trading desks. When asked what mistakes CMOs make in building tech stacks, for example, he uses the analogy of opening a restaurant. “The first thing you do isn’t buy silverware,” he says. Instead, you need to decide what kind of eatery you want to be. “Data and the technology are the easy part,” says Wagman. “First, you need to know what you are solving for.”
Chief Marketing Officer and Senior VP Of Operations, U.S. Chamber Of Commerce
Chief Marketing Officer and Senior VP Of Operations, U.S. Chamber Of CommerceAt 37, Justin Waller is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s first chief marketing officer. He oversees more than 100 employees and is doing much to push the Chamber to operate as a brand and drive value for the 28 million small businesses it represents. A lot of Wallers’s work is making sure the Chamber is reaching businesses outside of Washington, D.C. He built the Chamber’s first in-house agency and cultivated a team of writers for a new Chamber website offering business advice. He also introduced the Chamber’s first national tour, bringing speakers to different cities for the same purpose. Fortune 500 brands are now coming to the Chamber for b-to-b marketing. Waller has brought on MetLife, Amazon, FedEx and others, generating $10 million in incremental revenue. “Most people think we are part of the government,” says Waller. “We’re actually funded entirely by businesses all over the country. We knew that we needed to talk to those businesses in a way that showed we cared about them.”
VP of Sponsorship Marketing, National Public Media
VP of Sponsorship Marketing, National Public MediaLate last year, Johanna Weber became National Public Media’s first VP of marketing. At a time when audio and the airwaves are resurgent, she expanded the new-business pipeline by 25 percent and her team drove a triple-digit revenue increase from sponsorships of NPR events. A former program director for her college radio station, she knows what types of messaging connect with audiences. “Inform, don’t sell,” says Weber, 39. “Digital audio audiences, like podcast listeners, don’t want a brand message that’s out of sync with the tone of what they’re listening to.” She’s also keenly aware of the mission of the organization she represents, and tries to drive that home for potential sponsors, too. “As someone raising children in today’s times, I’m so grateful to have a platform to turn to and help them make sense of the world and think about bias and objectivity and difficult conversations,” she says. “I feel like I work for the unicorn of the media industry. It’s just tremendous.”
Share this story
Illustration by Tam Nguyen. Web production by Corey Holmes. Photos courtesy of subjects.