Marketing Week’s Masters ‘Visionary Marketer of the Year’ shortlist revealed

The shortlist for Marketing Week’s Masters awards category Visionary Marketer of the Year, sponsored by MiQ, has been revealed.

Alessandra Bellini, chief customer officer and executive committee member, Tesco

Alessandra Bellini was brought in at a crucial time for Tesco, with consumer perceptions damaged following a spate of issues that had seen the business hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent years.

On top of that, consolidation, changing consumer behaviours, the threat of the discounters and now Amazon, as well as inflation and the proposed merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda, are all making the grocery sector increasingly competitive and hard to succeed in.

But just over a year into the role, Bellini’s efforts to rebuild trust in the UK’s largest supermarket and make it warmer and more loved by its customers are clearly starting to pay off.

From Tesco’s ‘Food Love Stories’ advertising campaign – an ongoing effort to improve perceptions about the quality of its food – to restructuring the architecture of the brand to make sure its ranges are much clearer in their positioning, Bellini’s hands-on influence spans far and wide across the business.

With more than three decades of marketing experience, she is more than capable for the job. But more than that, her passion for Tesco as a business puts her in a good position to help propel the brand back to full health.

Sara Bennison, CMO and executive committee member, Nationwide Building Society

Sara Bennison oversees a brand on a high. Record customer satisfaction scores, current accounts opened and members joined in its latest financial year cannot be solely attributed to her. However, her focus, as she puts it, on “engaging people with the concept of ‘building society’ and how its ideals benefit this generation and the next” since taking over as CMO two-and-a-half years ago has helped bolster brand perception.

The strategy is evident in its ongoing ‘Voices’ campaign, which sees it give ads over to unknown spoken word artists, enabling them in a similar manner to the way the building society enables ordinary people to buy homes.

Although hugely successful, the ads generated hateful comments on its social platforms, something that prompted her to call on brands to take a stand against abusers rather than deleting or ignoring comments.

This is just one example of Bennison’s active engagement in marketing industry matters. As vice-president of ISBA’s council, member of the Industry Advisory Panel advising the ASA and member of WACL, she is looking to help bolster the reputation of the UK advertising and marketing industry.

Steve Chantry, CMO, Kraft Heinz

Steve Chantry

When Kraft Heinz CMO Steve Chantry joined the company a year ago it’s fair to say he was facing a battle. The company wasn’t growing and in 2016 UK sales went from £847m to £709m, a 16.3% year-on-year decline. Fast-forward 12 months and the UK saw growth for the first time in seven years, in large part thanks to Chantry’s approach to marketing.

Unafraid to modernise the business, he took a critical analysis of core brands and endeavoured to switch the mindset to a focus on innovation both in new products and advertising the old – causing a media storm this year by considering changing the name of Heinz Salad Cream.

In a business often accused of drilling numbers, Chantry pledged to bring the “magic” back and create a dedicated UK brand-building team to focus creativity on a longer-term scale. However, that’s not to say he ignores them and by combining a ruthless commitment to marketing effectiveness with a focus on ingenuity, Chantry has been given the green light in the best way possible – a larger budget.

With CEO Bernado Hees committing to more money spent on marketing and Heinz’s 150th anniversary next year it will be interesting to see what Chantry does next.

Mark Evans, marketing director, Direct Line

Mark Evans

Mark Evans’s presence in debates on issues of marketing effectiveness and diversity has been consistent and highly visible in the past year, building his own and Direct Line Group’s reputation for thought leadership in the profession.

As well as campaigning for neurodiversity in marketing teams and recognising the value of combining talents from all walks of life, Evans has overseen innovations such as the incorporation of AI into the company’s insurance products. Under his leadership, empowered by former marketer and current CEO Paul Geddes, Direct Line Group also won a spot on Marketing Week’s top employer brands list in 2017. The accolade particularly recognised the group’s success in placing marketing at the heart of the business’s strategy.

Evans’ marketing strategy has been central to the way the group’s brands have driven its financial performance, with the brand equity of the likes of Direct Line and Churchill enabling the company to grow both policy numbers and profits in a market where competition from comparison sites is fierce.

Meghan Farren, UK CMO, KFC

Meghan Farren

The past year could have been a disaster for KFC and for UK CMO Meghan Farren. Having appointed Mother as its new creative agency in early 2017, the first TV spot featuring a strutting chicken became the most complained about ad of the year. Then, at the start of 2018, a decision to switch its logistics contract to DHL and QSL became a fiasco when it was unable to deliver chicken to stores, resulting in hundreds of restaurants across the country being forced to shut.

The shortage threatened to severely damage KFC’s sales and brand reputation, but the response from Farren and agency Mother staved off crisis, turning it into a brand opportunity. The apology, a print ad that showed a KFC bucket with the letters rearranged to spell ‘FCK’, was a risk for Farren but one that paid off. It was widely applauded for being witty, playful and on-brand and fostered good will that the company will now be hoping to build on.

Farren’s focus has been on shaking up the norms for the fast food category to give KFC a distinctive voice, but one that also captures, as she puts it, “who we are as a business and our culture”. She places huge value on the relationship with agencies, seeing them as an extension of her team and giving them huge access to the brand and its strategy so they can “make the best work”.

Her background as a consultant means she comes at everything from a strategic, rather than a tactical, point of view and that is paying dividends. She is passionate about the brand and making it a destination for marketers, setting it up so marketing plays a key role in building the brand and the company in the coming years.

Antonio Lucio, global chief marketing and communications officer, HP

Few marketers have done as much as Antonio Lucio to move the dial on diversity and make it a global business imperative in 2018.

Over the past two years the HP global chief marketing and communications officer has not only pushed his own company to improve the diversity of its internal teams, but also insisted that the main agencies appoint more women and people of colour to positions of influence on the HP account.

Instrumental in the development of HP’s Agency Scorecard rating system, Lucio’s work on diversity has resulted in a 20% improvement in the number of women working on HP’s accounts worldwide, which now stands at 61%.

This year, Lucio also forged HP’s partnership with Cannes Lions on #MoreLikeMe, a programme designed to “turbocharge” the careers of high potential people of colour working across HP’s five main agencies – BBDO, Edelman, Fred & Farid, Giant Spoon and PHD. The programme, launched at Cannes Lions in June, saw three candidates selected from each agency to take part in a year-long mentoring scheme.

This passionate belief that innovation is not possible without building diverse teams is reflected in Lucio’s overall approach to leadership. He has readily embraced the rising influence of data in marketing, overseeing HP’s decision to in-house its capabilities in analytics, artificial intelligence and programmatic buying over the past two years.

Lucio has also welcomed the changing profile of the people coming into the HP marketing team, describing the inclusion of more engineers with in depth knowledge of analytics and mobile as “significantly more interesting”.

Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer, Unilever

Unilever marketing boss Keith Weed

Unilever chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed’s sincere concern about the level of toxic content and fake news on social media and what he is doing to deal with it should be applauded. Weed has taken on the likes of Facebook and Google by condemning platforms that “breed division” and warning he will pull investment from those that do not protect children or which create division in society and promote anger or hate.

Forming part of three pledges, Weed has also prioritised combating stereotyping in Unilever’s communications and promised the company will only partner with organisations that are committed to creating better digital infrastructures, such as having one measurement standard and improving customer experience.

Weed is also determined to tackle head-on the rise of influencer fraud, calling for immediate action to stop “eroding trust in the channel”. He wants transparency and integrity, and made further commitments that Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers, will refuse to work with influencers who buy followers; will prioritise partners who help eradicate the problem; and none of the company’s brands will buy followers. Weed believes it is “imperative” not to let a few bad apples corrupt an opportunity to engage with people and to support the creators who get it right.

To see the full shortlist for the channel, sector and special Masters awards click the links below.

Shortlist for Channel Masters

Shortlist for Sector Masters

Shortlist for Special Masters

The winners of Marketing Week’s Masters will be unveiled during a ceremony held at Tobacco Dock in London on 9 October. For more information on the event and table bookings head to

The awards ceremony also marks the start of the Festival of Marketing which takes place on 10 and 11 October at the same venue. For more information on the conference, including how to buy tickets, visit



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