The AdNews Top 30 Emerging Leaders

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 12 September 2018

This first appeared in the monthy AdNews magazine. See what's inside here and support AdNews by subscribing here.

Behind every great Power 50 exec is an emerging leader looking for recognition and growth. What came as a surprise to AdNews, particularly when we are constantly reminded of a “dearth of talent”, was the sheer courageousness, ambition, initiative and success of the Emerging Leaders you will see here.

The talent that was pitched to us through this process was phenomenal. Not only are we proud to shine a light on the next wave of leaders coming through the industry, but also credit is due to the companies they work for who have developed training schemes, mentorship programs and opportunities to develop these incredible people. AdNews congratulates our list of the Top 30 Emerging Leaders.

With perennial talk around a dearth of talent, the churn and burn element of the fast–paced high pressure industry and the recent change in visa laws making it harder for employers to sponsor skilled overseas workers in Australia, adland’s workforce certainly has its challenges.

See it in print first

Yet despite this, it’s vital to remember, reward and focus on the top talent that we do have across adland.

There’s a plethora of great training courses in marketing, and people and culture priorities have been rapidly growing, particularly with strong efforts made by agencies. But, where do you start and is ‘on the job’ training enough?

Following a new ‘Project Oxygen’ survey of its employees, Google found the top 10 behaviors of its best managers include being a good coach; empowering the team and not micromanaging; creating an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being; being productive and results-oriented; being a good communicator— listen and share information; support career development and discuss performance; have a clear vision/strategy for the team; have key technical skills to help advise the team; collaborate across the company and be a strong decision maker.

See: CEOs Pang, Geertz and Leggett join forces for Lessons In Leadership event

Patrick Flaherty, founder of digital recruitment agency, Scout, said the practical pre–learnings of leadership such as communication, presentation, managing situations, decision–making and strategy, must be taught more as opposed to “learning on the job”.

He said those wanting a chance at becoming a next gen leader, must “work and focus on the fundamentals of what make a good leader”.

From blogs to articles, he urged people to constantly read and learn, as well as network.

He said the solution is for businesses to bite the bullet and allocate more time for setting development goals and backing this with focused training.

See: AdNews unveils October Live event: Lessons In Leadership

“The irony of this industry, sometimes, is you’re all amazing at branding and selling a narrative, but, you have to focus that on yourself now and sell yourself.”

Sydney–based headhunter, Esther Clerehan, said, as an industry, we are “getting better” at helping to grow talent. Initiatives such as The Communications Council’s AWARD Creative Leadership course that gives aspiring senior creatives 360–degree tutelage on what is involved in running a department/agency, is already having a great impact.

She urged people to invest in mentorship, to tutor at AWARD School and to put their hand up for additional assignments. “Get inside the head of clients, learn how agencies make money, find new and better ways to do things, and speak up,” she said.

Managing partner of Hourigan International, Karen Taylor, said one of the characteristics of the thought process of a leader is how intuitive they seem to be and how comfortable they are with making bold leaps.

“They’re usually quick to turn invention into action, so it’s critical that they are agile. Involving people is another trademark of the ‘creative leader’, and central to that commitment to people, is a belief in making every decision through a customer-led filter.”

Despite the challenges, and strong focus on the current power players at the helm, there’s a simmering movement of next generation leaders in waiting.

Launched this year as a new initiative, AdNews asked industry execs to nominate the future leaders of our buzzing industry and asked who has the skill, talent, knowledge, and leadership nous to stand out from the crowd.

Initially ear–marked as the Top 25 Emerging Leaders, nearly 100 nominations later and due to the high calibre of entries, it was decided to increase the list to 30. All nominations came from someone more senior than the nominee. They were required to have a minimum of seven years in the industry, and be outside the C–suite or MD role.

The Top 30 was free to enter, and examples were provided of how the nominee overcame a challenge and the solution they created. Also, detail on the nominee was included that showed why they might be an emerging leader as well as why the nominator believed the nominee deserved to be on the list.

See: Editor's Letter: Emerging talent trumps power players in the diversity stakes

Judging was conducted by a panel from the industry, including industry recruiters, marketers, consultants and the AdNews editorial team.

AdNews editor, Pippa Chambers, said: “It’s the first year of The AdNews Top 30 Emerging Leaders and we’ve been encouraged by the 50 or so proactive companies that took the time to put forward who they believe are next generation leaders.

“AdNews will continue to champion young talent, as we have done with our weekly online profiles of up and coming talent over the last four years, and with our NGEN podcasts.

“We look forward to strengthening The AdNews Top 30 Emerging Leaders and, as always, we are open to feedback about what more we can do to help move the industry forward.”

All listed here will receive a subscription to AdNews and in addition, three of the 30 will also take to the stage at the ‘Lessons in Leadership’ Sydney-based half–day event. Well done to the inaugural Top 30 Emerging Leaders.

You can also check out the Power 50 here.

In no particular order…



PHD head of digital, Schalk Van Der Sandt

Demonstrating leadership, Van Der Sandt quickly became a trusted figure for clients and the team. He has a passion for developing others and spends a lot of time understanding

the challenges that they face, working collaboratively to solve them. Van Der Sandt has been integral in PHD's digital billings, growing approximately 200% over the past five years. He has consistently shown himself to be a leader worth following, with an excellent understanding of his discipline.


Pacific Magazines marketing director of fashion and beauty Susie Hogan

Known for showing initiative and empathy, PacMag’s Hogan encourages other team members to reach their full potential through her inclusive leadership style. Involved in many aspects of the wider company, she boasts the commercial acumen and innate understanding to make strategic and informed decisions. Through her leadership, Hogan has been instrumental in helping drive the InStyle brand forward over the last two years, while also elevating the Women of Style franchise.


Seven West Media commercial manager – digital, William Hedberg

Quickly growing from a financial role to one that includes team management, commercial, operational and strategy development, Hedberg has proven to be a proactive and respected member of the Seven West Media team. Displaying wisdom and confidence beyond his years of work, he has quickly gained the respect of the executive managing team. He has also seen success in challenges such as managing and driving an in–house digital team to enable the delivery of live streaming of sport content associated with four events across FY18.

Vice Australia executive editor of native, Ingrid Kesa

By building Vice's branded content department from scratch and setting up internal best practices and processes around its approach to working with brands, it's clear to see why Kesa has been nominated. Having represented Vice at the Youth Marketing Australia Conference, as well as being involved in multiple panels and university guest lectures, she is known for displaying leadership qualities including accountability, approachability, positivity, excellence, and open–mindedness.

MediaCom head of SEO and social, Ryan Manning

Challenged two years ago by CEO Sean Seamer to build a new vision and a three–year business plan for the whole MediaCom AU/ NZ business, Manning, only 26 at the time, not only rose to the challenge but provided excellent insights that the company would feed back into its wider business plan. Manning leads his team with passion and determination while relentlessly focusing on their professional development.

Bohemia digital investment director, Victor Condogeorges

Known throughout Bohemia for turbocharging the digital skill set of the agency and his relentless pursuit of perfection for his clients, Condogeorges often shows a courageous yet logical approach to building people and brands. He’s recognised as one of the most passionate digital leaders in the business. Smart, approachable and trans- parent, Condogeroges has also shown a willingness to coach the younger generations, as well as clients.

Sizmek platform director, Linda Nguyen

Taking the lead to help Sizmek become an Australian demand-side self–service platform champion, Nguyen upskilled herself to launch the agency's new business model into the local market. She is touted as a great role model and spokesperson for women working in ad tech and is praised further for her consultative approach in working with clients and key stakeholders.

72andSunny director of strategy, Mollie Hill

Hill has been at 72andSunny since the beginning, first helping the agency open its doors in Australia. She has since gone on to lead the development of its open source report to show where Australia is as a nation, spanning diverse geographies, ages, ethnicities, interests and industries. In her first six months at the agency, she live–briefed 1200 creatives at Semi Permanent, rewrote the syllabus and taught young strategy hopefuls for two AdSchool semesters.

Match & Wood digital communications director, Michael Wretham

Wretham was integral in setting up its digital and programmatic offering, all of which is now run in–house by the digital team he leads. Beyond this, he has proved to be a key partner in developing the agency processes, way of working, ethos and direction. With a CV boasting roles including Kmart digital lead and Coles account director, Wretham has proved himself an effective and accomplished digital leader.

PHD Media group business director, Kathryn Weatherlake

Weatherlake has reinvented her team by creating a culture where people felt their work was important, managing underperformance and providing development opportunities. Since then, the team is now the 'envy' of the agency, with lifts in employee engagement, $20 million in new business, contract extensions for all major clients, and client satisfaction of 75–plus per cent. Kathryn has also displayed leadership by successfully introducing cultural initiatives like a popular recognition program celebrating work anniversaries.

Havas head of programmatic trading, Kevin Fernandes

Without question, the digital go–to person within Havas, Fernandes, is recognised for his selflessness, generosity with his time and understanding that leadership is not simply about running your own team, but contributing to the agency as a whole. Passionate about doing things properly, he is continually seeking ways to improve his contribution to the agency. Not to mention, everything he does, he does with a smile on his face.

Spotify APAC head of programmatic and data, Dan Robins

Joining the company in a newly created role, Robins developed processes, training and ongoing education to put programmatic central to the Spotify sales team. This resulted in 400% growth in 2017 and ongoing growth in 2018. Robbins shows clear leadership mentality to focus on the business needs long–term, and is continuously looking to improve those around him.

Geronimo head of operations, Olivier Starck

Using his deep understanding of media, technology and data, Starck has designed and built two proprietary technology platforms for Geronimo that have been taken to market. Considered by the executive team to be one of the most talented media professionals they have worked with, he strives every day to teach those around him and pass on his experience.

SCA head of digital content, Chris McWilliams

Integral in leading a revitalised digital strategy at SCA, McWilliams advocated for a pivot to ensure audience connection remained direct, resulting in significant growth across all of the company's assets. He is said to be a shining example, proven by his countless achievements and work ethic. A quiet achiever, he remains humble to a fault, but acts as a creative spark to those around him.

Columbus group client partner, Tobey Bower

Bower was charged with leading a restructure of the Queensland market after a period of client losses and staff resignations. He successfully rebuilt the team and revitalised the market, achieving 92% client retention and bringing profit and scale back to the business. Bower is known throughout the business as being a leader who is able to articulate complex concepts to clients, to get the right result for all stakeholders.

Wavemaker national head of strategy, James Boardman

Boardman has built Australia into a global centre of excellence within the Wavemaker businesses, in so, propelling him onto the network's global planning board. His thought leadership has been published by the IPA, WARC and won the WPP Atticus award for brand thinking. Last, but not least, in these turbulent times, he is valued at a global WPP level, hence his lunch with he who shall not be named.

Initiative communications design director, John Dawson

As one of the industry’s most awarded young executives, Dawson is known for using his pragmatism to turn his ideas into a reality. He is also recognised for an 'infectious' work ethic that drives those around him to achieve. Despite creating numerous content series and events, and praise for his many successes, he constantly carries himself with a level of honesty and humility.

The Hallway group head, Hannah Sturrock

Sturrock made her mark by correctly diagnosing why one of the agency's largest client projects was going awry, establishing a sound strategy that ultimately led to the account tripling in size. She is a devoted mentor and gives herself tirelessly to the career growth of her team members, while also pushing for greater diversity not just within her own agency, but the industry as a whole.

Sweetshop executive producer, Loren Bradley

Bradley is nominated for her tireless support of young directors, many of whom now specifically request to work with her. She’s an ambassador for the MCA, on the AWARD Committee and remains involved in the Screen Australia's / Australian Directors Guild's Women on Screen Initiative as a mentor. Bradley is an “inspiration” to those she works with and her energy is said to be contagious.

Performics head of performance media, Simon Gellibrand

Nominated for his unwavering commitment to his craft and agency, Gellibrand is known as a genuine, entrepreneurial and decisive leader among his peers. Championing the relevance of search to clients, he spearheaded the communications to clients and media around flipping the funnel, successfully highlighting the strategic role it plays. Gellibrand is also commended for leading the charge to educate the wider market on this topic.

Xaxis general manager, Stephen Wood

Wood stepped in at a time of turbulence at MediaCom, rising to the challenge and managing all aspects of the company's internal and external refresh of the business. Living by a set of clear leadership values: humility, trust, compassion, and ambition, he continues to drive the business forward in a way that few in the industry can.

Twitter sales director, Angus Keene

Having recently finished his term as acting MD, while Suzy Nicoletti took maternity leave, Keene has shown himself to be one of the most capable leaders within Twitter's local business. He was a driving force behind the company's successful broadcast agreement with SBS during this year's FIFA World Cup, which culminated in a 'game-changing' deal for Twitter. Genuinely passionate about his work, Keene acts with purpose and the desire to better himself and the business.

Initiative head of brand experience, Olivia Warren

Warren built her own experiential agency, Skylark, achieving cumulative billings of $3.5 million, which transitioned into IPG Mediabrands in 2016. At just 28 years of age, Warren not only embedded her clients into the broader business, but established a new offering for the agency group. Operating with a deeply ingrained entrepreneurial spirit, she continues to develop strategies to further the agency.

Havas Media director of business development, Amelia Priday

Priday has the great skill of anticipating a problem and taking steps to fix it before it actually arises. She remains cool, calm and collected in the face of even the most testing of challenges and is admired for how she has handled some of the agency's most prestigious clients. Adored by her team and those across the global network, Priday is already touted as a future CEO.

Integral Ad Science director of sales ANZ, Andrew Gilbert

Only recently promoted to the role of director of sales, Gilbert has become integral to the success of the sales and account management team. Recognised for his ability to deliver on new clients while continuously helping to drive revenue throughout the business, Gilbert is a respected industry leader who continues to give his time to the progression of his peers.

CHE Proximity director of customer experience, Catherine Hooson

Hooson leads her handpicked eight–person team and has embedded a brand new customer journey framework into CHE. Building her department from scratch, she was nominated for her commitment to the customer journey, inspiring both the agency and her clients. Described as a “visionary,” Hooson has successfully developed commercial opportunities for large clients, including Telstra and IAG.

Wavemaker director, client and communications, Emelia McAdam

McAdam's leadership is not driven by title, but by what she does consistently, being first to participate in Wavemaker, GroupM and industry initiatives. Her vivacious personality is an asset to the company and her positive attitude and proven experience make McAdam a leader to the people who work with her. A tactical mind, she is considered by the agency to be a leader both nationally and globally.

CHE Proximity group account director, Ruth Leach

Like all great leaders, Leach is a connector of people. Able to manage massive major projects and is not afraid to get her hands dirty, she remains calm and understanding, even under immense pressure. Praised for her ability to break down the walls between multiple disciplines, Leach is nominated for her ability to elevate the voices of those around her, regardless of their level or title.

MCN Melbourne head of strategy, Amber Ballagh

Nominated for overcoming the challenge of a two–year hiatus on all market sponsorships, Ballagh was a key player in securing the Ford Tech and Innovation partnership with Sky News Australia. Able to extend her thinking beyond the traditional partnership mindset, she continuously develops strategies to leverage content and assets, driving compelling solutions for clients. Ballagh is considered a prime example of a successful leader within MCN.

MCN Sydney digital sales director, Mitchell Duff

Seeing success and failure in the same light, Duff has built himself into a successful leader within MCN. With a level of integrity that “cannot be matched,” he has developed multiple initiatives to drive the development of those in the business who lacked guidance and motivation. Through Duff's tireless work, those members have since gone on to flourish and move on to more senior roles within the business.

All Top 30 Emerging Leaders receive a subscription to AdNews and an online profile on AdNews. In addition, three of the 30 will also take to the stage at the Sydney–based half–day event - see here for more on the event.

AdNews is proud to deliver strong, independent and credible news 24-hours a day, almost 365 days a year. And we know our free, online news helps power your career and knowledge. But, can we ask a small favour? To fund our ongoing commitment to delivering the best industry news, that you show your willingness to support us by taking a digital subscription to AdNews magazine? The cost is less than $50 for the entire year, and $4.94 per issue. Support AdNews. Support journalism.

To support AdNews see here.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus