For the last 15 years, Ad Age has published its annual 40 Under 40 list, honoring rising stars making waves in media and marketing. But the industry has certainly changed since the 2006 inaugural list, when YouTube had just begun and sites such as TikTok and Instagram didn’t even exist. Along with the rise of such social media platforms, recent years have introduced more challenges to the marketing landscape, as COVID-19 continues to rage and create new problems for ad execs to solve.
Yet the trailblazers in the group Ad Age is honoring today have risen to the occasion. Some have championed diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at their companies and given a voice to those communities often underrepresented or unheard. One has made a mission out of holding social media platforms responsible for hateful content following the start of the pandemic and murder of George Floyd.
A few honorees have founded companies that tap into growing trends, like the rise in influencer marketing or how ad tech and cannabis can together create a business opportunity. Others are tapping into changing consumer behaviors and connecting with customers on new marketing levels. One was so tenacious she attended barbecues hosted by the founders of the company where she wanted to work—and got the job.
And one was responsible for marketing a certain sandwich that spawned a host of copycats, instigating the Chicken Sandwich Wars.
This year’s list, narrowed down from more than 700 nominations, celebrates individuals from established giants such as Procter & Gamble, FCB and Twitter, alongside smaller up-and-coming companies such as Parachute and Eleanor.
While the group is in good company—the 2006 list included the likes of David Droga, now CEO of Accenture Interactive, and Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America—they’ve already proved they can succeed.