Here Are the Most Indispensable Executives in Marketing, Media and Tech

CMOs are hot! Marketing chiefs represent the single largest cohort in this year’s 
Adweek 50, our annual list of the most indispensable executives behind the CEO across the marketing, media and tech disciplines. Surprising, given that they’re not directly responsible for bringing in revenue—that’s the job of sales folk, who are also well represented here. But there is a reason this list is rich with CMOs. For one, they control the ad budgets that keep the media alive and healthy. And for another, marketing execs have become technologically astute as they ensure their companies are up on the latest tech trends and platforms. Speaking of tech, Snapchat’s Imran Khan is our No. 1 this year—thanks to his efforts, the social platform has become the hottest ad opportunity of 2016. —Michael Bürgi

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No. 1: Imran Khan

Chief strategy officer, Snapchat
Estimated 2016 revenue: $367 million

At the Cannes ad festival last summer, Snapchat chief strategy officer Imran Khan could be spotted moseying down the Croisette by himself, seemingly just another ad-sales guy in jeans and a tucked-in collared shirt. Meanwhile, lesser industry notables ran around with entourages rivaling some rap stars. Never mind that Khan shepherds the hottest digital platform around. Choosing simplicity over pizzazz is part of what Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel admires about his executive sidekick, who, eMarketer predicts, will turn the mobile app into a $1 billion business next year. The 39-year-old is advertising’s newest star—whether he knows it or not.

“I think people are most excited about our company,” deflects Khan, when asked about how he feels being named to the No. 1 spot on the Adweek 50. “People are excited about our community and pace of innovation.”

His company’s stats tell a much less humble story. Snapchat now counts more than 150 million daily users, making it more popular than Twitter. Netflix’s recent geofilter effort on the app targeted people in or around 200 cafes, and the ad was viewed 880,000 times in less than 24 hours. When it comes to a limited, location-based endeavor, that’s impressive scale. And then there’s Taco Bell’s national, one-day video ad campaign last May, which shows what can be done when the Snapchat spigot is truly opened up, as the burrito slinger garnered 224 million views.

“We can reach audiences based on their interests, with matching look-alikes, as well as with gender, location, device and [mobile] operating-system targeting,” Khan adds. “We’ve made it very efficient for advertisers to reach their most desirable audience.”

In less than two years with Snapchat, Khan has opened offices in Paris, London, Toronto, Sydney, Chicago, Detroit and Dallas. Just as important, he also poached industry vet Jeff Lucas from Viacom to lead global sales. But perhaps his most notable achievement in the last few months is the launch of Snapchat Partners, an ads API (application programming interface) that lets two-dozen digital players create and sell video ads. Industry players say that Khan deserves credit for helping awaken the industry out of its “organic-marketing daydream,” as one agency exec put it, and getting players focused back on actual advertising.

“The Snapchat team is doing the right thing by guiding brands to the ads products early in the adoption cycle,” says Ken Kraemer, CEO of Moment Studio. “Khan and team have done a good job selling the API, and the market wants it.”

Earlier this fall, Snapchat surprised the industry by renaming the company Snap Inc., while simultaneously unveiling sunglasses called Spectacles, which record video of the wearer’s POV—think Google Glass for Gen Z. Khan says it’s too early to speculate about what such devices could mean, if anything, to his advertising platform. But the gadgets—expected to be released this month—underscore how the company continues to spark new ideas.

“They have positioned themselves as the incubator, the crucible, of content accessorizing,” says Justin Hood, vp of digital platforms, DDB Chicago. “This social jewelry gains legs on Snapchat’s own platform, then radiates out across the entire sharing ecosystem. For a company that refuses to call itself a social network, it’s generating more inherently social activity than the other platforms care to do anymore.”

So what’s next for Khan? While he declines to comment on the rumored IPO, a Wall Street road show is likely afoot. If that endeavor goes swimmingly, his days of walking alone anonymously at Cannes will likely be over.

“2016 was a good year,” Khan says. “But we have a lot to do, and we need to stay focused on the destination.” —Christopher Heine

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No. 2: Linda Yaccarino

Chairman, advertising sales and client partnerships, NBCUniversal
2015 ad revenue: $9.19 billion

In one of the strongest upfronts in years for media companies, no ad sales chief made out better than Yaccarino, whose team brought in more than $6 billion for NBCUniversal’s TV and video portfolio (the most successful upfront haul since Comcast took over the company five years ago). Yaccarino’s leadership helped secure 12.5 percent CPM increases for NBC in prime time, 13 percent for USA and 12 percent for E! As an encore, she oversaw a record $1.2 billion in ad revenue from the Rio Summer Olympics.

After merging her linear and digital ad sales teams a year ago, Yaccarino, 53, overhauled this year’s upfront presentation, combining two broadcast networks (NBC and Telemundo), 15 cable networks and all of NBCU’s digital properties into a single, two-hour event. And she’s been pushing for new ways to partner with brands beyond traditional 30-second spots, launching The NBCU Content Studio to create branded content beyond her company’s own platforms and collaborating with American Express to replace NBC commercial time with branded content. —Jason Lynch

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No. 3: Linda Boff

CMO, GE
2015 revenue: $117.4 billion

In a major pivot, the GE brand has labored intensely to transform from a legacy industrial giant into a digital company powered by data and innovation. A major force behind that move has been Linda Boff, who in September 2015 was named CMO. Boff has driven a number of strategic partnerships including a branded podcast created alongside Slate’s Panoply, The Message, which won two gold Lions and a bronze at Cannes; a scientific documentary series Breakthrough created with National Geographic; and a Cannes Grand Prix-winning virtual reality project done in partnership with The New York Times.

Not only has Boff helped the company get more nimble and tech savvy (it now communicates regularly with younger audiences on platforms including Snapchat and Instagram), but she has also focused on securing the best talent, both for GE and the larger marketing discipline. In October Boff helped launch the Association of National Advertisers’ CMO Talent Challenge program, designed to mentor up-and-coming marketers by getting CMOs to dedicate at least five hours in the next year to working with students. 
—Katie Richards

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No. 4: Sridhar Ramaswamy

Svp, ads, commerce, Google
2015 revenue: $85.6 billion

Nearly four years into his tenure at Google, things are going pretty smoothly for Rama-
swamy. Ad revenue for Google during the 3Q topped $19.8 billion, up 18 percent from last year. Industry peers laud his triumphs. “His views on mobile from both an ad format and more analytics perspective have been refreshing,” says Mike Racic, iCrossing’s president of media services. “The focus is not how brands can reach consumers, but how consumers use their devices and how advertisers should interact with them based on behaviors and moments.” Just a few weeks ago, Google Display Network ads added an important local element, in that the ads can now include a business address, Google Maps directions and photos. Home Depot tested the feature, and noted an eight-times improvement in ROI on its campaigns. —Christopher Heine

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No. 5: Brad Jakeman

President, global beverage group, PepsiCo
Est. 2016 revenue (Forbes): $12.9 billion

If the brand-agency model won’t bend, Brad Jakeman’s willing to break it. As the face and voice of Pepsi continues his public quest to evangelize a new type of relationship between brands and agencies, he’s practicing what he preaches. Besides lining up Mountain Dew with its first brand partnership with a drone league, Jakeman, 48, launched the Creators League, an in-house hub focused on creating content across Pepsi’s nutrition, beverage and snack brands. The unit is a follow-up to the company’s design center, which Jakeman helped create a few years back when he hired the company’s first chief design officer. Earlier this year, Pepsi became the first brand to launch a campaign using Twitter’s searchable emojis. Jakeman also led the way with other programs such as bringing emojis offline to packaging, TV and out-of-home advertising. —Marty Swant

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No. 6: Ted Sarandos

Chief content officer, Netflix
2016 revenue: $6.4 billion thru 3Q

With Netflix’s original content the talk of the entertainment industry, Sarandos is the guy to thank. With new original series Stranger Things and Narcos this year joining beloved veterans such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, Netflix cranked out more than 320 hours of original content over the last two years—generating a lot of water-cooler buzz along the way. Thanks to those new series, Netflix’s global streaming revenue hit $2.3 billion for Q3 of 2016, which marks a 32 percent rise year over year. Since first releasing original content, Netflix has received 45 Emmy, two Oscar and 10 Golden Globe nominations. Sarandos, 52, has helped shape a creator-distributor to be reckoned with. —Sami Main

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No. 7: Jo Ann Ross

President of sales, CBS
Est. 2015 ad revenue (SNL Kagan): $4.14 billion

The longest-tenured network ad sales chief —she’s been on the job since 2002—kicked off the year by securing record rates for Super Bowl 50 ads (up to $5 million per 30-second spot). But Ross, 63, was just getting started, riding CBS’ total viewer and 18-49 demo victories in the 2015-16 season to an upfront windfall, as she delivered on her boss Leslie Moonves’ audacious pre-upfront prediction that the network would secure double-digit gains. She’s also devised new ways to monetize late-night, including James Corden’s breakout segment, Carpool Karaoke. And if CBS ultimately recombines with Viacom (both companies are investigating a merger), Ross would be Moonves’ likely pick to oversee the entire sales portfolio. —Jason Lynch

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No. 8: Dawn Hudson

CMO, NFL
2015 revenue: $13 billion

Hudson, 58, who led the Adweek 50 a year ago, remains the chief architect of the league’s image across paid media. Though the league is facing its first ratings crisis, Hudson still scored numerous triumphs in her quest to humanize the NFL and give it greater cross-generational appeal. These efforts included “Super Bowl Babies Choir” (celebrating the fact that birth rates rise in cities nine months after they win the Big Game), and a spot with Packers running back Eddie Lacy visiting his “neighbors” who live near Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. Hudson’s “Football Is Family” mantra across such campaigns aims to forge a deeper link with fans. That message, alas, is undercut by the NFL’s oft-dysfunctional nature. Controversies range from Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem (protesting police violence) to a string of episodes involving domestic abuse. 
—David Gianatasio

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No. 9: Geri Wang

President, ABC Sales
Est. 2015 ad revenue (SNL Kagan): $3.15 billion

ABC faced a challenging year in 2016. For one, the Disney-owned network slipped to fourth place in delivery of adults 18-49, which hastened the departure of network president Paul Lee in February. Unfazed by these obstacles, Wang, 56, still dug in her heels during the upfront bazaar, delivering CPM gains of as much as 10 percent (double the previous year’s increases) on the strength of promising new shows like Designated Survivor and Speechless. She’s been creating new opportunities for advertisers to reach viewers, like the recent relaunch of ABC’s app and digital site, with original digital short-form series and full seasons of older shows like Brothers and Sisters, Ugly Betty and My So-Called Life. —Jason Lynch

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No. 10: Donna Speciale

President, Turner Ad Sales
Est. 2015 ad revenue, entertainment networks (SNL Kagan): $3.08 billion

Turner’s entertainment networks, led by TNT and TBS, are in the midst of their most ambitious reinvention ever, and Speciale is right at the center of it. After restructuring her sales team, dividing it by region and clients instead of by networks, Speciale, 54, led the charge to reduce clutter on TV by cutting the ad load by up to 50 percent on all of truTV’s prime-time series and TNT’s new dramas. Speciale’s push for audience targeting deals via Turner’s Audience Now product helped secure double-digit  CPM gains at the upfront. And she’s making waves with Launchpad, which optimizes branded content across social media, with more than 50 partners this year. —Jason Lynch

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No. 11: Eric Schrier, Nick Grad

Presidents, original programming, FX Networks and FX Productions
Est. 2015 ad revenue (SNL Kagan): $734.1 million

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf gets the lion’s share of the credit for his network’s success, but a lot of the credit goes to the dynamic duo of Grad, 47, and Schrier, 40. They shepherded the hit miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which averaged 13.2 million viewers across all platforms and won nine Emmys, as well as the hush-hush storyline for American Horror Story’s sixth season, whose premiere was FX’s No. 5 most-watched telecast ever in adults 18-49. The critical accolades continued with new shows Atlanta, Baskets and Better Things, and the streak should keep going in 2017 with a third installment of Fargo, Marvel superhero series Legion and a new anthology series from Ryan Murphy, Feud. —Jason Lynch 

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No. 12: Marni Walden

Evp, president of product, innovation and new business, Verizon
2015 revenue: $131.6 billion

“The biggest and most exciting challenge is identifying the new markets and businesses that have the potential to generate billion-dollar revenue streams,” says Walden, 49, of her mandate at Verizon. That includes dreaming up or finding next-gen products and services catering to younger generations. Acquisition seems to be the preferred path for now. Verizon’s proposed purchase of Yahoo made huge headlines and could expand the company’s palette—but might get discounted in light of Yahoo’s recent data breach. Elsewhere, on the content side, Verizon formed a venture with Hearst that subsequently bought bro-centric publisher Complex Media. It also took a stake in youth-oriented AwesomenessTV, gaining cred in mobile video. —David Gianatasio

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No. 13: Carolyn Everson

Vp of global marketing solutions, Facebook
2016 revenue: $18.5 billion thru 3Q

If Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla of media, Everson has become a veritable Jane Goodall, as she works with the world’s biggest brands and agencies to increase the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company’s revenue—having already hit more than $18 billion through 3Q of this year. This year, Everson, 44, and her teams have been tasked with building measurement tools that measure digital ads’ offline conversions and store visits and measurement partnerships with data companies such as Nielsen Catalina Solutions and Oracle Data Cloud. (And she needs to smooth ruffled feathers over Facebook’s admitted puffed-up video numbers.) Everson’s also worked to bring new creative formats to both Facebook and Instagram, including the global rollout of Canvas, Facebook’s full-screen mobile ad format, and swipeable Carousel video ads to Instagram. “Our ultimate goal is driving growth for our partners by building meaningful connections between people and businesses,” Everson says. —Lauren Johnson

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No. 14: Kristin Lemkau

CMO, JPMorgan Chase
2015 revenue: $93.5 billion

How do you create content for a financial services company that consumers will want to watch? JPMorgan Chase leaves that to 49-year-old Kristin Lemkau. Over the last year, Lemkau has been working to flip the company’s marketing script, moving Chase into a digital-first effort that she believes will grab more eyeballs.  “People don’t care if content is branded, so long as it’s really good,” she explains. Earlier this year the company released its latest card, the Sapphire Reserve, that flipped marketing script by leading with digital elements, says Lemkau, and it hit the company’s benchmark (it declined to provide specific numbers) in two weeks. Chase also scored a veritable three-pointer by securing naming rights to the arena where NBA darlings the Golden State Warriors play. —Kristina Monllos

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No. 15: James Quarles

Vp and gm of monetization, Instagram
Est. 2016 revenue (Credit Suisse): $3.2 billion

When Instagram opened its API a little more than a year ago, some wondered if too many ads on the visually centric photo- and video-sharing app would annoy users. But people keep coming, with more than 500 million now using the platform on a monthly basis. The total number of advertisers on the platform has also grown, rising from 200,000 to more than 500,000 in just six months. Under 41-year-old Quarles’ guidance, the company also successfully launched new marketing features such as the carousel ad format for swipeable videos, performance tools for small businesses and new ecommerce capabilities. —Marty Swant

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No. 16: Lou Paskalis

Svp, enterprise media planning, investment and measurement executive, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
2015 revenue: $82.9 billion

How do you grab headlines when you’re a financial services firm? Make them, argues Lou Paskalis, 51. The bank published real-time content from this year’s World Economic Forum—an event that he dubs “the Super Bowl for financial services”—in Davos, Switzerland.  “Instead of disrupting the conversation, which doesn’t work with the influencer community, we added value to it,” Paskalis says. It’s the same approach the bank took with The Business of Life, its content partnership with Vice that schools millennials on financial matters, like demystifying the pay stub. “In four years, we went from less than 10 percent share of voice in the financial services category to nearly 70,” Paskalis says. “It’s about finding those partnerships that are unexpected.” —Christine Birkner

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No. 17: Karin Timpone

CMO, Marriott
2015 revenue: $14 billion

Since joining Marriott three years ago, Timpone has completely redone the travel brand’s marketing. Armed with experience from her time at Disney-ABC, Timpone, 50, saw the opportunity to make Marriott’s messaging about the storytelling around travel and created a content studio to execute. Now the brand has rolled out original short films like Two Bellmen Two, which scored 8 million views—170 percent higher than its benchmark (which the brand would not share). “We are really redefining how media and brand storytelling is done,” says Timpone. On top of that, she’s been responsible for using pop culture moments to get Marriott in front of consumers. For example, with Pokemon Go buzzing, the company partnered with a Pokemon Go master in North America and sponsored his trip around the world to capture Pokemon at Marriott properties. —Kristina Monllos

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No. 18: Pamela El

Evp and CMO, NBA
Est. 2016-17 season revenue: $8 billion

El wears a lot of hats. She’s the evp as well as CMO for the NBA, the WNBA and the NBA Development League. As the NBA’s first CMO, El, 58, reenergized the brand while always trying to remind folks of the shared passion among fans, teams and the league. The NBA is currently the top pro sports league on social media, with more than 1.2 billion likes/followers. Earlier this year, the NBA Finals that saw the Cleveland Cavaliers finally win a championship were the most watched in ABC history and most watched overall since 1998, averaging 20 million viewers per game. The NBA’s official website and app also broke its own record from last year’s finals, by reaching 1.9 billion pageviews and 1.4 billion video views. —Sami Main

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No. 19: Jen Wong

COO, Time Inc.
2015 revenue: $3.1 billion

Amid the recent upheaval in the top ranks of Time Inc., one name has stood out: Wong, 41, the company’s first COO in several years. A digital native, Wong previously spent four years at PopSugar where she was chief business officer. After joining Time Inc. last December as president of digital, Wong added oversight of the company’s native ad studio, The Foundry, while streamlining the publisher’s digital business, including operations, product development, strategy and more. Since being promoted to COO in September, Wong’s busier than ever. She’s also leading the publisher’s consumer marketing and revenue division, while working with president and CEO Rich Battista on overall strategy and execution. In Q2, digital ad revenue grew 65 percent YOY, while video unique visitors increased 55 percent and mobile visitors were up 32 percent. —Emma Bazilian

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No. 20: Kip Fulks

CMO, Under Armour
2015 revenue: $3.96 billion

Under Fulks’ leadership, Under Armour has become a powerhouse marketer that can go tit for tat with Nike when it comes to big-name partnerships. In fact, UA scooped up one of sports’ biggest stars, basketball player Stephen Curry, because Nike undervalued him. With Curry, the brand has been able to triple its basketball business compared to six years ago. “I believe our strategic approach has built something incredibly deep and cohesive with Stephen,” explains 44-year-old Fulks. But it’s not just basketball. UA has scored the likes of swimming legend Michael Phelps, ballet star Misty Copeland and NFL quarterback Cam Newton, unleashing marketing that’s been winning awards and garnering headlines from USA Today to Time. —Kristina Monllos

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No. 21: Lucas Herscovici

Vp, consumer connections, AB InBev
2015 revenue: $13.8 billion (U.S.)

One out of every five beers consumed in the U.S. is a Bud Light, but that doesn’t mean Lucas Herscovici, 38, is resting on his laurels. In 2015, he helped AB InBev renew its sponsorship deals with the NBA through 2019 and the NFL through 2022. The new NFL deal allowed AB InBev to broaden distribution of its Bud Light team cans outside of each team’s local coverage area, more than doubling the amount of NFL-branded cans sold in the U.S. Team cans have driven a 3.8 percent sales increase for the brand in the past two years. In April, Bud Light also launched an esports program, Bud Light All-Stars. “In the '90s, we became the No. 1 sports marketer in the U.S., and we still are,” Herscovici says. “The biggest challenge is to push ahead and not just be the biggest spender, but the best.” —Christine Birkner

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No. 22: Jessica Rodriguez, Keith Turner

Evp and CMO; president, ad sales and marketing, Univision
2016 revenue: $1.5 billion thru 2Q

If you need an example of where marketing is headed, pay attention to Univision. With the combined powers of Turner, 62, and Rodriguez, 43, the Spanish-language video giant is well poised for the future. Rodriguez is responsible for a large cable portfolio that includes the No. 1 and No. 2 cable networks for Hispanics in the U.S., and Turner helped activate over 200 brands across Univision’s platforms. Original series from Netflix, like Narcos and Club de Cuervos, were broadcast on Univision as part of an unprecedented promotional deal from Rodriguez. Turner’s vision for Univision’s platforms helped target and reach the estimated 83 million average monthly (unduplicated) media consumers, and continues to explore growing their digital video capacity. —Sami Main

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No. 23: Kathleen Brookbanks

COO, Hearts & Science 
Est. 2016 media spend: $5 billion

To outsiders, Hearts & Science seemed to appear out of nowhere to score an invitation to Procter & Gamble’s media pitch before it had an office or even a name. But COO and OMD veteran Brookbanks, 60, is no newbie to the media scene. “I’ve run offices in New York and Chicago and had operational roles … even though I came up in strategy,” she says. Of her boss, CEO Scott Hagedorn (himself an OMD and PHD vet), Brookbanks says, “Scott and I were yin and yang in the pitch.” It proved a winning combination for the consumer-goods giant, which handed a good portion of its media work to the shop. H&S then moved into startup mode, rapidly scaling and eventually winning the AT&T account ahead of that company’s proposed megamerger with Time Warner. Building on that one-two punch, Hearts & Science opened eight offices and hired nearly 800 employees … all in less than eight months. —Patrick Coffee

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No. 24: Kern Schireson, Ross Martin

Evp of data strategy and consumer intelligence; evp of marketing strategy and engagement, Viacom
2016 revenue: $7.5 billion thru 3Q

Viacom is still a significant magnet for millennial and Gen Z audiences, even if that has been largely overshadowed lately by the ugly fight for power in the boardroom (as of last week, the content giant has its third CEO, Bob Bakish, in as many months). Under the care of Schireson, 43, and Martin, 42, Viacom is back to tinkering with new platforms and ideas that go back to  putting “fans first.” This includes the launch of Viacom Lab this past May, which acts as an incubator of new fan experiences, either through livestreams or other new tech. The pair has also recruited a team of data scientists who’ve indirectly helped drive over $1 billion in ad sales since 2015. And finally, South Park, which premiered in 1997, just saw its highest ratings in 16 years on Comedy Central thanks to the duo’s portfolio-wide push for the irreverent cartoon. —Sami Main

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No. 25: Joe Lewis

Head of half-hour and drama series, Amazon Studios
Est. Amazon Prime subs: 63 million

Netflix isn’t the only streaming service giving the networks a run for their money. As the first creative hire at Amazon Studios, Lewis, 36, was tasked with keeping Amazon Prime members happy with their subscriptions. As head of half-hour series, he’s done just that this year with an exhilarating slate that included returning shows Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, critically acclaimed newbies One Mississippi and Fleabag, and Woody Allen’s first-ever TV series, Crisis in Six Scenes. On Oct. 17, Lewis was given oversight of Amazon’s dramas as well, which means he’ll be the point person as Matthew Weiner creates his much-anticipated follow-up series to Mad Men for the streaming service. —Jason Lynch

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No. 26: Nicolle Pangis

Global COO, Xaxis
Est. 2015 revenue: $1 billion

“We’re investing more than $50 million this year in our tech,” says Pangis, 38, one of programmatic’s most powerful players, leading teams at WPP’s Xaxis as they harness AI and machine learning to personalize and hyper-target ads in real time, growing client ROI across the digital ecosystem. In 2016, Pangis helped launch Co-Pilot, a system allowing Xaxis to more effectively customize and track initiatives in DSP buying platforms, and she oversaw the expansion of data-activation tool Turbine, which annually analyzes trillions of consumer data points to gauge and predict consumer intent.

Plus, Pangis negotiated a deal that provides Xaxis with direct integration into DoubleClick Bid Manager, allowing clients to manage and measure their Google and YouTube campaigns. —David Gianatasio

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No. 27: Greg Hoffman

CMO, Nike
2016 revenue: $32.4 billion

To close the distance between elite and everyday athletes, Hoffman, 46, wanted to champion achievers in both worlds, from decorated Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas to Sister Madonna Buder, aka the “Iron Nun,” for Nike’s campaign around the Summer Olympics in Rio.

That concept became the “Unlimited” series of 18 short films, from longtime agency Wieden + Kennedy, that snagged 480 million digital views and were the most memorable of the games, according to Google. A 23-year Nike veteran who started as a design intern and has since shaped the brand’s storytelling voice, Hoffman also played a pivotal role in the new multiplatform campaign, “Come Out of Nowhere,” with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and other pro stars, for the just-launched NBA season. —T.L. Stanley

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No. 28: Keith Grossman

Global chief revenue officer, Bloomberg Media
2015 revenue: $9.3 billion

In just over two years at Bloomberg Media, Grossman has solidified his position as a vital exec in the company. In the past year alone, Grossman, 36, has received two major promotions—from publisher of Bloomberg Digital and Digital Products to head of U.S. sales last November, and then to global CRO in September. (For his part, Grossman says that his latest post is one that he plans to keep for a while.) Thanks to his initiatives—building a programmatic business from scratch, launching a b-to-b marketing services group, selling out ad inventory for Bloomberg’s livestreams of the presidential debates on Twitter, and more—the company’s total revenue has grown 8 percent YOY through September. —Emma Bazilian

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No. 29: Peter Naylor

Svp of ad sales, Hulu
Est. 2016 revenue: $2 billion

With more original Hulu series popping up, ad sales chief Naylor, 50, sees those as more opportunities for ad integrations. With fan favorite The Mindy Project (which Hulu took a risk on in picking it up after Fox dropped the comedy), he introduced Microsoft and Lexus as partners. Thinking ahead, Naylor successfully led Hulu’s biggest year for advertising, with over 30 percent year-over-year growth, while simultaneously introducing a commercial-free subscription service. As Hulu moves into the future and embraces virtual reality, Naylor is ensuring the revenue is there to invest in staying ahead of the game. —Sami Main

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No. 30: Eric Brown

Director, Watson Algorithms, IBM
2015 revenue: $81.7 billion

Some teachers experience immense satisfaction when surpassed by one of their students. But what if that student is a supercomputer? Brown, 49, has spent the past two decades teaching IBM’s Watson system to reason more efficiently and communicate more effectively with humans using spoken language. Since making headlines by winning $1 million on Jeopardy in 2011, Watson earned a special place in pop culture, representing a pinnacle of technological achievement with seemingly endless applications. Brown focuses on medical implementation, designed to help caregivers “make better, faster, and more efficient decisions. We are moving as fast as we can to grow the Watson Health Cloud, bring this technology to practitioners, and add to the 200 million patients around the world that already benefit from Watson Health solutions.” —David Gianatasio

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No. 31: Eric Springer

Chief creative officer, Innocean USA
Est. 2015 revenue: $91 million

When Springer, 50—a veteran of Ignited, Deutsch and FCB West—joined Hyundai-backed Innocean USA as chief creative officer in January, he said the low-key SoCal shop had the potential to become a “creative powerhouse.” Innocean isn’t there yet, but Springer has taken the work up a notch, shepherding noteworthy efforts all year long. Hyundai’s Super Bowl push starring Ryan Reynolds as literally every guy in town proved extremely popular, while the nameplate’s “We Don’t Judge” effort employed sly humor to tout its partnership with the NFL. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Genesis launch employed moody monochrome photography and aspirational themes to suggest modern yet timeless luxury. —David Gianatasio

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No. 32: Dao Nguyen

Publisher, BuzzFeed
Est. 2016 revenue: $250 million

Though she doesn’t hold a traditional publisher position, Nguyen has brought her full energy and passion for data to her role. She oversees everything that isn’t editorial, ads or video-related. By publishing on more than 30 platforms across the world, Nguyen has helped shape how more than 70 percent of BuzzFeed readers, all on mobile devices, experience the site. The 42-year-old Nguyen also helped launch six apps, including one called BuzzFeed Japan, as more than 90 million unique visitors to BuzzFeed come from outside the U.S. Separately, Nguyen had a hand in designing the site’s responsive content management system (CMS) to include mobile preview for Android and iOS devices as well as mobile publishing. She understands the future of media is in our pockets. —Sami Main

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No. 33: Katie Klumper

President, KBS New York
2015 revenue: NA

Klumper joined KBS six years ago—originally to run the BMW account—but beginning last June she expanded her role to president of the 550-person New York office. Under the 33-year-old Klumper’s leadership, the agency continues to work with a diverse group of clients including BMW and Keds and adding Red Robin and Monster in the last year. Some of the agency’s standout campaigns of the year include BMW’s “Built for Gold” Paralympic Team anthem and the female-driven Keds campaign starring Allison Williams and Ciara. In the past year, Klumper said one of her proudest moments has been helping KBS' social media agency, Attention, launch its Los Angeles-based influencer studio, created to help the agency’s clients “stay ahead of the curve.” —Katie Richards 

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No. 34: Danielle Lee

Global vp, partner solutions, Spotify
2016 reach: 100 million monthly users

Reach for a certain playlist on Spotify—chill time, workout, party—and Lee will match a brand to your mood. The key to effective advertising is context, says Lee, 41, who has been on a cross-country road show this fall to pitch marketers on the streaming music app’s new Branded Moments vertical video ads. So far Bacardi, Bose and Gatorade have bought into the offering that mixes video messages with 30 minutes of commercial-free music. Lee also launched programmatic audio, giving buyers access to 70 million music fans that listen to the free service, and Project Playlist, a native ad unit at Spotify, which has doubled its ad sales revenue year over year for two years running. —T.L. Stanley 

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No. 35: Joanna Coles

Chief content officer, Hearst Magazines
Hearst Corp. 2015 revenue: $10.7 billion

Even if you don’t follow the magazine business, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with Coles. The former Cosmopolitan editor in chief and Seventeen editorial director, 54, has become Hearst Magazines’ most visible face, lending her talents to TV (she’ll appear in an upcoming E! documentary series about Cosmo and inspired a Freeform scripted series based on her life as an editor), making waves in the tech world (where she holds a seat on Snapchat’s board) and launching new initiatives (like a series of Cosmo Live conferences). In her new role as chief content officer, to which she was appointed in September, Coles is leading new magazine development, spearheading brand expansions and working with Hearst-owned iCrossing on native content and marketing initiatives. —Emma Bazilian

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No. 36: Allison Gollust

Evp and CMO, CNN Worldwide
2015 operating revenue: $1.2 billion

In an election year as fraught as this one, CNN Worldwide and its various properties are more important than ever, and Gollust, 44, understands that. As evp and CMO, Gollust’s marketing team was nominated for two news Emmys and won for its campaign for the CNN original series The Seventies. Her team has also won the PromaxBDA Global Excellence Award for marketing team of the year in 2015 and 2016. Her own bona fides aside, perhaps Gollust also owes a debt of gratitude to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump—it’s their vitriolic presidential campaigns that have not only given CNN renewed purpose but also helped it achieve its highest rated month (October) in 11 years. —Sami Main

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No. 37: Joel Stillerman

President, original programming and development, AMC/SundanceTV
Est. 2015 ad revenue (SNL Kagan): $572.2 million

Keeping one of TV’s biggest hits from losing viewers is no easy task, but The Walking Dead—TV’s No. 1 series in 18-49 for five years—remains as popular as ever. The Season 7 premiere was watched by 17 million viewers, close to a series record.

With its spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, Stillerman, 55, now has a franchise show airing 31 Sundays a year, which helped make AMC a top 5 cable network in delivery of adults 18-49. He’s launched other distinctive fare like Preacher, The Night Manager and Ride With Norman Reedus on AMC. Meanwhile, he’s turning SundanceTV into a destination for original programming on Wednesday, including Hap and Leonard, which is the highest-rated original series in Sundance history. —Jason Lynch

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No. 38: Winston Binch

Partner, chief digital officer, Deutsch N.A.
Est. 2015 revenue: $240 million

Since leaving Crispin Porter + Bogusky a half decade ago for Deutsch, Binch, 42, has helped put the IPG-owned shop at the vanguard of digital media and advertising. Innovative, even groundbreaking, efforts abound, raising the bar for how marketers and agencies use IT as a promotional tool. These include Volkswagen’s Matchmaker site (which used online dating services as a model for helping shoppers pick the perfect car), and two ecommerce initiatives for Taco Bell: Ta.co, which emulated Instagram and Pinterest to put a fun social twist on fast-food sales, and Tacobot, a wisecracking Slack bot that harnessed Facebook’s AI technology to process orders. “We love building things and believe that the best ads aren’t always ads,” says Binch. “Because of that, invention and technology are a big part of who we are.” —David Gianatasio

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No. 39: Chris McCarthy

President, MTV, VH1 and Logo
Est. 2015 VH1 and Logo ad revenue (SNL Kagan): $386.1 million

At a time when cable ratings are falling almost across the board, particularly at Viacom, McCarthy, 41, has done the seemingly impossible since joining VH1 as gm in July 2015: He’s overseen five consecutive quarters of growth in the 18-49 demo, which led to VH1’s biggest year-over-year gains (18 percent) in more than 15 years. His biggest moves at the network included reviving Hip Hop Honors and relaunching America’s Next Top Model, which started on VH1. Now Viacom hopes that lightning can strike twice: On Oct. 24, McCarthy was also put in charge of MTV, in hopes he can work his ratings magic there as well. —Jason Lynch

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No. 40: Katy Loria

Chief revenue officer, Screenvision Media
Est. 2015 revenue: $200-250 million

The silver screen has long been a canvas for vivid storytelling. Thanks to Loria, 49, and Screenvision, which handles advertising at nearly 2,500 theaters, the entire moviegoing experience is becoming a more vital environment for brand narratives. In May, the company rolled out Connected Cinema, an integrated effort with partners such as MovieTickets.com that allows marketers to reach consumers from the moment they search for neighborhood show times and tickets. By 2017, an enhanced version of Screenvision’s Front & Center pre-show will let moviegoers control on-screen action through their mobile devices in 1,000 cinemas nationwide. Plus, through branded Shazam Sessions, advertisers can now align themselves with music artists for theater content. —David Gianatasio

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No. 41: Paul Guyardo

Chief commercial officer, Discovery Communications
2015 ad revenue: $1.65 billion

Overseeing the company's U.S. ad sales, digital media, licensing and consumer products, consumer insights and data analytics, Guyardo ensures that Discovery’s brands and premium content are available on every screen and platform. He’s a pivotal part of the company’s digital expansion as Discovery looks to woo millennials, driving its $100 million investment with Thrillist Media Group, NowThis Media, The Dodo and its own digital network Seeker last month to create Group Nine Media. Also last month, Guyardo, 55, added oversight of Eurosport Digital, extending his influence beyond Discovery’s U.S. operations. —Jason Lynch

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No. 42: Ellen Stone

Evp, marketing, Bravo and Oxygen Media
NBCU cable networks 2015 revenue: $3.4 billion

Stone’s thoughtfulness in bringing marketing strategies to where her audience is focused (watching Facebook live videos or using Snapchat filters) helped propel Bravo and Oxygen to the forefront of millennial women’s minds. The ratings story behind the 51-year-old marketer’s effort seems to prove it. Bravo, to date, ranks ninth in viewers 18-49 and 25-54 against other ad-supported cable entertainment networks in prime time. Additionally, 13 of Bravo’s original series are up season over season in total viewers, and the network just earned its best third quarter for video-on-demand across all platforms. Oxygen, with its newly branded Crime Time weekend programming, earned double-digit growth from Q4 2015. —Sami Main

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No. 43: Steven Wolfe Pereira

Chief marketing, communications officer, Neustar
2015 revenue: $1.05 billion

In June, software security firm Neustar said it plans to separate into two publicly traded companies: an information services provider to the marketing industry, and order management and numbering services for telecom firms. Wolfe Pereira, 43, joined Neustar in May 2016 to help engineer the split, which will happen in early 2017. He previously served in leadership roles at Oracle and Starcom MediaVest Group. Wolfe Pereira crafted Neustar’s new go-to-market strategy, culminating with the launch of its new website in October, which has been a success so far, as Neustar’s revenue increased 16 percent in the second quarter of 2016. “It’s about bringing purpose to a b-to-b company,” he says. “We want to be client obsessed, data driven and ROI focused, and that’s what I bring as a marketer.” —Christine Birkner

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No. 44: Jennifer Saenz

Svp and CMO, Frito-Lay
Est. 2016 revenue (Forbes): $15.1 billion

Saenz, who became Frito-Lay’s CMO in February after leading innovation and strategy for the brand, helmed Lay’s successful “Do Us a Flavor” promotion and helped reposition Lay’s Wavy chips to appeal to women. This year, Frito-Lay asked consumers to set or break 50 Doritos-related world records, like building the tallest house of cards made from the chips, through its “Bold 50” campaign. For election season, Saenz’s team introduced Doritos made of cardboard to remind young consumers of the bland, flavorless future that could result from not voting. “The narrative that we have on Doritos is really about bold action,” says Saenz, 38. “That bold action can take many forms, whether it’s in the form of entertainment or movies or music or, in this case, engagement in the democratic process.” —Christine Birkner

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No. 45: John Burbank

President of strategic initiatives, Nielsen
2015 revenue: $6.17 billion

Nielsen’s about a whole lot more than traditional TV ratings these days. Just ask 52-year-old Burbank, a primary architect of the research giant’s decade-long digital evolution. In 2016, Burbank played a key role in forging a data partnership with Facebook to bolster Nielsen’s digital ratings initiative, and he oversees investment and incubation efforts that have generated 19 new ventures in just two years across customer analytics, experience management and other areas of interest to current and prospective clients. “We’ve seen adoption of our digital measurement tools by the leading advertisers and media companies not just in the U.S. but around the world, including China,” he says. “Now, we are on to the next generation of innovation, working with our clients, startups and universities in the fields of big data, artificial intelligence and neuroscience.” —David Gianatasio

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No. 46: Jean-Philippe Maheu

Vp, global brands and agencies, Twitter
2016 ad revenue: $1.61 billion thru 3Q

It’s a turbulent time for Twitter, as the little blue bird struggles to fight off the demands of Wall Street even while ad revenue continues its promising climb. And credit for building those brand partnerships goes to Maheu, 53, who before joining Twitter spent the majority of his career with the very agencies he now calls on. Maheu has led research across a number of Twitter’s agency partners including Starcom, Omnicom, WPP and Ogilvy. He also launched The Planning Studio to help brands build content strategies that work for their target audience, helping more than 100 brands in the past year alone. And he launched Twitter Insiders, a community of more than 12,000 people participating in research studies on what works and doesn’t work on the platform. —Marty Swant

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No. 47: Emil Michael

Chief business officer, Uber
Est. 2015 revenue: $1.5 billion

As Uber has become both a brand and a verb, Michael has been aggressively expanding the ride-hailing service’s footprint around the world. Overseeing the startup’s fundraising efforts, including mergers and acquisitions, he was a key player in landing a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia this summer, the company’s biggest cash infusion from a single source. A few months later, Michael, 44, helped engineer the merger of Uber China with its competitor, Didi Chuxing. Though Uber China has grown in two years to making 150 million trips a month, it hasn’t yet turned a profit, according to co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, who said the companies would be “stronger together.” —T.L. Stanley

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No. 48: Troy Young

President, Hearst Magazines Digital Media
Site traffic: 176 million uniques, September 2016

What better way to capitalize on this year’s wacky presidential race than to revive the satirical, seminal Spy magazine? Young, 49, engineered a 30-day digital pop-up in October with Esquire.com, one of the nearly two-dozen brands in his portfolio, and hired Wieden + Kennedy to create spoof ads for the site. And that’s just part of Young’s busy fall: His division produced original videos that logged 819 million views in September alone, more than double the number from a year ago, and currently churns out some 200 videos a month for Facebook Live. Elle, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and other titles in the group have amassed upwards of 100 million followers across social media. —T.L. Stanley

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No. 49: Chris Morgan

Svp, global sales and account management, Moat
Est. 2016 revenue: $50 million-$100 million

Who would have guessed one of 2016’s hottest ad-tech stories would be about the nitty-gritty practice of measuring online and video statistics? Marketers are demanding more data and insight into Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube—and Moat plays a key role in spearheading such heavy-duty measurement efforts. Morgan, 43, works with brands, publishers and tech companies to track stats including viewability, time spent and fraudulent traffic. In June, the New York-based company became one of a handful of firms picked by Snapchat to measure how many seconds vertical-oriented ads appear on a screen and if they’re watched with audio turned on. “We’ve quietly built a team of business and technology experts who are solving the industry’s biggest challenges, in partnership with our clients,” Morgan says. —Lauren Johnson

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No. 50: Marianne Malina

President, GSD&M
Est. 2016 media spend: $413 million

GSD&M has been an oasis of traditional creative in Austin, Texas, for more than 45 years, a majority of those handling Southwest Airlines’ marketing. But in 2016, the Omnicom shop took a different tack. “We moved from project and client management to what we would call talent management,” says Malina, who has been president since 2012. “We came up with the idea of activating our own periodic table: How do you put together the right group of people to solve business problems?” In this way, the agency did away with the hierarchies and “staffing lanes” that too often led to overcrowded teams and handicapped its ability to deliver solutions to clients. “It changed our game completely,” Malina explains, increasing existing client work by 5 percent and new business conversions by 67 percent during the calendar year. —Patrick Coffee


This story first appeared in the November 7, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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