Adweek’s Power List 2016: The Top 100 Leaders in Marketing, Media and Tech

Mark Zuckerberg leaps into lead spot

To assemble Adweek’s second annual Power List, we considered the profiles and results of global corporate titans, taking into account such criteria as company value, revenue and revenue growth, market performance, consumer reach and affinity, their standing among rivals, the number of employees overseen, key acquisitions and partnerships, industry accolades and media buzz.

This list is not intended as a ranking based solely on earnings ups and downs or the fluctuations of a company’s work force, nor is it designed to chart executives’ progress—or lack thereof—year over year. An executive’s standing in last year’s rankings largely does not figure into our calculations this year. There are many intangibles. Image counts a lot, as does the volume of news a company contributes to the Adweek stream. For example, Google’s Larry Page, No. 1 last year, surely turned in another winning performance but fell just behind our pick for the top spot this year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Why? Because, in our estimation, Zuckerberg proved to have considerably more sway over the daily news cycle—making headlines in regard to advertising, video and more.

Like last year, this list represents a range of disciplines. You will find agency chieftains, leaders of media and tech giants and CEOs of top brand marketers. You will also find entrepreneurs, chief execs who fly under the radar and divisional heads who punch well above their class. And, comparing apples to oranges seems somehow correct in the domain of marketing, media and tech, where image and influence often play outsized roles in who wields power.

Zuckerberg has grown up before the media’s eyes into the most powerful exec in the industry. Pari Dukovic/Trunk Archive; Typography: Jason Wong

1. Mark Zuckerberg
CEO, chairman, co-founder, Facebook
Revenue:
$17.9 billion
Employees: 13,600

It’s Mark Zuckerberg’s future—the rest of us will just live in it. Last month, during his keynote address at Facebook’s F8 developers’ conference, Zuck, 32, set his sights on tomorrow, laying out a bold vision for shaping the connected world for decades to come.

Chatbots will increasingly inform customer service and other aspects of the Facebook Messenger experience, letting advertisers more smoothly communicate with audiences and, ultimately, sell them more goods and services. This could be a game changer of epic proportions, letting Facebook and its brand partners bypass the model of the app store in favor of a system that offers greater speed and convenience. At the same time, Facebook is looking to drones to beam wireless internet across the globe, expanding the digital community while providing access to millions more consumers for Facebook and its advertising partners.

But wait, there’s more. Augmented and virtual reality are also high on the agenda. Facebook is developing glasses with a conventional design (that is to say, not goggles) that overlay graphical data on the physical world. And it wants to open new vistas and revenue streams with Gear VR devices produced by its Oculus Rift unit, in tandem with Samsung.

In a macro sense, Zuckerberg wants to make Facebook even more ubiquitous than it already is, further embedding the service in the daily lives of as many human beings as possible—and naturally, making lots of revenue in the process. Given his record of success since he co-founded the social network in his dorm room at Harvard a dozen years ago, virtually no one is betting against him.

In the first quarter of this year, monthly and daily active users totaled 1.65 billion and 1.09 billion, representing a surge of 15 percent and 16 percent, respectively. At the same time, monthly and daily active mobile users grew 21 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Against that backdrop, Facebook’s market capitalization hovers around $340 billion—up by $120 billion versus last year, and more than triple its value four years ago when the company went public.

Given its scale and its vital presence for so many of us, Facebook is one of the most powerful platforms ever created for connecting mankind. As grandiose as it sounds, it is also indisputably one of the most influential instruments whereby a company controlled by one person can shape public opinion and even public policy. During his F8 keynote, Zuckerberg took a not-so-thinly veiled jab at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump when he said: “Instead of building walls, we can help build bridges. Instead of dividing people, we can connect people. We do it one person at a time, one connection at a time. That’s why I think the work we’re doing together is more important than it has ever been before.”

Critics say such rhetoric is actually driven by Zuckerberg’s desire for more visas to be issued to foreign workers. He has also been accused of hypocrisy over Facebook’s sponsorship of July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland. More recently, a media report charging Facebook with suppressing pro-conservative stories also had Zuckerberg on the defensive. The company initially suggested that what appears in the main news section, called Trending, is dictated more by an algorithm than people but ended up admitting that human judgment does have a bearing on which content appears and doesn’t appear.

Zuckerberg seems unfazed by the criticism, including the response to his comment in Facebook’s most recent earnings call that he hopes to play a role in “helping to cure all diseases by the end of this century, upgrading our education system so it’s personalized for each student and protecting our environment from climate change.” Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have committed to ultimately give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares to fund such endeavors.

That charitable divestiture doesn’t mean Facebook’s CEO is going to give up his bully pulpit. In fact, he proposed a stock structure that would allow him to maintain control of the company while selling off shares.

The move just feels so Facebook. For Zuckerberg to maintain his power and influence—and by extension, his ability to affect outcomes on a worldwide scale—it’s imperative to stay connected.

2. Larry Page
CEO, co-founder Alphabet (including Google)
Revenue: $75 billion
Employees: 64,115

Searching for an overarching structure to encompass the enormity of what Google has become since they formed the company in 1998, Page, 43, and Sergey Brin launched Alphabet last summer. Google’s core media operations—including YouTube, digital advertising, Maps and Android—continue under the Google name, run day-to-day by Sundar Pichai as divisional CEO. From self-driving cars and drones to artificial intelligence, mobile operating systems and, possibly, products and services designed to extend the human life span, Page’s vision encompasses many diverse and essential facets of daily life. “Most people think companies are basically evil. They get a bad rap. And I think that’s somewhat correct,” Page once told a TED ideas conference. “Companies are doing the same incremental thing that they did 50 years ago, 20 years ago. That’s not really what we need. Especially in technology, we need revolutionary change.” Just as, in its initial incarnation, Google revolutionized the way we search for facts and, by extension, changed our entire relationship to data, Alphabet is geared toward shaping the world in even bigger, bolder strokes—while maximizing profits, naturally. “We should be optimists,” Page said during last year’s shareholders’ meeting, “and be excited about all the things we’re building and contributing to the world. It’s working.”

3. Tim Cook
CEO, Apple
Revenue: $233.7 billion
Employees: 110,000

Lately, Apple’s shiny reputation has been tarnished. Following four years of dynamic growth since Cook, 55, took over from legendary co-founder Steve Jobs, Apple began underperforming its Silicon Valley peer group, and the tech giant’s stock has slipped accordingly. After becoming the first U.S. corporation to hit $700 billion in market capitalization, the company’s value recently dipped below $500 billion, and Apple now finds itself in a slugfest with Alphabet for the top slot on the S&P 500. The biggest culprits? Slower iPhone sales and a disappointing debut of the Apple Watch. Some say the correction is long overdue—and few blame Cook for the slide. In fact, he is making inroads that could open new revenue streams down the line. One example: a recent $1 billion investment in ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing, the “Uber of China.” Another: The Apple Music app for Android OS launched in November, arguably the company’s biggest push into a rival platform. Ads for the app starring Taylor Swift went viral, displaying a juicy cultural tang Apple’s advertising has been missing of late. (Apple did win two Grand Clios, one for its “World Gallery” iPhone campaign, and another for “The Game Before the Game” from its Beats by Dre unit.)

4. Robert Iger
CEO, chairman
The Walt Disney Co. (includes ABC, ESPN, Disney Theme Parks)
Revenue: $52.5 billion
Employees: 185,000

Under Iger, the Mouse continues to roar, despite a Q2 hiccup that saw Disney miss analysts’ earnings-per-share estimates for the first time in five years. Regardless, this adroit mogul has grown the company’s operations across the last 11 years via a mix of diversification, merchandising and acquisitions. Under his stewardship, Disney has become the leading purveyor—and guardian—of popular culture. The company’s scope is remarkably broad and incredibly diverse, ranging from theme parks and cartoon characters to the Star Wars franchise, ABC News, ESPN’s NFL telecasts, even Maker Studios‘ multichannel network built around YouTube star PewDiePie. Largely thanks to Iger, 65, Disney cuts across all conceivable demos, reflecting and defining the American zeitgeist as it keeps the world entertained. Last month, Cohn & Wolfe named Disney the world’s most authentic brand. Even Walt himself would be impressed.

5. A.G. Lafley
Chairman
Procter & Gamble
Revenue: $76.3 billion
Employees: 110,000

The world’s largest advertiser dealt agency holding company Publicis Groupe a harsh blow last December, naming Omnicom and Dentsu Aegis’ Carat the big winners in a review of its North American media business, one of the most sought-after prizes in last year’s “Mediapalooza.” Earlier, P&G agreed to sell 43 beauty brands to Coty for $12.5 billion. Lafley, 68, undertook such moves to cut costs and focus on core brands like Always, Crest, Gillette and Tide. Always’ groundbreaking “Like a Girl” campaign remains one of the most lauded creative initiatives of recent years. More recently, P&G made headlines for a series of surprisingly dark and affecting “Thank You, Mom” ads, featuring themes around Mother’s Day and the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

6. Brian Roberts
CEO, chairman
Comcast (includes NBCUniversal, Universal Studios, MSNBC, Telemundo)
Revenue: $74.5 billion
Employees: 153,000

Comcast transmitted an especially sharp signal last year across its diverse operations. Under the seasoned leadership of Roberts, 56, cable revenue rose 6.2 percent (driving an 8.3 percent increase overall), while 666,000 customers signed up, an 85 percent year-over-year increase. The company also added 1.4 million high-speed internet customers, marking a decade of net increases in excess of 1 million. Meanwhile, NBCUniversal enjoyed what Roberts called “a remarkable year,” marked by record-breaking results in its theme parks and movie units—the success of the later driven by blockbusters like Minions and Jurassic World, which entered the home-video market in time for the holidays and year-end financial results. NBCU’s recent acquisition of DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion will make Comcast an even more formidable player in Hollywood.

7. Jeff Bezos
CEO, chairman, president, founder
Amazon.com
Revenue: $107 billion
Employees: 230,000

It’s been an impressive ascent for Bezos, 52, since he launched the ecommerce powerhouse in 1994. Through the years, Amazon has become woven into the fabric of modern life—and lately, its financial performance has been like a drone soaring on rocket boosters, with no end in sight. Last year, Amazon broke through the $100 billion revenue mark (revenue was up 25 percent year over year) and earned a $596 million profit after having lost $240 million in 2014. In the first quarter of this year, propelled largely by its cloud business, the company produced the most profitable quarter in its history. Bezos also owns The Washington Post and has played a key role in driving its explosive online growth, with the newspaper’s site hitting a record 988 million pageviews in March.

8. Martin Sorrell
CEO
WPP Group
Revenue: $17.6 billion
Employees: 190,000

The leader of the world’s largest agency holding company recently warned that “a low-growth environment” is “the new normal” for the industry, owing to clients’ intensified focus on costs. Despite that, Sorrell, 71, guided WPP, owner of Grey, JWT, Ogilvy & Mather, GroupM and other marquee agency brands, to a solid performance last year, notching 6.1 percent revenue growth and an 8 percent uptick in after-tax profit. More than 40 recent acquisitions, many in the media and ad tech spaces, stand to position the company for the future. Sorrell took some heat for his initial defense of former JWT chief Gustavo Martinez, the subject of a discrimination lawsuit. Still, Sir Martin managed to zing Maurice Lévy of Publicis Groupe after Lévy said at the 4A’s Transformation gathering in Miami that agencies are not, in fact, rife with sexism. “Maurice has a habit of ignoring the facts,” shot back Sorrell, proving that he’s never at a loss for words, especially those that generate headlines.