Future CMOs: Mars Wrigley’s Drew Davis and Tyro’s Lisa Vitaris

These up-and-coming marketing chiefs share their thoughts as they embark on the 2020 Marketing Academy’s Leaders Programme.

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Just what does it take to become a chief marketing officer?

It's a question the Marketing Academy’s Leaders Programme, now in its sixth year in Australia, continues to try and answer. The professional development program consists of mentoring, residential learning boot camps featuring lectures from subject matter experts and speeches from industry experts, and professional coaching, all aimed at helping the next generation of marketing managers become marketing leaders.

The program is supported by a cohort of Australian marketing chiefs including Telstra CMO, Jeremy Nicholas, IPG Mediabrand CEO, Mark Coad, ANZ CMO, Sweta Mehra, ThinkTV CEO, Kim Portrate, and Coles CMO, Lisa Ronson. This year’s selection process fielded applications from over 500 marketing leaders from client-side brands, media owners and agencies.

In the first of this series, CMO talked to two of the 2020 cohort, Mars Wrigley portfolio director, Drew Davis, and Tyro CMO, Lisa Vitaris, about their careers to date, why they were attracted to the program and what they hope to achieve. CMO will be following the two marketing leaders throughout the year to get a first-hand account of the program.

Mars Wrigley portfolio director, Drew Davis

Drew Davis has FMCG in his blood.

The portfolio director grew up amid a family pet food business and it instilled in him a hunger for new products and new experiences.

Drew DavisCredit: Drew Davis
Drew Davis

“I’ve always been on the hunt to try new chocolate or ice-cream products when they launch, and this passion developed further through high school and university, when I really took to marketing subjects focused on understanding the consumer, designing products and services based on consumer desires,” he told CMO.

In his current day-to-day role in the confectionery segment of Mars, he leads a team responsible for the strategy and growth of bite-size confectionery - Maltesers, M&M’s and Pods. Davis described his role as essentially a bitesize-GM of the brands in his portfolio.

“My team’s responsibility spans from product ideation, drawing from consumer insights and market understanding, to working with cross-functional teams to bring new products to consumers that make them smile,” he said. 

Davis was introduced to the Marketing Academy program through a good friend who was part of the 2019 cohort, and it piqued his interest.

“When he talked through the impact the program had on him, both professionally and personally, I was keen to know more,” he said. “I think many leaders get so caught up in the day-to-day pressure of the role and, as a result, take little time to focus on our development.”

On his goals for the program, Davis hoped to become a better leader, and use this as a means to inspire and empower those around him.

“I’m most excited by the diversity of speakers and fellow scholars in the program. There’s an amazing mix of people from across the marketing industry who are on track to be the leaders of tomorrow,” he said. “Since we all first met at Bootcamp, WhatsApp has been constantly lighting up with support from a personal and professional context, especially as we all face into different challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Tyro CMO, Lisa Vitaris

“Marketing lured me over from advertising,” Tyro CMO, Lisa Vitaris, told CMO.

The senior prfoessional embraced marketing to be “closer to the strategy and decision making” after a career that started in advertising. Gaining access to reporting and analysing campaign results was all part of the appeal.

Vitaris is now heading up marketing for Tyro, which listed on the ASX late last year, and is a player in the payments space, competing with the big banks to provide EFTPOS, business loans along with Medicare and private health fund claims and rebate services.

Lisa VitarisCredit: Lisa Vitaris
Lisa Vitaris

Vitaris wants to develop leadership skills as well as share her newfound knowledge with others in the industry with the hope of inspiring them to become better leaders too. And it was this that drew her to the Marketing Academy’s Leaders Programme.

“‘Pay it forward’ is a key part of the Marketing Academy’s purpose, and I love being equipped with more tools and techniques to bring even more value to others,” she  said.

“I’ve always seen the Marketing Academy like a secret club of the best of the best in the media, creative and marketing industries, and from the moment I first heard about it, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of it.”

Vitaris’ goal is getting to know other marketing leaders to then share learnings with the best of the best.

“I have made more connections now than ever, from my incredible group of 29 other scholars to an amazing network of lecturers, mentors, coaches, alumni and the Marketing Academy crew themselves,” she continued.

The program got underway and then COVID-19 changed everything for everyone. Vitaris said this meant a program pivot during the first boot camp to address leadership during uncertain times.

“It has equipped me with so many skills that I believe would otherwise take much longer to amass,” she said.

When it comes to the business, the pandemic has focused Tyro even more on supporting its customers, Vitaris said. And despite working remotely in challenging conditions, “there’s a greater sense of ‘we’re all in this together’”.

It’s a common refrain at the moment - they need to be adaptable in the fast-moving situation with COVID-19. As for marketing during this time, the environment is changing daily and they are continually pivoting, Vitaris told CMO.

“But all the while being guided by the underlying principle of supporting Aussie businesses as best we can during an incredibly difficult and uncertain time,” she added.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.


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