Get Ready, B&T’s Best Of The Best Is Back With The Top Holding Company Executive Leaders – Creative!

Get Ready, B&T’s Best Of The Best Is Back With The Top Holding Company Executive Leaders – Creative!

You’ve waited almost a year but B&T’s Best of the Best top 10 lists are back — with a bang!

For this year’s first entry, we’re taking a look at the executive leaders guiding the holding company-based creative shops. This means you won’t see any indies or any ECDs. We’re looking at the biggest of big cheeses for this first outing.

There are 10 names on this list. But there are plenty more who just missed out. We’ve based this list on the success of the agency groups, the quality of work that these agencies produce, how stable they are and how they’re set for growth in challenging times. As ever, these lists are very subjective and the gap between some of the placements are barely a hair’s breadth. Trust us, we took no joy in separating these leaders but we had to.

We’ll be rolling these lists out once a week, every week (aside from the small matter of Cannes in Cairns, when we’ll take a break — get your tickets now, by the way) until November. We’ll be rounding up the Best of the Best across a variety of disciplines including data scientists, casting directors, recruiters and experiential producers.

We’ve also taken a new tack, this year. The people you see on these lists will be nominated by C-suite staff from across the media, marketing and advertising spectrum.

Directly after this, we’ll be looking at the executive leaders of independent creative agencies, content producers and the holding company and independent media agency bosses. We’re very excited and you should be too.

But, let’s cut to the chase. Here are your Best of the Best Holding Company Executive Leaders – Creative.

10. Justin Graham, Group CEO, M&C Saatchi APAC

Graham has been in the top Australian job at M&C for four years now and, during that time, it has produced some stunning work of the likes of Tourism Australia. In September last year, B&T revealed that Graham would also be taking the helm of a combined Australian and APAC office, reflecting global confidence in his leadership of the Australian business and the resilience Graham has built into the business in challenging times. While M&C Saatchi has reportedly lost out on the Tourism Australia creative account after partnering with Howatson+Company, the company has firm footing with huge clients including Woolworths and Origin Energy.

9. Gayle While, CEO, Host/Havas

While has had the top job at Host/Havas since February last year and since then, it has produced some fantastic work for Stockland and Avis. The agency group has also started to lean more into its “Village” model which sees talent and insights working together on accounts for clients, delivering sharper insights and better creative work. Perhaps the biggest achievement under While’s tenure was Host/Havas snaring IKEA’s creative account away from BMF in July, which saw CMO Power List inductee Kirsten Hasler praise the agency for its “solid strategic thinking, equally strong creative capabilities and the natural values alignment.”

8. Stephen McArdle, CEO, BMF

Like Graham, McArdle is approaching four years in the top job at BMF. Over the last year, the agency has continued to produce genuinely brilliant work for ALDI, most notably its “Shop ALDI First” and “Go Big on the Little Things” campaigns. However, it has also picked up impressive accounts including a2 Milk and Tennis Australia in recent times. Its exceptional “Reluctant Shanty” work for the UNHCR also won big at the B&T Awards, taking home the coveted Award for Bravery. It also took home the People and Culture Award for businesses with more than 100 staff, with the judges praising the above-average staff tenure and impressive return-to-work programs. With agencies only being as good as their staff, this achievement should not be underestimated.

7. Andrew Little, president and CEO, DDB Australia and New Zealand

Little is one of the longest-serving agency heads in Australia and, in June 2021, added New Zealand to his remit. The agency’s recent work, including a new brand platform for Volkswagen — its first in seven years — and its Roo Badges work are certainly impressive. What’s more, it has been bold with its work for McDonald’s. At a time when brands need to drive distinction with great creativity — particularly in such a competitive and increasingly crowded marketplace as quick-service restaurants — Little’s leadership is commendable. It’s little wonder DDB has been poaching creatives from The Monkeys and Wunderman Thompson (RIP) in recent months.

6. Lee Leggett, CEO, CHEP Network

Legget joined CHEP just over a year ago now and, in that time, it has picked up gong after gong and driven genuine growth and transformation for its clients. So, to the B&T Awards. In November last year, CHEP picked up three campaign wins — Best Digital for its “Flipvertising” Samsung work, Best Use of Social Media for “(un)Geddes” for Karicare and Best Video, for Michael Hill’s “The Jewellers.” It also recently picked up a B&T Campaign of the Month for its “You Do The 5. You Survive” for Queensland Health, with the body’s senior marketing officer, Shahedah Sabdia, lauding its ability to cut through with an inconvenient truth. In October, CHEP was also named Effective Agency of the Year at the Effies. However, its repositioning work for Michael Hill has delivered results so impressive it got more than a line in its financial results and the agency won Best Digital Transformation at the B&T Awards too. We expect plenty more to come.

5. Kirsty Muddle, CEO of products and practices, Dentsu

Like Leggett, Muddle is a regular face on B&T‘s Women in Media Power List and is one of the sharpest minds in the industry. With a new remit and job title that encompasses Dentsu’s media agencies as well as its creatives, Muddle certainly has enough to be getting on with. In October, Dentsy picked up the creative account Temple & Webster and breathed new life into The Iconic’s masterbrand with some eye-catching new work. But while Muddle had perhaps been seen as a creative, her new expanded role will see her delve back into her experience at Mindshare in London. Above all, though, Muddle serves as a shining light for women in the creative industries — “whilst there is a perception that things are improving, the experiences of sexism and gender discrimination, unfortunately, remain common,” she recently told B&T and that makes her more than just a C-suite exec focused on the bottom line.

4. Paul Bradbury, president and regional CEO, TBWA

Bradbury and TBWA are powerhouses within the Australian landscape. Helming the business for nearly two decades, Bradbury’s leadership in the last 12 months have led TBWA to pick up one of the biggest accounts in the business — Telstra. In October, B&T revealed that TBWA had wrested away control of the telco’s creative account from The Monkeys, partnering with boutique shop Bear Meets Eagle On Fire (BMEOF)  to deliver impressive ideas at scale. Brent Smart, Telstra’s marketing boss and CMO Power List inductee, explained that TBWA and BMEOF can “deliver on really big creative ambitions.” It’s not all Telstra, however. In August, TBWA\Melbourne picked up the Specsavers account and its work for NAB has remained impressive. Plus, it still does all the Apple ads, remember?

3. Rose Herceg, President ANZ, WPP

WPP has been on a pretty significant transformation this year, merging Wunderman Thompson with VMLY&R and WhiteGREY with AKQA. While these mergers were largely driven by global concerns, Herceg’s calm and smart leadership has been a constant in WPP’s sprawling North Sydney office and around the rest of the country. To be sure, the market has been challenging but WPP’s agencies continue to produce impressive work for the likes of AAMI, Coca-Cola, Nike, Greenpeace and more. Plus, AKQA picked up the Best Use of Tech gong at last year’s B&T Awards for its sensational “Never Done Evolving” campaign for Nike featuring Serena Williams.

2. Michael Rebelo, CEO, Publicis Groupe Australia and New Zealand

Rebelo has helmed Publicis’ Australian and New Zealand operations for the last five years and the business has rarely, if ever, been better. Its media agencies are killing it with new business wins, despite a challenging technology market and its creative agencies are more than keeping up their end of the bargain. In September, Saatchi & Saatchi nabbed crack creative duo Mandie van der Merwe and Avish Gordhan from Dentsu and both Saatchis and Leo Burnett have been consistently producing strong work for their impressive client lists. However, with the Groupe having been named an Employer of Choice for three years on the spin, Rebelo is just as concerned with looking after his staff as he is growing the bottom line — something we heartily endorse here at B&T.

1. Mark Green, President ANZ, Accenture Song

Last year’s number one retains his top spot. Yes, The Monkeys — one of the many agencies under the Accenture Song umbrella (and the one that Green co-founded) — lost the Telstra account in the last 12 months. But, Accenture Song bounced back, picking up the huge NRMA creative account, with a remit to reshape how the entire business presents to its customers. In fact, it was only because Accenture Song has such a sprawling network of creatives across different disciplines that it was able to snare the account. But that’s not all, the yearly Lamb Ad, also produced by The Monkeys, continues to serve as a cultural benchmark for Australia. The scale and scope of the work that Green has led Accenture Song and its agencies to produce has been nothing short of remarkable.

“Clients love seeing their work win on the world stage – both creative and effectiveness awards,” he recently told B&T.

“Once they get a taste of success we often find that they demand it more and more and they get addicted to the thrill of seeing their work win and being discussed in both creative and business circles. I think in any environment aiming to be the best is only helpful in raising the bar and elevating the quality of the work you do.”

And that is why Green is the Best of the Best.

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