NFL’s Dawn Hudson Tops the Adweek 50 List of Vital Leaders in Tech, Media and Marketing

Selecting the Adweek 50 each year gets progressively harder simply because the businesses we cover are increasingly fragmented and nuanced—making it more complicated to identify those who really stand out above their competitors in delivering gains for their C-suites bosses and boardrooms. What follows is the result of our months-long search for that talent and the debate about their inclusion and ranking on the “50.”

The list, like everything else in our world, is trending digital, so it’s a little ironic, then, that our top selection is the CMO of one of the oldest and most popular draws in media: pro football. But National Football League CMO Dawn Hudson embodies all the ways in which it has modernized its game: taking a potentially crippling fumble like domestic abuse among NFL players and tackling head on with excellent PSAs and outreach.

For more about Hudson and the other indispensables across advertising, marketing, media and tech, read on. 


GM, monetization, Pinterest
Est. 2014 revenue: $45 million

Since he took the sales reins eight months ago, Tim Kendall has been challenged to take Pinterest's more than 100 million active users and convert their time spent on the platform into revenue. Not only did Kendall, 39, enhance Pinterest's ad offering—Promoted Pins—with new pricing and targeting options, but he added its first motion-based mobile ad format, Cinematic Pins, which brands like Wendy's, Target and Banana Republic have used. He also launched Buyable Pins, where consumers can purchase a product directly in a pin, something Pinterest users had been requesting. Nordstrom, Macy's, Bloomingdale's and others took advantage of it, and there are now more than 60 million Buyable Pins available. —Kristina Monllos


CMO, Airbnb
Est. 2014 media spend: $5 million

Jonathan Mildenhall, 48, joined Airbnb just 18 months ago and in that time he has transformed its image from startup to major player. Not only did Mildenhall launch the brand's first international TV campaign, but he helped create a spot so sticky and of the moment—the ad's copy noted that "mankind, womankind, transkind, humankind" are all part of Airbnb's community—that Caitlyn Jenner herself sent Mildenhall's team a note of appreciation. That's no small feat, especially for a brand that's grown as quickly as Airbnb has; it now has a presence in over 190 countries and more than 34,000 cities. —Kristina Monllos


CCO, Saatchi & Saatchi, N.Y.
Est. 2014 revenue: $288 million

Jay Benjamin bolstered Saatchi's creative output across a spectrum of accounts since his arrival last year. "We always start with a truthful and courageous idea," says Benjamin, 41, "but today we need to apply as much artistry to the orchestration of the idea as we do to the idea itself." His penchant for coaxing innovative work from old-line marketers yielded #BetterForBaby for P&G's Pampers, Walmart's movement to help support veterans, and a cheeky General Mills "Marshmallow Only" contest for Lucky Charms featuring Biz Markie. David Gianatasio


Executive director, Epicurious/Head of product, Food Innovation Group
Audience: 23 million

In overseeing Condé Nast's digital food brand Epicurious, Eric Gillin holds a unique hybrid role that combines editorial and product. Hired last year to oversee its overhaul, Gillin, 38, used his experience in both content creation and back-end production to transform the 20-year-old site into a hot destination for plugged-in foodies—as well as advertisers looking to reach them. Since the site's relaunch in February, Epicurious' digital audience has grown over 40 percent, while mobile growth has doubled. Just last week, Gillin added Food Innovation Group duties (see above).—Emma Bazilian


CMO, Keds
Est. 2014 revenue: $95 million

Emily Culp arrived at the footwear maker, a unit of Wolverine Worldwide, in July to lead Keds' new global platform, "Ladies First Since 1916." Culp's omnimarketing background—including stints at Rebecca Minkoff, Estée Lauder and Unilever—makes the 40-year-old a great fit to guide the campaign, which features Taylor Swift and touts female empowerment. Culp got right to work, overseeing the brand's efforts for Women's Equality Day in August and forming the "Keds Collective," eight female entrepreneurs from the worlds of art, fashion and technology who will appear in the campaign. David Gianatasio


Founder, CCO, David
Est. 2014 revenue: $18 million

David Ogilvy, namesake of this WPP-backed boutique, would be proud of the way Anselmo Ramos, 44, has quickly built the shop into a creative juggernaut. David, with offices in São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Miami, last month won a Grand Clio in Direct for its "Proud Whopper" campaign tied to San Francisco's Pride parade. At Cannes, the work scored an incredible 13 Lions, including three golds. In its three years, the shop has won 18 Lions. Ramos' philosophy? "One: Show me something I haven't seen before. Two: Show me something so hard to execute, I don't even know from where to start." David Gianatasio


Partner, chief creative officer, McKinney
2014 Revenue: $33.9 million

Jonathan Cude led creative on two of the year's most-discussed campaigns: Nationwide's Super Bowl spot "Invisible Mindy" featuring Mindy Kaling, and Samsung's "Dax and Kristen" ads starring Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell. Sales of the client's S6 Edge and Tab S rose significantly in 2014, and the Shepard-Bell campaign—as well as the "Unboxing" ads—played a role in that bump. Cude also took the lead on "Take It All In," the campaign launching ESPN's record-setting SEC Network (which was available in 90 million homes when it went live). Finally, Cude, 47, appeared alongside Serial host Sarah Koenig and her team during one of the most-discussed events at this year's Cannes Festival on "Binge-Worthy Journalism." —Patrick Coffee


EVP and gm, international brand development, Viacom International Media Networks
Paramount international subs: 45 million; BET international subs: 20 million

After heading up the international expansion for Viacom's BET and Paramount Channel since 2011, Michael  Armstrong added Spike to his purview at the end of last year, after Viacom laid out its plans to roll out the channel to international markets. Spike made its first international launch in the U.K. earlier this year. On Nov. 17, BET International will launch another new channel in France, which Viacom expects to reach 17.6 million households in the country. —Tim Baysinger


Senior director, digital brand strategy and social media, Capital One
Est. 2014 revenue: $442.1 million

Thanks to her leadership, Capital One has created award-winning digital initiatives like its #walletstories effort on Instagram, and reached new levels of engagement with its NCAA Men's Final Four campaigns #RallyCry and "RoadtoOne." Noha Abdalla, 38, is digitally savvy enough to know how to get consumers to engage with a financial brand and understands that user-generated content is a winning strategy. She has taken the "brand to new places by proactively recognizing the need to create an always on, two-way dialogue with our customers in the key [digital] properties where they spend their time," says Marc Mentry, chief brand officer, Capital One. —Kristina Monllos


Global director, digital marketing and social media, Campbell Soup Co.
2014 revenue: $8.268 billion

Campbell's products already have a formidable footprint. But since joining a year and a half ago, 35-year-old Umang Shah has been determined to leverage the company's social properties, drive engagement and understand its customers by creating what he says are "cool, compelling experiences." He did just that with the Spaghetti O's "#DeclareRecess" campaign, which aimed to tap into consumer nostalgia associated with the brand. The effort drove record-high engagement levels for the brand on social. Shah also led the charge with brand partnerships for V8 (partnering with Svedka vodka for national Bloody Mary day) and Swanson (with four chefs to show different takes on chicken noodle soup). —Kristina Monllos


Head of creative strategy, Tumblr
Est. 2015 revenue (Yahoo): $100 million

When Tumblr president Jeff D'Onofrio spoke at Advertising Week earlier this fall, he pointed at David Hayes—seated in the first row—multiples time when describing the evolution of his company's marketing products. "David deserves a ton of credit for building the platform," D'Onofrio told the crowd. Indeed, Hayes, 34, is the mastermind behind Tumblr's Creatrs Network, which has Hollywood brands like Lionsgate and Universal Pictures ga-ga over pitching buzzy GIFs and videos to Tumblr's 550 million monthly users—many of whom are in the coveted millennial demographic. —Christopher Heine


Chief strategy officer, Barton F. Graf 9000
2014 revenue: NA

Working to create a new set of practices such as nontraditional research methodologies, social listening and client on-boarding, Laura Janness, 38, has played an integral role in Barton F. Graf 9000's steady growth. In 2014, she helped lead the agency's push to expand the type of work it's known for, challenging itself to move beyond humorous videos for brands like Little Caesars and Kayak to work with more diverse tones and broader integrated campaigns expected to launch in late 2015. —Marty Swant


EVP, managing director, Spark
2014 media spend: $1.5 billion

This year, Spark added three new clients to its roster—Valspar Paint, Providence Health & Services and Taco Bell—taking on the AOR role with each one. Under Shelby Saville, 42, Spark retained every client on its roster in 2015 and won all eight pitches it participated in, increasing active projects at the shop to 70, up from roughly a dozen in 2014. With an emphasis on data and content-led media, Saville boosted the agency's data-driven spending 408 percent. —Katie Richards


Head of West Coast sales, Snapchat
Est. 2014 revenue: $3.1 million

A year ago, Snapchat's fledgling ad business was only starting to gain traction from brands like Universal Pictures and Samsung that were willing to shell out $75,000 to run ephemeral ads on the app. In June, the red-hot platform snapped up Luke Kallis, 39, from Vevo, where he was svp of national sales, to lead Snapchat's California-based sales. His task? Convincing marketers including McDonald's and Unilever to test its new location-based photo filters and vertical video formats. —Lauren Johnson


Chief strategy officer, MediaCom USA
2014 revenue: $162 million

Last year, Archana Kumar led MediaCom's efforts to reposition itself with a new single and cohesive global brand position: "The Content + Connections Agency." The repositioning helped MediaCom win Mars' global business, worth $805 million in U.S. media spending. Kumar, 50, is key to that account. Earlier this year, she spearheaded research that led to the creation of Revlon's "Love Test," a film and related videos whose release late last month amassed more than 12 million views in just 48 hours. —Marty Swant


ECD, 72andSunny, New York
2014 revenue: NA

It might not always be 72 and sunny in the Northeast, but that hasn't stopped the Los Angeles agency's rapid growth since opening its New York office last year. Guillermo Vega, 43, has spearheaded the buildout while also leading creative for a number of campaigns including Smirnoff's "The Road Trip" series in the U.S., along with the brand's largest-ever global push for its new Electric Spirits. Vega also led creative on Samsung campaigns for the Galaxy S6 edge+ and Note5. —Marty Swant


President, Discovery
Networks International
2014 revenue: $3.16 billion

Discovery Communications' international business has grown so much that it now accounts for more than 50 percent of the company's total revenue. With Discovery's plan to reach 3 billion global subscribers by the end of the year, much will rest on the shoulders of Jean-Briac Perrette, 43, who is in his second year at the helm of DNI. Under the executive, Discovery shocked the sports world when it acquired all TV and multiplatform broadcast rights across Europe for the Olympic Games from 2018 to 2024. Tim Baysinger


SVP, marketing, GoPro
Est. 2015 revenue: $1.8 billion

When Kansas City Royals player Terrance Gore attached a GoPro camera to his ballcap before storming the field to celebrate winning the World Series last week, Fox broadcasters focused on him for several moments, representing a free branding bonanza. Credit Paul Crandell, 47, for setting the stage and making GoPro the buzziest tech gadget of recent years, with third-quarter revenue up 43 percent to $400 million (though Wall Street wants even more). —Christopher Heine


CMO, MasterCard
Est. 2014 media spend (Kantar): $118 million

Long gone are the days when MasterCard's advertising pitched the perks of its credit cards. Today, it's all about selling a lifestyle brand and the idea that "experiences matter more than things," says Raja Rajamannar, 54. Since launching a platform called Priceless Surprises last year that randomly selects card members to win prizes like sports and concert tickets, he's helped dole out 250,000 surprises to unsuspecting consumers so far. —Lauren Johnson


President, content development and original programming, Comedy Central
Est. 2014 revenue (SNL Kagan): $780.4 million

Under Kent Alterman's stewardship, Comedy Central launched six new shows this year. But the main event was revamping the the Viacom-owned network's late-night slate. Having the unenviable task of replacing Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Alterman, 58, gets high marks for infusing some much-needed diversity into the late-night landscape by tapping talented comics Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore to succeed Stewart and Colbert, respectively. Tim Baysinger


Head of ad sales, Viacom
2014 revenue: $4 billion

Jeff Lucas took over ad sales efforts earlier this year for all of Viacom's networks, with the exception of BET, having formerly run ad sales for the music and entertainment group. Under his guidance, Viacom's entertainment networks set up a creative and integrated marketing agency Velocity, which was designed to help marketers integrate themselves better into programming as it migrates across platforms. That unit has now grown to more than 200 people. Lucas, 52, also now oversees Scratch, an in-house creative consultancy. Tim Baysinger


Head of business and brand development, Instagram
Est. 2015 revenue (eMarketer): $1.5 billion

James Quarles has helped transform Instagram into a full-blown advertising company since he joined the social site in August 2014. After many months of ad-based experiments, Quarles, 40, put Instagram in the position to offer brands a slew of buttons, such as "Shop Now," "Install Now," "Sign Up" and "Donate Now," as well as interest-level and demographical targeting from parent Facebook's data treasure trove. Instagram also added 30-second ads and introduced a premium format called Marquee. —Christopher Heine


President and CEO, North American Investment, Omnicom Media Group
Omnicom 2014 N.A. revenue: $8.7 billion

John Swift, 47, does deals based on three pillars—"negotiation, innovation, integration"—and is the architect of OMG's cross-channel go-to-market strategy. His mission is to expand relationships with media to cover a spectrum ranging from original sponsored content to first looks at new, mostly data-driven products. The formula has worked: 2014 and 2015 saw OMG sign the first marketing deal with Instagram, along with partnerships with iHeartMedia, National CineMedia and Sony Vue/Crackle. Says Swift: "It's not about what we're moving spend from, but what we're moving to." —Patrick Coffee


President, original programming and development, AMC and SundanceTV
Est. 2014 ad revenue (SNL Kagan): $469.2 million

AMC could easily have gone into a creative tailspin after the finales of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, but Joel Stillerman, 54, has kept the schedule packed with buzzworthy, successful dramas. This year, he launched the two biggest series premieres in cable history—Fear the Walking Dead and Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul—while maintaining The Walking Dead's status as TV's top series in adults 18-49 (next up: new martial arts drama Into the Badlands). Stillerman added SundanceTV oversight in June, giving him even more opportunities to keep audiences riveted. —Jason Lynch


President, ad sales, Turner Broadcasting
Est. 2014 revenue: $10.4 billion

This was the second year that Donna Speciale, 53, went into the upfront with all of the company's brands—including top cablers TNT, TBS and Adult Swim—in a single portfolio. This year, Speciale took it a step further by combining them all into one single presentation. It appeared to pay off, as Turner finished its upfront business in line with the broadcasters (and ahead of two of them), performing at the top end of the marketplace with gains in CPM (about 4 percent) and dollar volume. —Tim Baysinger


Chief media and eCommerce officer, Mondelēz International

Est. 2014 media spend: $178.8 million

When Mondelez launched its Honey Maid campaign showcasing modern families, "This Is Wholesome," it expected a wave of negative comments. B. Bonin Bough, 37, capitalized on it, leveraging digital media to quickly respond to critics by transforming critical feedback into what he calls a YouTube "message of love." That effort proved fruitful, nabbing more than 4 million views, and Bough accomplished something few marketers have—delivering impressive growth for a 90-year-old consumer brand. It's no surprise, then, that Bough is shifting more of Mondelez's spending into digital. By next year, he expects 50 percent of the snack giant's spending in North America to be digital. Kristina Monllos


Publisher, Bloomberg Digital & Digital Products
Bloomberg digital audience: 29 million 

A year into helming Bloomberg's digital business, Keith Grossman has helped grow total audience by more than 8 million. He's overseen the launch of groundbreaking new ad products like Trendr, an algorithm-driven sponsored news widget that displays live information about top companies being covered on and B:Intent, a service that allows brands to target consumers' specific "mindsets." At the same time, Grossman, 35, has managed to build the company's programmatic offerings from scratch, and expects to end the year with programmatic revenue in the seven figures. —Emma Bazilian


VP, media and digital marketing, Walmart
Est. 2014 media spend: $2.4 billion 

Last year, Walmart took big steps to become a mobile-focused retailer. Under Wanda Young, 46, the company opened tech innovation center @WalmartLabs and bulked up its mobile app. This year, Young announced the brand would drive ad dollars away from print to mobile, in an effort to connect with millennials (TV networks shuddered at the news). Through a partnership with Axe in early 2015, Walmart targeted millennial males, rewarding them with a free music download through its app with the purchase of an Axe product. —Katie Richards


SVP, head of content, Hulu
Est. 2014 revenue:
$1.1 billion 

Over the last year, Hulu has redefined its offering, and Craig Erwich, 48, has led that charge. Not only has Hulu finally given consumers the option to go fully ad-free, but it has also scored big deals with such content producers as AMC, FX, Turner Broadcasting and Viacom. This is key in the era of binge watching, as platforms like Hulu live and die by the content they have and how easy it is to watch it. At the same time, Erwich has worked to establish Hulu as "a home for innovative and bold original comedy," as he puts it, with shows such as Difficult People, Casual and The Mindy Project. —Kristina Monllos


Ilonka Laviz
Marketing director, Procter & Gamble
Est. 2015 global media spend: $8.3 billion

For the past 19 years, Ilonka Laviz has held positions across the board at P&G, from finance to brand management for fabric care and feminine products. Laviz, 41, now spearheads digital brand building across P&G brands. Her work this year has helped keep Always at the forefront of female empowerment with over 85 million views worldwide for the #LikeAGirl campaign. She also oversees wireframes for brands from Charmin to Tide and continues to manage key business partnerships with Yahoo, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. —Katie Richards


President, PubMatic
2014 revenue: $130 million

When Kirk McDonald, 48, reflects on 2014, he argues that the most exciting aspect was "creating clarity out of the chaos," leading PubMatic's work with clients that include around half of comScore's top 100 publishers. Over the course of the year, PubMatic introduced a real-time advanced analytics suite for publishers, along with an updated media buying consultancy. The company also saw dramatic growth in mobile revenue, which increased 200 percent during the first half of 2014. —Marty Swant


Chief creative officer, Droga5
2014 revenue: $78 million

A 20-year veteran of the advertising industry, Ted Royer joined Droga5 in 2006 when the agency was just getting started. The creative chief, 48, has amassed over 100 awards throughout his career. This year, the Under Armour "I Will What I Want" campaign featuring Gisele Bündchen earned Droga5 recognition at both the Cannes festival and the Clio Awards, and earned the agency Cannes Independent Agency of the Year honors. —Katie Richards


President, UM U.S.
Est. 2014 revenue: $215 million

Since getting promoted to president of UM in August 2014, Kasha Cacy has overseen several major new-business wins including CVS Health, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Office Depot and True Value (among others). Over the past 14 months, Cacy has recorded a new business conversion rate of 50 percent—and she also helped the UM team expand its responsibilities for existing client BMW. In her current role, Cacy, 43, oversees a group of more than 1,000 staffers across UM's six offices within the U.S. and directs efforts to promote and execute on the agency's new "moments-based media planning practice." She also leads all of the organization's cross-channel buying and planning, data analytics and custom content practices as well as its strategy and business development efforts. —Patrick Coffee


President, USA Network
2014 revenue: $1 billion+

Coming off another record-breaking profit year, Chris McCumber revamped USA's brand from its well known "Blue Skies" aesthetic to a much darker tone. The 48-year-old exec was quickly rewarded for that effort with summer breakout Mr. Robot and has Carlton Cuse drama Colony on tap for early next year. McCumber also increased USA's live offerings by adding playoff hockey and the WWE's SmackDown to pair with long-running Monday Night Raw. Tim Baysinger


President, ad sales, Fox Networks Group
2014 ad revenue: near $5 billion

It's been a rough going for Fox, which has tumbled to fourth place in adults 18-49. But Toby Byrne, 45, still managed to generate $3.2 billion in advertising revenue for the network last year, according to SNL Kagan. And when Empire turned into broadcast's biggest hit, he convinced advertisers to pony up as much as $750,000 per 30-second spot for the Season 2 premiere. Byrne is now working his magic companywide; last November, he was given ad sales oversight over all of Fox's entertainment and sports networks, broadcast and cable. —Jason Lynch


President, sales and marketing, ABC
2014 ad revenue (SNL Kagan): $3.59 billion

So what if ABC is the only broadcaster without NFL games, the programming most coveted by advertisers these days? During a lethargic upfront season, Geri Wang, 55, dug in her heels, outlasting the other networks and landing the highest CPM increases, thanks to ABC's stability (four nights of programming remained unchanged this fall) and its growing stable of hits (including its Wednesday night comedy block and Shonda Rhimes' TGIT dramas). And her ABC Unified initiative has streamlined the network's multiplatform buys for advertisers. —Jason Lynch


President, network sales, CBS
Est. 2014 ad revenue (SNL Kagan): $4.75 billion

The longest-tenured network ad sales chief (she's had the CBS job since 2002) walked away with the most broadcast dollars at this year's upfront, despite a dip in volume, and is now overseeing double-digit scatter increases. She also leveraged Stephen Colbert's arrival to bring the network a significant bump in late-night revenue (hello, integrations!). Jo Ann Ross, 62, is already making a killing on next February's Super Bowl, selling 30-second spots for as much as $5 million. —Jason Lynch


Chief business officer, YouTube
Est. 2015 revenue (eMarketer): $2.2 billion

Robert Kyncl, 45, has justifiably garnered a reputation as a disruptive force, leading YouTube's burgeoning content and ad sales after spearheading many of Netflix's entertainment-programming moves earlier in his career. Last month, the Google-owned video platform got out in front of the growing phenomenon of ad blockers by taking the wraps off YouTube Red, a $9.99 ad-free monthly service that offers content creators and viewers a less cluttered environment. In return for their work, video creators get a slice of the subscription revenue. —Chistopher Heine


CMO, General Electric
Est. 2014 revenue: $148.6 billion

Despite its heritage as a 125-year-old brand, GE has made a name for itself as an early adopter of storytelling platforms from Vine to Instagram—thanks largely to CMO Linda Boff. She was promoted to the role from executive director of digital marketing in September. Under Boff, 53, the brand announced a six-hour series with National Geographic called Breakthrough, a partnership with Wattpad to reinvent classic GE comic books and extended efforts in virtual reality. —Katie Richards


SVP, global head of digital and marketing transformation, Visa
Est. 2014 media spend (Kantar): $113 million

When Shiv Singh, 38, asked the startup community to pitch its best digital marketing ideas at this year's South by Southwest Interactive for the chance to launch a $50,000 pilot program, he made it clear that Visa is betting big on the tech world to help it reach new customers—millennials. Besides "The Everywhere Initiative," Singh has also set up events at universities such as the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., to help the brand design futuristic credit cards. —Lauren Johnson


Chief design officer, Apple
2014 revenue: $182.8 billion

As Apple grows its suite of products, aesthetics and user experience are more important than ever, and Jonathan Ive, 48, continues to elegantly fuse form and function. Recent examples range from the Apple Watch (so stylish that ads appeared in Vogue, and one iteration features an Hermès band), to sleek, ultra-minimalist MacBooks, an iPad Pro with pencil and Apple TV, with its compact Siri Remote. Some say Ive does more than design products. He's shaping a tech-centric world many of us want to live in, consistently driving consumer desire and pushing sales to new heights. David Gianatasio


Global group director,mobile, Coca-Cola Co.
Est. 2014 media spend (Kantar): $270 million

From mastering real-time marketing during the series finale of Mad Men when the iconic "Hilltop" commercial made an appearance to experimenting with Snapchat influencers, Coca-Cola was one of this year's buzziest names in social media. But Tom Daly, 53, is perhaps most excited by Coke's massive rollout of mobile payments this year, equipping more than 100,000 vending machines in the U.S. with Apple Pay and Android Pay. "These things are foundational to our beliefs in how to prepare for a world that is only going to become more mobilized," he says. —Jason Lynch


President, ad sales and marketing, and evp and CMO, Univision
2014 ad revenue: $2.1 billion

As Univision prepares for its much-anticipated IPO, these executives have played a key role in advancing the dominant Spanish-language broadcaster. Under Keith Turner, 61, Univision continues to outpace its English-language peers in advertising growth. Also, Univision’s audience provides something the English-language networks do not: live viewership. (Greater than 90 percent of Univision’s programming is viewed live.) Jessica Rodriguez, 42, spearheaded the consolidation of Univision’s disparate marketing functions into one cross-platform discipline that includes the management of a $500 million promotional inventory. Rodriguez also oversaw Univision’s “Todo Es Posible” (Everything Is Possible) campaign. —Tim Baysinger


Chairman, ad sales and client partnerships, NBCUniversal
2014 ad revenue: $9.38 billion

During another disappointing upfront season for TV networks, Linda Yaccarino reigned supreme, wrapping nearly $6 billion in upfront business across all of NBCU's broadcast, cable and digital platforms. While data was the buzzword during this year's upfront, with several conglomerates unveiling tools to help clients optimize their media plans, buyers were most excited about Yaccarino's audience targeting platform, ATP. The exec, 52, also oversaw $376 million in ad revenue for NBC's broadcast of the Super Bowl. She's now focused on next year's big sports event: the Summer Olympic Games from Rio de Janeiro. —Jason Lynch


SVP, ads and commerce, Google
Est. 2015 revenue: $70 billion

To put Sridhar Ramaswamy's leadership into perspective, one should look at Facebook's $15 billion in ad earnings for the last 12 months, as they represent not even a quarter of Google's $63 billion during the same period. He started at the Mountain View, Calif.-based company in 2003 when Google's ads department was still nascent. Ramaswamy, 49, has since commandeered the development of its search-ads algorithm, making it the most powerful digital-marketing engine on the planet. —Christopher Heine


President of programming, HBO
2014 revenue: $5.4 billion

Even in the age of "Peak TV" (more than 400 scripted series will be produced this year), Michael Lombardo's programs continue to stand out from the crowd. Led by Game of Thrones (now watched by 20 million-plus) and Veep, the premium network won 43 Emmy Awards this past September, the most in its history. But Lombardo, 59, is also solidifying HBO's future with several big coups—luring Jon Stewart, Bill Simmons and Sesame Street and launching a daily newscast from Vice—all of which should entice more cord cutters to sign up for HBO Now, the new, over-the-top streaming service. —Jason Lynch


President, Global Beverages Group, PepsiCo
2014 revenue: $31.3 billion

Brad Jakeman made headlines in late 2015 after publicly challenging the agency world to change faster and innovate more. "Let's stop, as an industry, talking about 'digital marketing.' Let's start talking about marketing," he implored the crowd at October's Association of National Advertisers' meeting. Pepsi's in-house creative team has grown to include more than 100 dedicated designers. Jakeman, 47, has also successfully pushed for more diverse leadership. Other milestones include the global rollout of Mountain Dew's "Do the Dew" campaign and the 40th anniversary of the iconic "Pepsi Challenge." —Marty Swant


VP, global marketing solutions and VP, business and marketing partnerships, Facebook
2015 revenue: $15 billion

Facebook has turned in another impressive year in 2015. The social-media powerhouse launched some of digital marketing’s most granular and sophisticated ad-targeting tools across Facebook as well as Instagram, having the potential to become a gold mine for brands looking to measure the effectiveness of their ads across the platforms. At the center of the company’s efforts are David Fischer and Carolyn Everson, key executives charged with communicating its “people-based marketing” strategy to brands and agencies.

This year, the partners educated marketers on how to buy video ads on Instagram and advocated for new viewability metrics. “We spend our time partnering closely with clients to help them understand consumer behavior and more effectively navigate this new landscape,” says Everson.

Both 43, the duo also works to bring the same level of insights to small advertisers, most notably through the revamp of Pages for the first time since 2012. The move has turned Facebook into a lead-generation and conversion tool for more than 45 million small businesses. Meanwhile, mobile continues to be a focus. “The world is no longer shifting to mobile—it is mobile,” says Fischer. —Lauren Johnson


Chief content officer, Netflix
2014 revenue: $5.5 billion

Netflix's effort to shake up the television and streaming landscape has been unrelenting over the past couple of years, and 51-year-old Ted Sarandos leads the charge. Not only did award-winning originals like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black return to accolades, but the service also launched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Netflix's deal with Marvel Entertainment, signed back in 2013, is starting to yield content this fall in the form of shows featuring Daredevil and Jessica Jones (Iron Fist and Luke Cage are in the works). The service also continued to expand its global footprint, adding a number of European markets including Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. —Kristina Monllos


CMO, National Football League
2014 revenue: $12 billion

Dawn Hudson doesn't punt. She likes to go straight up the middle, meeting challenges head on. She brought that hard-charging spirit to the NFL when she joined as chief marketer a year ago, at the height of domestic scandals involving players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, and she's earned high marks for helping the league weather the storm.

"Her biggest achievement has been managing to keep the league humming along despite some very high-profile challenges that could have served to damage the brand with both consumers and sponsors," says Courtney Brunious, associate director of the USC Marshall Sports Business Institute. "While the NFL has received bad press over the last year or so, the league's partners have generally remained on board, and the NFL still resonates more than any other professional sports league in the United States."

Hudson, 57, spent five years building a consumer practice at consultancy The Parthenon Group before taking the NFL job last fall. Earlier, she'd been a key player in the cola wars, leading North American ops at PepsiCo (a key league sponsor, through which she would become acquainted with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell). That background served her well at the NFL, where she had to help a large, complex organization move quickly to address sensitive image issues that were gaining more traction in the media every day. "When I joined, it was a tumultuous time," Hudson recalls, "but when there's turmoil, there's an opportunity to do things differently."

That process began with nearly two dozen current and former NFL stars like Eli Manning and William Gay appearing in PSAs condemning domestic violence and sexual abuse. The league donated $3 million per week in airtime for the "No More" campaign and created a chillingly memorable Super Bowl spot based on an actual 911 call.

Hudson says she tried to go beyond crisis communications and use the league's reach—Super Bowl XLIX, with more than 114.4 million viewers, the most-watched event in television history—to transform the NFL into "part of the solution."

More recently, as the NFL continues to deal with issues ranging from player concussions to lingering fallout from "Deflategate," Hudson launched "Football Is Family," a campaign featuring the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski and other league stars emphasizing core values like responsibility to team, resiliency, integrity and respect. Overall, the push strives to "humanize the NFL and refocus everyone back on the sport they all love" heading into the 50th Super Bowl on Feb. 7, Hudson says.

Experts applaud this back-to-basics approach as sound strategy that strikes just the right tone. "She wasn't brought in to do a complete overhaul," says USC's Brunious. "While it's still early in her tenure as CMO, she's done a good job of bringing a new perspective to the league."

Moving ahead, Hudson vows to maintain momentum and keep tackling the tough issues. For example, new domestic violence commercials broke in late October. With the league striving to reach $25 billion in revenue by 2027 (more than twice current levels), communicating a strong moral focus to combat negative publicity is key for engaging millennials and Gen Z fans, experts say. "For fans today, particularly younger fans, it's very important that brands have a point of view and give back," says Hudson. "It's much more than running an ad [and moving on]. We're staying with it." David Gianatasio

This story first appeared in the Nov. 9 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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