This year’s installment of The Power List, our fourth annual ranking of the top players across advertising, marketing, media and tech, sees Amazon’s Jeff Bezos return to the prime position, placing first for the second straight year. He outpaced Alphabet’s Larry Page (No. 2) and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (No. 3)—though all three continue to drive us headlong into the future. It’s also worth noting that, for the first time, no holding company chiefs placed among the top 10, while honchos at consultancies, CRM firms, cloud providers and gaming concerns came on strong.
To formulate the list, the editors considered numerous criteria. These included company value, revenue and growth, market performance, consumer reach, standing among rivals, industry accolades, media buzz and the amount of news each player contributes to the content cycle. As always, lesser known execs and divisional leaders share space with agency and media CEOs, brand chieftains and high-tech titans. It’s an eclectic mix, designed to reflect the dynamic, complex and interconnected streams of power that propel the Adweek universe.
1. Jeff Bezos
No stranger to bold initiatives, Amazon’s founder and CEO began writing a prescription in January, joining Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon in a venture designed to lower costs for consumers. Bezos made two key moves last month: naming surgeon and Harvard professor Dr. Atul Gawande to lead the initiative, and acquiring online pharmacy PillPack.
It’s a major operation, but transforming complex, seemingly inflexible systems has been Bezos’ prime directive since founding Amazon in 1994 and remaking the way billions of people buy and sell stuff every day. Since then, he’s gained traction in smart homes (Alexa, Echo), original content (The Big Sick, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), grocery stores (he bought Whole Foods last summer), cloud services (a huge Amazon revenue driver), loyalty programs (Prime boasts 100 million members), and space tourism (his Blue Origin program will sell tickets for suborbital flights next year).
“Jeff Bezos is an architect of tomorrow,” says Faith Popcorn, futurist, author and CEO of marketing consultancy BrainReserve. “Our whole lives are going to be consolidated under Amazon and optimized by Amazon and its metrics of what people like us buy, and what other products and services we’re Primed to want—yes, Primed with a capital P. It’s both brilliant and terrifying at the same time.”
For more on Bezos, check out:
You Just Can’t Box Jeff Bezos In. His Latest Venture Is Taking on Healthcare
2. Larry Page
“Lots of companies don’t succeed over time,” he once said. “What do they fundamentally do wrong? They usually miss the future.” Well, Page sure didn’t miss the future 20 years ago when he and Sergey Brin launched Google. Now, he is working hard to ensure that Alphabet has a hand in shaping, refining and monetizing the landscape of human experience for decades (centuries?) to come. What’s more—through investments in all sorts of high-tech transportation systems and services—he’s literally inviting the rest of us along for the ride. Three years ago, Page put Sundar Pichai in charge of day-to-day operations at Google and formed holding company Alphabet. In doing so, he gave himself the opportunity to focus on “Other Bets” that could dramatically change people’s lives, with Google serving as the economic engine driving his search for tomorrow. Along with efforts in AI and biotech, Alphabet launched Sidewalk Labs, an initiative to develop smarter cities. For its first big test, the group plans to transform 800 acres of dilapidated Toronto waterfront property into an urban showplace, complete with robo-taxis, a thermal-energy grid and sidewalks that melt snow. Of course, residents of such a future metropolis would require a means of getting around. That’s where Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving division and support for flying vehicles and electronic scooters comes in. “It is already a superpower in transportation,” Gartner research director Mike Ramsey recently told CNBC—and reaping short- and mid-term gains from such ventures could power long-term R&D on the road to a more fully connected world. “I would be surprised if Alphabet doesn’t aggressively pursue a transportation platform offering that ties together multiple modes of transportation with Google Maps at its center.”
3. Mark Zuckerberg
With great power comes great responsibility. That’s a lesson Mark Zuckerberg has been learning the hard way in recent months, as issues of privacy and ethics continue to dog the social network he famously founded in his Harvard dorm room 14 years ago. With 2.2 billion monthly users, Facebook enjoys massive reach and influence—but also provides bad actors with golden opportunities on a global scale. Case in point: Donald Trump-connected data firm Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly improperly accessed information about 87 million users in a scandal Facebook initially attempted to quash by threatening to sue the Guardian. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he told lawmakers at a congressional hearing in April, later adding: “We’re investigating every single app that had access to a large amount of information in the past. And if we find that someone improperly used data, we’re going to ban them from Facebook and tell everyone affected.” Zuckerberg absorbed more hits when he informed lawmakers that companies including Nike, Spotify, UPS and Mail.Ru Group, a Russian firm with ties to the Kremlin, received special access to user information a few years back, in violation of Facebook policies. Last week, his comments about allowing conspiracy theorists, including Holocaust deniers, to stay on the platform drew derision. He also revealed that an “unblocking” bug bedeviled nearly 1 million users. At times, Zuckerberg seems to suffer from a massive disconnect (ironic given Facebook’s mandate to bring folks together)—and efforts to explain, minimize or bully his way out of trouble exacerbate the problem. Over the long haul, all of this could have serious implications for growth among users and advertisers. After all, who wants to stay friends with someone they can’t trust?
4. Brian Roberts
Insisted that Comcast was “the right buyer” for key 21st Century Fox assets, but Disney’s Iger offered $71.3 billion, topping Roberts’ $65 billion bid. Last week, Comcast officially cut the cord, withdrawing from contention for a package that included the Fox movie studio and cable channels FX and National Geographic. Now, Roberts will focus on his quest for control of European media company Sky, which is 39 percent owned by Fox. With NBCU and Xfinity already going great guns, Roberts seeks to boost Comcast’s global footprint through Sky, and he recently made an offer of $34 billion, topping Fox’s $32.5 billion bid. With Disney also a possible contender, this set-top-boxing match could go a few more rounds.
5. Randall Stephenson
AT&T reached out and touched Time Warner in an $85 billion deal forged with TW chief Jeff Bewkes that closed last month after an anti-trust challenge from the Department of Justice. Doing so creates a new AT&T division, WarnerMedia, with assets including the Warner Bros. film studio, The CW, DC Comics, HBO, CNN, TNT and TBS. Shortly thereafter, Stephenson struck again, buying ad-tech firm AppNexus, maker of cloud-based software that optimizes programmatic advertising, for a reported $1.6 billion. Industry watchers praised the bulked-up AT&T, with the Motley Fool gushing, “WarnerMedia + AppNexus + AT&T = Marketer’s dream. AT&T is in a unique position to serve highly targeted, personalized content and ads to consumers anywhere, on any device, at any time.” Stephenson might be in for a rude awakening, however, as the DoJ plans to appeal the decision that allowed the TW deal to go through.
6. David Taylor
Finally, the world’s biggest advertiser also ranks among the very best. Taylor’s consumer goods behemoth dominated at Cannes, winning Grand Prix film prizes for “It’s a Tide Ad,” from Publicis’ Saatchi & Saatchi, and “The Talk,” from Omnicom’s BBDO. The Tide work, which bowed during the Super Bowl, helped maintain sales during the “Tide Pod Challenge” controversy—teens ate the detergent packs!—and also won a Titanium Lion honoring work that expands the creative industry. Moving forward, Taylor is taking a lead in gender equality in the creative industry, vowing that women will direct at least half of P&G’s commercials by 2020, compared to 10 percent today.
7. Tim Cook
Shazam! Now that the world’s most valuable company—with a market cap topping $900 billion—has sold iPhones to everyone and their Aunt Fannie, Cook can concentrate on building out Apple’s media empire and exploring new terrain. His $400 million deal for song-identification service Shazam adds 120 million active users and all their sweet, sweet data, plus a long-term advertising revenue stream. Apple’s TV launch will leverage original content from bankable stars like Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. And last month, after a few years of hit-and-miss campaigns, the company reasserted itself as a premier creative marketer, claiming Grand Prix statuettes at Cannes for its breathtaking “Welcome Home” spot and the “Today at Apple” in-store experience. Post-Cannes, an iPhone X spot about forgotten passwords was a cinematic ad to remember.
8. Robert Iger
The mouse caught a fox! In recent months, Iger waged an epic battle with Comcast’s Brian Roberts for 21st Century Fox assets including its movie studio and cable channels such as FX and National Geographic. Last month, the Department of Justice approved Iger’s $71.3 billion bid, and, last week, Roberts bowed out of contention. On July 27, Disney and Fox shareholders will consider the offer at a special meeting. We’re talking about a fusion of pop culture on a dazzling scale. Mickey, Cinderella, Ariel, Han Solo, Alien, Predator, X-Men, the entire population of the Planet of the Apes and so many others would dwell beneath the same roof. Now that’s a magic kingdom!
9. Indra Nooyi
In May, Nooyi acquired Bare Foods, a maker of fruit and vegetable snacks, one of many moves in recent years to expand and diversify the brand portfolio in an age of evolving tastes. She’s been lauded for such efforts, along with a push into ecommerce (generating $1 billion in retail business last year) and some smart marketing, including the “Pepsi Generations” campaign and a Super Bowl ad team-up for Doritos Blaze and Mountain Dew. Still, growth has been—wait for it—flat. And just when it seemed she’d rebounded from last year’s Kendall Jenner controversy, Nooyi’s tone-deaf comments about formulating “quieter” Doritos for women drew fresh disdain.
10. Adam Silver
Silver keeps powering forward, leveraging the league’s immense cultural cachet as the nation’s premier sports-marketing platform. In the ’60s, kids dreamed of being Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. Later, they imagined themselves as NFL superstars. Today, we’d all love to walk in LeBron’s Nikes for a day. That hoop-dream factor keeps climbing, with Silver—a seemingly woke, chill, thoughtful alternative to football’s Roger Goodell—working his inside moves to notch a 2017-18 season with record revenue and attendance, better TV ratings and merchandise sales, and an esports launch to generate dollars and excitement over the summer, while the gods of the game rest up before battle resumes in the fall.
11. Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch
At 87, Rupe’s still front-page news. He’s poised to sell key Fox assets, including its film studio and cable channels FX and National Geographic, to Disney, ensuring that the Mouse will roar for years to come. Units not included in that deal, such as Fox Broadcasting and Fox News, Business and Sports channels, will be spun off into a new publicly traded company with Lachlan as CEO, sharing the chairman mantle with his father. All of which would appear to make younger brother James—who has served as chief executive for three years—the odd Murdoch out.
12. Mary Barra
Barra has been applauded for bold moves, such as selling Opel/Vauxhall to Peugeot maker PSA in order to concentrate on North America and Europe. The acquisition of driverless car startup Strobe marked another signpost on Barra’s determined push into the realm of automated vehicles and emerging tech, while the 2019 Chevy Volt electric vehicle has garnered rave reviews for its luxury appointments and quick charging.
13. Paul Polman
For a company that consistently ranks among the world’s biggest ad spenders, Unilever’s getting awfully thrifty these days. By taking significant ad work in-house through its U-Studios division, Polman saved big time on agency fees last year. Separately, the consumer-goods giant threatened to pull ads from Facebook and YouTube over hate speech and questionable content, and called for greater transparency and accountability in influencer marketing.
14. Carlos Brito
Revenue rose thanks to an expanded brand portfolio and global category expansion. Still, Brito sees room for improvement when it comes to reaching increasingly fickle and sophisticated consumers. “As a category, we haven’t been very competent in telling consumers about beer’s versatility,” he told Just Drinks last month. “Consumers think wine is very sophisticated and very rich. Beer is richer. We just haven’t been able to convey that.”
15. Leslie Moonves
These days, eyeballs are glued to Moonves’ off-screen drama, as CBS spars in court with National Amusements, which owns nearly 80 percent of its voting stock, over issues of corporate control as it looks to fend off a potential merger with Viacom. Meanwhile, recent successes range from CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Discovery to the new CBS Sports HQ OTT digital network and a recent deal to stream NFL games across mobile devices in the U.S.
16. John Wren
Martin Sorrell’s exit from WPP leaves former archrival Wren as the preeminent agency-group leader. Once again, he guided Omnicom to a steady but unspectacular year—but in this climate, with the holding company model itself in question, perhaps steady is the new spectacular. Integrated offerings helped the company grow its business with blue chips like BMW, HP, McDonald’s and State Farm.
17. Roberto Quarta, Chairman, Mark Read, Andrew Scott, Co-COOs, WPP
This trio leads the world’s largest agency holding company following Martin Sorrell’s abrupt April departure. “There’s a huge amount of support and goodwill for the company, and no shortage of confidence about the future,” Read says. Still, Sorrell reigned as a towering figure in the industry for 33 years. He was revered, respected and, in some cases, reviled, but consistently drove WPP to greater heights, seemingly, at times, through sheer force of will and personality. It’s impossible to gauge how the company will evolve without him.
18. Akio Toyoda
A leader in the connected car revolution, this forward-thinking auto magnate last month launched internet-equipped Corolla hatchbacks and Crown sedans in Japan. All Toyota vehicles sold there and in the U.S. will include similar technology by 2020, allowing drivers to receive real-time travel, safety and maintenance data from human operators or AI bots, and, in turn, provide the automaker with information to generate future systems and services.
19. Lowell McAdam, CEO, chairman, Hans Vestberg, CTO (incoming CEO), Verizon
In seven years at the helm, McAdam has transformed Verizon for the digital age by buying AOL and Yahoo, acquiring Vodafone’s stake in Verizon Wireless, and expanding the company’s 4G LTE and FiOS networks. Next month, while remaining chairman, he hands the CEO mantle to former Ericsson chief Hans Vestberg, who will lead the telecom titan into the 5G era.
20. Roger Goodell
He fumbled the issue of players taking a knee during the National Anthem, generating terrible press and alienating a large portion of the league’s workforce and fans. Overall TV ratings took a 10 percent hit, while the Super Bowl sank to a nine-year low. Despite the NFL’s enduring iconic status, Goodell appears unable to call the right plays to reverse an increasingly negative spiral.
21. Ginni Rometty
Rometty recently coined the phrase “Watson’s Law,” a call-out to everyone’s favorite IBM-branded AI, and predicted that artificial intelligence will eventually play a role in virtually every facet of our daily lives. Meanwhile, she’s guiding Big Blue deeper into the marketing ecosystem, joining with Mediaocean on a blockchain network to track ad spending and increase transparency across multiple channels.
22. Mark Parker
In March, Parker said that “behavioral issues that are inconsistent with Nike’s values” precipitated the resignation of two senior executives at the world’s No.1 sportswear company. The long-term impact—particularly given Nike’s carefully cultivated woke image—remains unclear. “Parker’s leadership skills will be tested as he confronts the cultural issues,” says NPD Group sports industry analyst Matt Powell. “Expectations are high that Parker can solve those problems.”
23. Reed Hastings
In May, Netflix’s market cap briefly surpassed Disney’s, making it, by that measure, the most valuable media company on the planet. Last week, the company missed its second-quarter earning numbers, and shares nosedived, as Netflix lost $25 billion in value in a single day. Meanwhile, Hastings stepped up his marketing game with “A Great Day in Hollywood,” celebrating black artists who work on Netflix productions. He reportedly plans to close on a deal with Regency Outdoor Advertising to broaden the company’s role in the OOH space.
24. James Quincey
Quincey bubbled to the top in May 2017, succeeding Muhtar Kent as Coke’s chief exec. Like his predecessor, Quincey continues to expand the company’s portfolio of low- and no-calorie options as sugary drinks continue to fizzle in popularity. He also launched “World Without Waste,” promising to collect or recycle a bottle or can for each one the company sells by 2030.
25. Bobby Kotick
This video game champ continues to score. His esports push is a hit, generating fresh excitement and millions of additional weekly views, while 20,000 tickets have been sold for the finals later this month at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Meanwhile, Call of Duty: WWII was North America’s the top console game seller of 2017, helping drive record revenue.
26. Satya Nadella
Last week, Microsoft joined with Walmart in a five-year deal covering cloud services, AI and machine learning in an effort to help the retailer in its war against Amazon. A month earlier, Nadella’s $7.5 billion acquisition of massive computer code repository GitHub is viewed as a major development. Some cheered Microsoft for embracing the open-source software community, while others remain suspicious of the company’s motives.
27. Steve Easterbrook
You may deserve a break today … but you’ll have to help yourself. Easterbrook is adding self-service kiosks to 1,000 restaurants. “When people dwell more, they select more,” he says. “So, there’s a little bit of an average check boost.” Positive signs include a recent rise in U.S. same-store sales, and the iconic golden arches themselves, which were cropped into direction arrows for a Cannes Grand Prix-winning OOH campaign.
28. Jean-Paul Agon
To Agon, the future looks beautiful. He continues to lead L’Oréal’s digital transformation, with 38 percent of the company’s 2017 media spending devoted to online and mobile channels, while ecommerce sales exceeded $2.4 billion. Other moves included releasing a battery-free wearable sensor that monitors environmental factors affecting skin, and buying ModiFace, a supplier of AI and AR technology used in the beauty industry.
*NEW 29. Dirk Van de Put
Van de Put, who formerly led McCain Foods, succeeded Irene Rosenfeld at Mondelez when she retired last November. Now, as steward of iconic brands such as Cadbury, Chips Ahoy!, Oreo and Trident gum, he has vowed to deliver the broader menu of snacks that consumers crave. In May, he tossed a new ingredient into the mix, acquiring premium cookie maker Tate’s Bake Shop for $500 million. Currently, the company, which spends more than $1 billion annually on ads, is reviewing the international portion of its media account.
30. Ivan Menezes
Menezes could sell $1 billion in spirits brands—including Myers’s Rum, Goldschlager schnapps, Popov vodka and Romana Sambuca liqueur—so he can focus on premium labels. Meanwhile, Johnnie Walker’s high-profile “Jane Walker” campaign made a powerful statement about gender equality, and the distiller donated $1 for each bottle produced to nonprofit social initiatives.
31. Alex Gorsky
Gorsky took parents’ concerns about dyes, scents and other ingredients in J&J baby products to heart and, last month, said he would alter some formulations and boost transparency. It’s part of a broader effort by the CPG giant to think more like a startup, and in keeping with the chairman’s progressive worldview and holistic approach to branding.
32. Steve Burke
Burke helped brands measure performance across all viewing platforms by launching the CFlight unified metric, rolled out several new ad formats and vowed to air 10 percent fewer commercials on prime-time original shows this fall. Universal Pictures notched the most profitable year in its history, and theme parks generated record attendance thanks to launches in the U.S. and Japan.
33. Kevin Systrom
Systrom continues to guide the Facebook-owned social platform further into the mainstream cultural consciousness. Last month, he unveiled IGTV, an app that showcases long-form vertical video. Designed to compete against YouTube and Snapchat, the new offering arrived as Instagram hit the 1 billion monthly active users mark, and will presumably help Systrom court big-time brand dollars.
34. Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google, Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube
Both execs grew their respective Alphabet fiefdoms, but challenges abound. Last week, the European Commission slammed Google with a record $5.1 billion fine for allegedly abusing its Android dominance. “They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere,” says antitrust official Margrethe Vestager. Pichai plans to appeal. Earlier, following criticism for Big G’s role in a U.S. Department of Defense drone project, he released principles for moving forward, eschewing weapons development. Separately, at YouTube—where brands in recent years have bolted (if temporarily) when their messages ran near offensive videos—Wojcicki vowed that 10,000 humans would be “working to address content that might violate our policies.”
*NEW 35. Marc Benioff
Meet the king of CRM. Salesforce recently topped IDC’s list of customer relationship management firms for the fifth straight year, increasing its market share by a higher percentage than the rest of the top 20 companies combined. (A deal to integrate the company’s cloud-based tools with Google Analytics 360—and Benioff’s purchase last week of Datorama—will only make Salesforce more pervasive.) Benioff continues to earn praise for his thought leadership (writing the best-seller Behind the Cloud), progressive management philosophy and philanthropic efforts (notably in support of San Francisco and Oakland public schools).
36. Arne Sorenson
During his six years at the helm, Sorenson has boosted the company’s holdings to 6,500, up from 3,800, while expanding its footprint to 127 countries and territories, compared with 70 when he began. Lately, to stave off the Airbnbs of the world, he’s focused on rewarding customers with tech-enabled designs in Sheraton’s public spaces, an experiential platform to boost engagement for loyalty-program members and enhanced member benefits coming soon across Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Starwood.
37. Bernardo Hees
After last year’s failed bid for Unilever, industry watchers believe this ambitious food company executive will soon restock the shelves by making an acquisition to gain scale. “We’re looking for something where 2+2 is more than 4,” he recently told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s really about what is the opportunity to enhance our portfolio … enhance our scale in other markets.”
38. Bernard Arnault
Record revenue—up 13 percent—was in fashion at luxury goods titan LVMH last year, with Arnault tapping into a growth trend by emphasizing contemporary men’s attire. That push includes a fab-funky collection from former DJ Virgil Abloh. Also, the company joined with Kering to encourage more respectful treatment of models worldwide.
39. Grant Reid
This candy man will deliver an especially sweet treat to one lucky agency: the company‘s $1.4 billion media business, placed in review as the year began. The winner will contribute to Reid’s tasty assortment of socially conscious marketing, which has included Maltesers’ work on inclusivity and people living with disabilities, Skittles’ rainbow colors supporting the LGBTQ community and The Lion’s Share fund that helps animal welfare efforts.
40. Elon Musk
He’s endured some serious bumps in the road, including controversies surrounding the Tesla 3, fallout from disparaging the media and one of the Thai cave rescuers, his rants against the media, deep layoffs—about 9 percent of the automaker’s workforce—and brutal press coverage following the fatal crash of a Tesla Model S driving on autopilot. Here’s hoping the first crewed SpaceX mission enjoys a smooth, safe ride.
41. Bob Bakish
Bakish brought some much-needed clarity to Viacom’s operations, focusing on core brands, strengthening distribution and advertising partnerships, and broadening the company’s digital scope. He improved revenue and earnings, and substantially reduced the company’s debt. Still, Viacom’s future remains an open question in light of a possible merger with CBS under National Amusements, which controls almost 80 percent of each company’s voting stock.
42. Arthur Sadoun
Sadoun took the helm a year ago, after Maurice Lévy stepped aside, and led the No. 3 agency group’s “Sprint to the Future” with a focus on consulting, digital business and data services. In May, he unveiled the much-hyped Marcel, an AI-driven task-management technology designed to transform Publicis from a holding company into a platform. Marcel represented the culmination of a yearlong development push during which award show participation was de-emphasized. (Though Saatchi & Saatchi’s “Every Ad Is a Tide Ad” managed to rock Cannes anyway.)
*NEW 43. Jesper Brodin
Brodin assembled a solid 20-year career with the Swedish furniture chain before rising to CEO in September. Now, he’s tasked with putting together ecommerce strategies to better compete with online shopping alternatives, giving consumers more reason to visit Ikea’s physical stores and goosing its multichannel distribution network for maximum convenience and accessibility. As a marketer, Ikea ranks among the best, and its strong output has continued of late with headline-grabbing efforts including ads for women to pee on (pregnant participants received discounted cribs) and the “sleepiest print ad ever,” which used scented ink and a tiny white-noise speaker to promote beds.
44. Michael Roth
Not long ago, IPG was viewed as an underperformer. But Roth’s turned that perception around, guiding the group to its fourth consecutive year of strong organic growth, snagging the prize for most effective holding company at the 2018 North American Effie Awards. Roth’s $2.3 billion purchase of Acxiom a few weeks back bolsters ad targeting and suggests that he isn’t looking to sell IPG anytime soon.
45. Douglas McMillon
McMillon has focused on digital to boost Walmart’s millennial appeal in its struggle against Amazon and Alibaba. Key moves include last week’s pact with Microsoft for cloud services and other technologies, a $16 billion investment in ecommerce platform Flipkart, introducing the Jetblack members-only personal shopping service and transforming Walmart.com into a more vibrant destination.
46. Daryl Simm
Simm welcomed big names in recent months with Amgen and Sam Adams tapping Hearts & Science and HSBC choosing PHD. He also added ecommerce and voice marketing in the performance marketing division and, this month, OMG rolls out Omni, a cloud-based platform, accessible to all employees, allowing them to better understand consumer profiles and leverage media, creative and CRM.
*NEW 47. Kelly Clark
Mentored by the legendary Irwin Gotlieb (who stepped down as GroupM chairman in April), Clark continues to push the company’s transformation by aligning resources behind MediaCom (Adweek’s reigning Global Media Agency of the Year), Mindshare and Wavemaker. He also invested in the expansion of global data/measurement firm Essence. Wins of note include Adobe, Danone, Deutsche Telekom, Groupe PSA (Peugeot-Citroen), Sanofi, T-Mobile and Walgreens Boots Alliance.
48. John Stankey, CEO, WarnerMedia, Brian Lesser, CEO, AT&T Advertising & Analytics
After AT&T’s $85 billion Time Warner buy, Stankey takes charge of the rechristened WarnerMedia and its high-profile holdings such as HBO, Warner Bros., Turner and CNN. He previously ran AT&T Entertainment & Services and now, at WarnerMedia, he vows to avoid micromanaging in favor of shaping the company’s broader long-term strategy for success in an increasingly digital and mobile world. For one, Stankey, as The New York Times reported, wants to see HBO become “bigger and broader.” Lesser, a key driver behind the addition of ad-tech firm AppNexus, expands his portfolio as head of AT&T’s significantly juiced-up advertising operations.
49. Kasper Rørsted
North America and China continue to drive growth at the world’s No. 2 sportswear company, though its Reebok division has fallen behind. The FIFA World Cup gave Adidas its expected boost, but Rørsted unexpectedly blasted a plan to increase the number of teams in the competition from 32 to 48 starting in 2026. “When everything becomes commercial and no longer emotional, then soccer fans will switch off,” he says.
*NEW 50. Daniel Schwartz
Meet the 37-year-old fast-food turnaround king. Back in 2013, this partner at BK owner 3G Capital became the fast feeder’s CEO and launched a revitalization push that included a simplified menu, aggressive overseas expansion and slashed corporate expenses. Sales soared, and Schwartz added Tim Hortons and Popeyes to his tray. Schwartz, who slung burgers to learn the business when he took over BK, says he spends “as much time as possible traveling and visiting franchise partners. You only learn by walking around and meeting people.”
51. Brian Chesky
Chesky continued moving Airbnb beyond the startup phase, welcoming creative powerhouse Wieden + Kennedy aboard as the brand’s lead global agency. The executive is a nimble, canny marketer—note Airbnb’s recent ad bashing the Supreme Court for upholding Trump’s travel ban—and he is expected to generate maximum buzz ahead of a possible IPO in 2019.
52. Harris Diamond
Shine on, Mr. Diamond! He led the venerable IPG-owned network to the top of the creative heap (State Street Global Advisor’s iconic “Fearless Girl” was a huge winner), and lured biz from Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, MGM Resorts and Verizon along the way. The group took home accolades including Adweek’s U.S. Agency of the Year honors. Would lose ground if the U.S. Army, which is in the final stage of a lengthy review——decides to retreat. Two weeks ago, McCann Health dismissed global CCO Jeremy Perrott for behavioral violations.
53. Steve King
King expanded his realm by launching a global commerce practice covering strategy, media and marketplace investment, content and merchandising, as well as a cross-agency programmatic group that has grown in a year to manage $1.5 billion in buys for 125 clients. Notable additions to his court included Didi Chuxing, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lenovo, Lionsgate, Macy’s, Marriott, Mondelez N.A. and Red Bull, though he bid farewell to Sam Adams.
54. Yannick Bolloré
Thanks, dad! Bolloré scaled up last summer as Vivendi (Canal, Universal Music) paid $2.5 billion to buy out his father Vincent’s 60 percent controlling stake in Havas. Subsequently, Yannick was named chairman of Vivendi’s supervisory board. Elsewhere, Havas took a 51 percent stake in a joint venture with Chinese advertising group GIMC, expanding the network’s footprint in Asia.
55. Ulf Mark Schneider
Schneider brewed up a $7.15 billion deal in May for Nestlé to sell Starbucks packaged coffee beans and pods globally. That move makes sense, as the Swiss foods giant already owns Nespresso, and Schneider views coffee as “Nestlé’s largest high-growth category.” Separately, Americans continue eating fewer sweets, so he offloaded the company’s U.S. candy business to Ferrero for $2.8 billion.
56. Andrew Wilson
The sky’s still the limit for Wilson, who plans to extend EA’s reach through cloud-streaming technology. The goal, he says, is to deliver games to any internet-connected device with a screen, giving consumers more choices about when, where and how to play, and reducing reliance on third-party platforms like Xbox and PlayStation.
*NEW 57. Dave Luhr
With “fail harder” as its corporate mantra, W+K keeps winning big with Luhr at the helm. In recent months, the independent shop snagged assignments from Airbnb, Instagram, KFC and Lyft en route to being named Adweek’s Global Agency of the Year. Creatively, W+K remains among the world’s elite, with work that ranges from poignant (P&G’s Olympic-themed “Love Over Bias”) to fun and frenetic (Instagram’s “Stories Are Everywhere”) and whimsical (“It Matters How You Get There” for Lyft).
58. Wendy Clark
After two years of revitalizing North American operations since her arrival from Coca-Cola, Clark took on a global role in February, with Chuck Brymer shifting to chairman. Along with adding business from Diageo, Hotels.com, HP, McDonald’s and PepsiCo, she’s recruited key leaders (such as New York co-CCOs Lisa Topol and Derek Barnes) and fostered an increasingly progressive corporate culture. Her Chicago ops took a hit last month as Conagra exited.
*NEW 59. Maggie Timoney
Raise a glass! Timoney takes over Heineken’s domestic operations in September, making her the first woman to run a major American beer company. Noted for her strong leadership and use of innovative marketing, the 25-year industry veteran most recently spent a half-decade leading Heineken Ireland, launching a pair of successful cider brands: Orchard Thieves and Appleman’s. Such expertise should be a plus on these shores, where Heineken faces tough competition from beer giants and craft brewers alike.
60. Greg Creed
A year after spinning off its China operations, Yum grew global systems and same-store sales 5 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in 2017. Taco Bell performed best, with Pizza Hut lagging behind. Creed has hinted that a major rebrand might be in the works, and the Hut recently shifted its ad biz to GSD&M after two years with Droga5.
61. Jack Dorsey
Cuts in stock-based compensation, R&D and marketing helped Twitter notch its first-ever quarterly profit in February. The company repeated that success three months later, and doubling the number of characters allowed per tweet has lured new users. One big plus: Dorsey is on a serious spam patrol, claiming to have removed a whopping 214 percent more accounts for violating platform policies on a year-to-year basis. Still, having President Donald Trump as your most visible, if unofficial, brand ambassador is just #Sad.
*NEW 62. Dara Khosrowshahi
Khosrowshahi took the wheel at Uber last August from embattled bad-boy Travis Kalanick. Efforts to make the brand appear kinder and gentler followed. Passengers were allowed to rate their drivers during rides, and an ad campaign emerged, featuring Khosrowshahi, who promised, “It’s time to move in a new direction,” though he detoured around specifics. Separately, he drove Uber to a big legal victory last month, when a U.K. court ruled that the service could continue operating in London—but under stricter government oversight.
63. Shari Redstone
Will she merge CBS and Viacom, and then sell the combined company? Or, will she peddle those units separately—National Amusements owns nearly 80 percent of the voting stock in both—after bulking them up via smaller acquisitions? At present, Redstone and Les Moonves are battling in court over her level of control in CBS, so viewers may have to stay tuned until next year to see how it all plays out.
*NEW 64. Jeff Harmening
Harmening took over as chief executive a year ago. His predecessor, Ken Powell, couldn’t generate much momentum, and General Mills’ recent financial performance has been less than nourishing for investors. In a bid to diversify, he acquired high-end brand Blue Buffalo Pet Products for $8 billion, getting a paw in the door of a segment that’s displayed impressive grrr-owth.
65. Kevin Plank
Cracks have begun to appear in Plank’s armor, as the high-profile exec weathered criticism for getting too political (he apologized for praising Trump), and the company’s stock price plunged in 2017. Shares have rebounded, but issues persist, with some industry watchers believing the brand has lost considerable mojo, especially among women and teens.
66. Brian Whipple
While the holding companies eek out single-digit year-over-year growth (if that), Accenture’s marketing unit reported a 35 percent gain. On the creative front, Whipple’s troops scored the company’s first-ever Grand Prix, gold and silver Lions last month at Cannes. Now, he’s muscling in on media through a newly launched programmatic unit.
67. Andy Main
Continues to prove that global consultancies can give traditional holding companies a run for their (clients’) money and generate compelling, strategic creative that’s far from risk averse. Example: Deloitte’s Heat division introduced an innovative web series for venerable financial services firm John Hancock starring Pete Holmes and Jamie Lee from HBO’s Crashing.
68. John Seifert
Last month, Seifert unveiled a major rebranding for the House that David built, streamlining operations by uniting the WPP network’s disparate units under the Ogilvy banner (sorry, Mr. Mather). Direct marketing, creative advertising and public relations were combined, and Ogilvy Consulting was formed. He also vowed to increase the number of female partners at the shop and hire 20 women for senior creative roles by 2020. Two weeks ago, he dismissed global CCO Tham Khai Meng over “behavior [that] was a clear breach of our company values and code of conduct.”
*NEW 69. David Clarke
Clarke leads a 250-person worldwide team, crafting customer experiences and marketing strategies for a range of blue-chip clients. Clarke ranks among the key players driving the incursion of PwC and its brethren—such as Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, Oracle and KPMG—into traditional agency-group territory. This invasion has been reshaping the industry landscape, expanding the revenue base for global consultancies and forcing holding companies and even some independent shops to launch consulting practices to stay competitive.
*NEW 70. Vince McMahon
Most of what takes place during WWE matches is fake (er, scripted)—but the wrestling league’s transition into a global media and marketing powerhouse under McMahon is the real deal. Revenue rose 10 percent last year, and WrestleMania 34 in April became the Mercedes-Benz Superdome’s highest grossing entertainment event at $14.1 million, attracting more than 78,000 fans. Last month, the WWE said it would move SmackDown Live from USA Network to Fox Broadcasting in 2019, and extended Monday Night Raw’s run on USA through 2024.
*NEW 71. Steven Cahillane
Replaced John Bryant as CEO in October, as Kellogg’s continues to snap, crackle and flop amid changing tastes and heightened health consciousness. Cahillane, who previously ran wellness company Nature’s Bounty, is seen as more attuned to the nuances of the marketplace, and his track record in ecommerce could help set the table for a brand revival.
*NEW 72. Dana White
Pow! Bam! Oof! It hurt so good for the mixed martial arts league in 2017, with White driving the UFC even further into the mainstream consciousness a year after the company’s acquisition by WME-IMG. Conor McGregor’s boxing match with Floyd Mayweather generated big bucks and global media buzz, while UFC’s landmark five-year, $1.5 billion partnership to produce events for ESPN and the network’s new digital subscription service scored a cultural knockout.
*NEW 73. Daniel Schulman
Schulman tried to turn “Venmo”—the name of PayPal’s mobile peer-to-peer payment platform—into a verb, just like “Google” or “Instagram.” That probably won’t catch on, even though he recently launched a Venmo-branded debit card to lure younger users and build excitement. Schulman also chairs Symantec, so he has some definite opinions about cybersecurity. For example, his companies don’t offer cryptocurrency exchange because, “We’re not going to help mostly scammers hurt consumers around this,” he says.
74. Evan Spiegel
The financial picture at Spiegel’s self-proclaimed “camera company” has grown increasingly cloudy since Snap’s much ballyhooed $3.4 billion IPO in March 2017. Its shares sank precipitously, though they’ve recovered a bit of late. Meanwhile, Snap continues to innovate—its AR push, social-commerce initiatives, second generation of Spectacles and upcoming Endless Summer docuseries being prime examples.
75. Jack Ma
Ma’s ecommerce juggernaut continues to roll with strategic moves designed to promote trust and ensure long-term growth and stability. Addressed the issue of counterfeit merchandise through enhanced IP protection initiatives and a blockchain program. Last month, the group joined with WPP-owned research firm Kantar for a program providing more actionable insights to advertisers targeting the Chinese marketplace.
76. Shantanu Narayen
In 10 years at the helm, Narayen has reshaped Adobe into a diverse provider of content creation, marketing and analytics solutions. He added ecommerce to the mix in May through the acquisition of Magento for $1.7 billion. That move, he says, allows Adobe to enable real-time personalized experiences across the entire customer journey. Bonus: In December, Adobe said it achieved equal pay between its male and female employees.
77. Safra Catz
In April, Oracle—which Catz runs with co-CEO Mark Hurd—swallowed Grapeshot, a company that helps advertisers monitor placement and avoid objectionable content. That acquisition marked the latest in a flurry of data, measurement and technology-related moves Oracle has made in recent years as it battles Adobe, IBM, Nielsen and others for marketing cloud supremacy.
*NEW 78. Stephen Squeri
The 33-year AmEx veteran took over from Kenneth Chenault in February with a mandate to revamp the credit card company through new lending products and a sharp focus on payment services and ecommerce. In April, AmEx launched its first big branding campaign of the Squeri era, targeting folks whose work and personal lives have become increasingly intertwined. A few weeks later, the company placed its global media business, held by WPP for 20 years, into review.
79. Andrew Robertson
BBDO endured a bumpy first quarter that saw staff cuts at the network’s New York HQ after Lowe’s said it would shift to a project-based model, and Campbell, a client for 65 years, dropped the Omnicom shop for Publicis. Mitigating wins included Dunkin’ Donuts in the U.S., Virgin Atlantic/Virgin Holiday and Asda in the U.K., and Primedia in South Africa.
80. Toshihiro Yamamoto
In February, Yamamoto said he would allow growth to slow for two years as the Asian agency group strives to defuse its pressure-packed corporate culture (and reduce the excessive work hours) that allegedly led to an employee’s suicide in 2015. Microsoft, one of the network’s biggest clients, gave Yamamoto a big lift in May, retaining Dentsu Aegis for its $1.5 billion global media business following a review.
81. Logan Green
Green keeps Lyft’s engine purring like a satisfied cat, with weekly trips now totaling 10 million (35 percent of the ride-share market), and 1.4 million drivers, doubled from 2016. He’s made inroads into self-driving tech, moved to cut drivers’ expenses and strengthen their support network, and strove to improve the environment by ensuring that all rides are carbon neutral.
*NEW 82. Herbert Diess
Claiming the driver’s seat from Matthias Müller three months ago, this former BMW executive joined Volkswagen shortly before the “Dieselgate” emissions scandal broke in 2015, and industry watchers believe he may be able to supply fresh ideas to accelerate VW’s ongoing image reboot. One week after Diess took over, the automaker launched a global creative review.
83. Bill Koenigsberg
Who says independent agencies can’t successfully navigate the fast-changing currents of today’s roiling agency world? Captain of his own ship for 29 years, Koenigsberg steered Horizon to victory in pitches for Sprint and TriHonda Dealers, so Horizon maintained momentum when Jack in the Box sailed out the door. Next port of call: Toronto, where the shop launched an office.
*NEW 84. Ma Huateng
His game is so on. Ma Huateng leads one of the world’s largest diversified technology companies, a dominant player in internet, entertainment, gaming and payment systems. Since the year began, Tencent has made several key plays. It took a 5 percent stake in Ubisoft from Vivendi, made a deal with Lego to develop online games and a possible social network for children, and displayed its mobile esports prowess by staging the playoffs of a global tournament at last month’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.
*NEW 85. Steve Lacy
Last year’s $2.8 billion acquisition of Time Inc. was, perhaps, the crowning achievement of Lacy’s two decades at the company. (Meredith said it would sell Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money, hanging on to People, Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure.) The deal capped off a busy decade of growth in an especially rough market. Previously, Lacy added Allrecipes.com, Gruner & Jahr USA and Shape magazine. In January, after 12 years as CEO, he passed the baton to Tom Harty.
*NEW 86. Randy Freer
Freer’s OTT juggernaut became the first streaming service to win an Emmy in one of the major series categories (outstanding drama—The Handmaid’s Tale). Its bandwidth continues to grow, with 20 million subscribers in the U.S. (up 50 percent in the last 18 months), and Hulu Live TV surpassing 800,000 subscribers in its first year. That launch marked a shift in strategy, with Freer repositioning the company as a robust pay-TV provider with a suite of more than 60 live channels, original shows and a library of old favorites.
87. Daniel Ek
Called a happy tune in April during Spotify’s NYSE direct listing, when shares of the music-streaming service opened at $165.90, up nearly 26 percent from its pre-set reference price. Recent moves include introducing a free experience focused on music discovery (with a brand push themed “Love What You Love”), expanding its self-service Ad Studio platform and signing deals directly with artists (which could leave some music labels singing the blues).
88. Steven Swartz
Swartz guided the company to a seventh consecutive year of record profits despite flat revenue. Hearst’s data business sector was a key driver, contributing 30 percent to the bottom line, a figure that has tripled in a decade and should continue to grow. Snapped up Rodale—publisher of Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World—last fall.
*NEW 89. Anjali Sud
This innovative leader has helped transform Vimeo from a YouTube wannabe into one of the world’s leading ad-free video platforms, with more than 80 million global members and close to 1 million paying subscribers for its professional hosting, distributing and monetizing tools. Last year, she oversaw the acquisition of Livestream, which nearly doubled the size of the company. “Live video contributes to our goal of offering an end-to-end solution across a creator’s entire video workflow,” she says.
90. Mitch Barns
Barns continued his acquisitive ways to extend the capabilities of the media ratings and marketing measurement company. Absorbed Visual IQ to help brands allocate cross-channel ad dollars for maximum impact on various consumer segments. Also bought vBrand, a machine-learning startup, which gauges advertiser exposure in sports and other video programming.
*NEW 91. Brian O’Kelley
Last month’s sale of AppNexus to AT&T goes a long way toward vindicating O’Kelley’s belief that machine learning holds the key to ad-buying’s future. “We want to make it possible to achieve the same precision and accountability previously only available on Facebook or on Google Search and YouTube, but on high-quality sites and domains where consumers spend the bulk of their time,” he says. Toward that end, AppNexus introduced what it bills as the first programmable demand-side platform to help media pros tailor their campaigns.
92. David Droga
One of the brightest lights in the business dimmed somewhat, with Droga5 enduring layoffs as Ancestry.com and Pizza Hut called reviews. Parted with CCO Ted Royer in February, citing the need for “a safe and inclusive environment.” On the plus side, Droga’s agency remains a creative beacon, with impressive work for Christie’s, The New York Times, Tourism Australia and IHOb (er, IHOP.) Another plus: The agency expanded its relationship with Google last week.
93. Sarah Hofstetter
360i took home Adweek honors as the Breakthrough Media Agency of the Year, cementing Hofstetter’s standing as an innovative digital leader. Highlights included new and expanded relationships with Chili’s, Mini USA, Plated and Shiseido; a comprehensive playbook for brands navigating the Voice landscape; and a dedicated Amazon-focused marketing practice to help clients succeed in ecommerce.
*NEW 94. Masayoshi Son
Top dog at one of the world’s technology leaders, which claims holdings in telecom, internet services, AI, smart robotics, IoT, clean energy and semiconductors—with canine Otosan as its ubiquitous mascot. (The patriarch of an otherwise human family, he’s appeared in a series of quirky, popular commercials.) SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, established a year ago, has backed emerging firms and technologies around the world, including German used-car portal Auto1 and U.S. on-demand restaurant delivery startup DoorDash.
*NEW 95. Suzanne Scott
The 22-year Fox veteran moved up in May following the Roger Ailes/Bill O’Reilly sexual harassment scandals. She became the first female chief exec at Fox News, but her ties to the old regime caused consertnation among some staffers. Scott enjoyed considerable success, most recently as programming chief for the news and business networks. She’s credited with revamping FNC’s prime-time lineup, expanding live programming and hiring more women to anchor and host shows. A new OTT platform, Fox Nation, is set to debut later this year.
*NEW 96. Michael Kassan
Selling to Cannes Lions owner Ascential last year in a deal valued around $207 million has enhanced Kassan’s standing as a global powerbroker. Since then, he expanded operations into Berlin, Frankfurt and London, advised on notable deals such as Netflix’s August acquisition of comics publisher Millarworld, consulted on big-time reviews for AB InBev, Dunkin’ Donuts and Lionsgate, and bolstered MediaLink’s executive suite by hiring Mondelez marketing vet Dana Anderson and former Ebiquity strategy chief Nick Manning.
*NEW 97. Geisha Williams
Cuban-born Williams, the daughter of a former Castro-regime political prisoner, became the first Latina chief executive of a Fortune 500 company in March 2017, when she took power at PG&E, which provides electricity and natural gas across much of California. Now, her personal brand shines like a beacon of hope and inspiration. “Immigrants bring energy and they bring innovation and they bring creativity,” she recently told CNN. “They bring that hunger for advancement and for betterment, and I think it’s been an absolute secret weapon the United States has.”
*NEW 98. Christopher Nassetta
Nassetta began his career cleaning bathrooms at a Washington, D.C., Holiday Inn. “My path shows that there are no limits when it comes to careers in hospitality,” he told the Huffington Post. “What starts in the toilet can end up wherever you set your sights.” He worked his way up to spend 11 years as chief executive at Hilton, ranking among Glassdoor’s top CEOs for emphasizing corporate culture and teamwork, and feted for creating enlightened, innovate marketing with a transcultural twist.
*NEW 99. Bill McDermott
An aggressive leader with a bold vision for the German software company, McDermott has waged a dogfight in the cloud against competitors like Oracle, buying Concur and Fieldglass to build scale, and forging alliances with IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. He’s also made inroads into the IoT and, last month, McDermott vowed to storm territory held by Salesforce. “SAP has made a determination, from which we will not bend or waver, to take over the CRM marketplace,” he recently told The Wall Street Journal.
100. Bob Sauerberg
Keeps turning pages toward the future. In its second quarter, for the first time in company history, revenue from digital/video surpassed print. He also launched “Them,” a platform focused on the LGBTQ community. On the legacy side, GQ and The New Yorker each won a Pulitzer, the latter for Ronan Farrow’s seminal Harvey Weinstein coverage.