Year in Review: Change makers 2020

In a turbulent year for the marketing industry, and the world, we look at the people and brands that have been driving change.

Cephas Williams, for tackling racism

On 25 May 2020, George Floyd was killed by police. Footage showed a white officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck until he couldn’t breathe. This violence sparked the resurgence of the global Black Lives Matter movement, saw protests erupt across the world and big brands make diversity commitments.

Amid this, Cephas Williams revived his 56 Black Men project, launching Let’s Not Forget. While processing the unrelenting injustice shown towards the black community, Williams managed to create a powerful message and campaign as a way to honour black Americans “whose name did not make it to a hashtag but to a headstone.”

He said: “After receiving messages about the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others over the years, witnessing what’s happening to black people in the US and the impact this has on black people globally, with messages from black people around the world, confused, fed up, broken and more, I found myself in a space where I felt helpless.

“I couldn’t put my thoughts into a video, when I tried to bring myself to talking about it yesterday, the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, pain, frustration and so much more brought me to tears, literally.”

For Let’s Not Forget Williams collaborated with out-of-home media owner Clear Channel, using its network of billboards to amplify the message. He also launched a video that called on people to protest and asked viewers to “change how we view Africa and black people”.

Williams said: “I hope this video can help contribute to raising awareness around what the black community endure in the hope that it helps bring about global change towards how black people are treated and have been treated for a lifetime.”

His work at a time when many in the advertising industry are still talking, rather than acting on, the issue of racism is hugely important. There are still far too few black people in particular in marketing, let alone in senior roles, while portrayal of black people in advertising and the media more generally requires a lot of work.

It is also a sign of the impact advertising can have if it is used to ask the right questions and hold a mirror up to society.

Diageo, for work on marketing effectiveness

Few other businesses have moved the art and science of marketing effectiveness forward as much as Diageo in the past few years. From the creation of its Catalyst tool to help marketers make strategic and planning decisions, to offering creativity training for all marketers, it has ensured marketing is seen as a key growth pillar in the business and put down the gauntlet for others in the industry.

That has culminated this year in huge success at the IPA’s Effectiveness awards. The company won two gold and two silver awards, as well as the awards for best use of data, best new learning and best multi-market.

The awards were picked up both for the culture it has created that has led to the company doubling its target of £100m in incremental profit, as well as for work on specific brands including Baileys and Guinness.

Here, then, is a company rethinking not just how one business considers marketing effectiveness, but the whole industry. And prompting other marketers in the industry to emulate its success. Diageo also managed to do this without becoming slaves to data, understanding that creativity and learning remain key.

As Diageo’s global consumer planning director put it in an article he wrote for Marketing Week: “We strive to ensure our marketers have more solid long-term plans and that we free up time for them to place some bolder bets and experiment. We must remind ourselves that data is an aid to judgement and meaningless without context, and that creativity is the magic which can boost our performance further.”

Les Binet and James Hankins, for championing a new marketing metric

Magnifying glassThis year, the marketing community got excited about a free metric with the potential to predict future growth. Share of search, based on Google Trends search data dating back to 2004, was touted as an accurate proxy for market share.

And behind the hype were deep insights based on years of study from the likes of Adam&EveDDB group head of effectiveness, Les Binet, strategist James Hankins and teams at Google including head of sales analytics, Harry Davies.

After years of analysis of consumer behaviour within the search ecosystem, Binet developed a hypothesis that this freely available search data could be an indicator of brand salience. Having tested his theory with UK data in three different categories (new cars, mobile handsets, energy) over a five- to 10-year period, he found a strong correlation between share of search and share of market. That means when share of search goes up, share of market tends to go up afterwards.

Understanding the ‘art and science’ of share of search

Hankins too has been using share of search of years, in his case using it to “paint pictures of category dynamics”. While he is clear that share of search is not the silver bullet, Hankins believes it offers B2B and B2C marketers exciting possibilities to better understand market dynamics. Next, he wants to explore the possibility of multi-category analysis and examine the commonality between spend on innovation and share of search.

The predictive power of share of search, dependent on category, is another interesting aspect. Binet suggests in the car market, for example, share of search leads market share by around nine months on average, whereas in a short purchase cycle like FMCG it may have no predictive quality at all. But, even with such caveats the emergence of a free effectiveness metric can only be a good thing for marketers. 

Ritchie Mehta, for widening accessibility to marketing

A passionate advocate for diverse talent, Ritchie Mehta has worked tirelessly to open up new routes into marketing for people from backgrounds beyond the traditional degree-educated middle classes.

Mehta is CEO and founder of the School of Marketing, a specialist in skills-based marketing education that this year became a Level 3 apprenticeship provider.

During lockdown, Mehta, who regularly collaborates with a cohort of young marketers committed to widening the talent pool, teamed up with Direct Line managing director of marketing, Mark Evans, on a new podcast. The Oh, The Places We’ll Go podcast was created to inspire and educate people about marketing careers and has featured such guests as former Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Marketing Week Mini MBA founder Mark Ritson (above) and TSB CMO Pete Markey.

Helping diverse young people understand the opportunities a career in marketing can provide is the mission of the School of Marketing. This mission comes directly from Mehta’s own experience, having grown up in rural Scotland where he was not exposed to any role models working in marketing or the creative industries.

Is marketing ready to break down the barriers for diverse young talent?

After being told at school to go into a profession like engineering, Mehta joined HSBC’s executive management programme following university, a generalist graduate scheme that saw him rotate around branch management roles, regional offices and strategy positions.

Disillusioned with the work, Mehta was asked by a former mentor to join him in marketing and has never looked back. He is now adamant that young people should not be allowed to simply ‘fall into marketing’ and determined to enrich the industry by attracting talent from diverse backgrounds.

Direct Line, for its work on brand building


Saatchi & Saatchi chief strategy officer Richard Huntington was not wrong when he said the industry has a lot to learn from Direct Line Group about building successful brands and how modern marketing works.

It might have appeared a crazy move for the company’s eponymous brand Direct Line to dump its hugely successful ‘The Fixer’ campaign despite little sign it was getting less effective. Even crazier – although they didn’t know this at the time – to launch the new campaign just a few weeks before lockdown hit in the UK.

How Direct Line is proving the link between customer and commercial

But Direct Line does not do crazy things. This is a brand that has spent years learning what works and what doesn’t, and it knew that shifting its communication strategy to focus even more on brand would pay off.

It had already done it on Churchill last year, with investment on a relaunch that saw its canine mascot receive a CGI makeover spent almost exclusively in brand building. This was done to ensure the brand, which operates mostly on price comparison sites, stands out.

The company is now doing the same with the Direct Line brand, with its new campaign platform ‘We’re on it’ ostensibly a brand building play. And despite the Covid crisis and its impact on the business, the campaign has proved to be 20% more effective in driving sales than even The Fixer was.

This then is a lesson for the marketing industry. Even in times of crisis, there is commercial value in building brands. Those that can invest will reap the long-term rewards.

Jerry Daykin, for championing diversity and holding a mirror up to the digital ad industry

You might think a role like senior media director at GSK would be enough to keep Jerry Daykin busy, but you’d be wrong. He manages to combine this day job with a passion for diversity and inclusion, while also holding the mirror up to the digital marketing industry.

He has a long list of roles outside GSK. He is a member of the World Federation of Advertisers’ media board and one of its diversity and inclusion ambassadors. He is also a board member of the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) and advocacy group Outvertising.

He has written extensively and spoken out about the need to “save” digital advertising. His role at CAN involves encouraging other brands to think about the broader impact of how and where they spend their digital media dollars to tackle issues, such as fake news and ad fraud.

Jerry Daykin on why GSK is training all its marketers on inclusion

He has also addressed the digital media’s industry tendency to jump on a trend, whether debunking the success of Oreo’s ‘dunk in the dark’ tweet or questioning the value of organic social media.

His work on diversity and inclusion has included asking marketers to think about what they flag as not brand safe, encouraging them to take a more nuanced approach to terms such as ‘lesbian’ and ‘sex’ to ensure publications catering to the LGBTQ+ audience are not penalised.

He has helped to launch and promote the Outvertising awards, which celebrate LGBTQ+ inclusive advertising. And now at GSK he is helping train all the pharmaceutical company’s marketers on diversity and inclusion.

Daykin is using his experience and position to push the industry forward on some of the key challenges it faces today, adamant that change is possible. And he’s right, it is.

Channel 4 for its anti-racism stance

Channel 4’s remit has always positioned the broadcaster as an alternative voice to both the BBC and ITV (even when its schedules have been awash with property and food shows), and it was one of the first companies in the summer to introduce a number of key anti-racism pledges and commitments.

The Leeds-based broadcaster’s strong stance and sense of purpose is a hugely admirable one. As well as committing to being an anti-racist organisation, CEO Alex Mahon also committed to working towards BAME equity as an employer, to commissioning relevant and authentic content “that reflects the lives of BAME audiences on an ongoing basis”, to fair BAME representation on screen, to fair BAME representation in our supply chain and to use the channel’s influence as an advertiser-funded broadcaster to ensure BAME representation in advertising.

That last pledge has seen Channel 4 encouraging brands to use it as a platform for championing diversity and calling attention to inequalities. In August, it launched a £1m Diversity In Advertising award, with a shortlist that included Boots, EA Sports and Lloyds Bank.

Last month rival supermarket brands came together during a peak-time ad break on the channel to show solidarity with Sainsbury’s, after the retailer was subjected to racist abuse on social media (and a more coded criticism in the tabloid press) for running a Christmas slot featuring a Black British family.

It was a powerful statement, and it was also a great example of creative thinking. Channel 4’s programming over the years contains plenty of important instances highlighting its efforts to ensure that diverse voices are heard. Now it’s turned its focus on to what happens in the gaps in between.

June Sarpong, for championing creative diversity

BBCFormer TV presenter June Sarpong took on her new role as the BBC’s director of creative diversity in October last year. It was a key moment, coming as it did so soon after her colleague Naga Munchetty was censured by the corporation for remarks she made about Donald Trump and BBC News’s editorial director Kamal Ahmed made allegations about racially-charged language used by some staff.

The author of two books looking at issues around diversification and inclusion, Sarpong has led the BBC Creative Diversity Unit during this critical year with an energy and drive that has seen initiatives like guidance and tools for BBC staff and industry partners and various frameworks for auditing, setting targets and evaluating results.

Last month, she oversaw the launch of the Creative Allies Initiative that saw the BBC team up with partners from business, the arts and fashion to develop a new generation of creatives from diverse backgrounds.

Clearly, there’s still plenty of work to be done, and Sarpong is keen to let everyone know just how vital the coming months and years are going to be when it comes to recruiting from a more inclusive talent pool.

“We are at a place, particularly in B2C, where you can no longer get away with not having an effective strategy on diversity and inclusion,” she warned delegates at this year’s Festival of Marketing. “People expect it. If you are going to futureproof your business, you have to figure this one out.”

Daryl Fielding, for leading the push for apprenticeships

Announcing a fundraising initiative in June, The Marketing Academy Foundation’s CEO Daryl Fielding issued this rallying call: “Given the recently resurfaced debate and pledges to diversify talent, it’s time to take positive action, not just talk about it.”

Delivered in wake of the murder of George Floyd and subsequent calls for brands to increase efforts to make substantive improvement on diversity and inclusion, it was typical of Fielding. Honest, direct and passionate about making marketing more accessible to more people from more backgrounds, at a younger age.

Fielding has been CEO of The Marketing Academy Foundation, which offers young people from challenging backgrounds the opportunity to start careers in marketing through year-long apprenticeships, since its launch as a standalone charity in 2017. She has worked tirelessly since to raise awareness, funding and interest from the brands it needs to take on apprentices.

In the past 12 months, the charity has brought on board TSB, which has committed to taking on two apprentices to add to the 20-plus the charity has helped receive training and education. She helped drive a fundraising initiative that raised £18,000 where high-profile figures in the marketing community recreated classic ads from the past 40 years. Apprenticeships are key to efforts to increase the diversity of those entering the marketing industry.

In Fielding, marketing has a formidable advocate for change.

BrewDog for pushing for change

brewdog hand sanitiserBrewdog might be best known in the marketing world for its brash and sometimes offensive advertising but this year it has shown us its campaigning side.

It began in March when the craft beer company shifting production lines to create free hand sanitiser. Since then it has made and donated more than £1m worth of BrewDog Sanitiser to health care charities, key frontline workers and hospitals.

It also launched and sold BrewDog NHS Heroes pack – cases of beer where all the profits are donated to the Help NHS Heroes charity.

Not only did it help out key workers but it also lent a hand to the struggling pub industry too, launching beer delivery service Hop Drop to help save wasted pints in April.

It’s also been big year for sustainability too. Brewdog became the world’s first carbon negative brewery, meaning it removes twice as much carbon from the air as it emits. As part of its 2020 sustainability plan it also created the BrewDog Forest, buying 2,000 acres in the heart of the Scottish Highlands to create a bio-diverse native broadleaf forest.

It has done this while keeping its brand personality. After the news that Dominic Cummings decided to “test his eye site” by driving to Barnard Castle BrewDog launched a Barnard Castle eye test New England IPA release that sold out in record time and prompted another release.



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