CMO50 2020 list is revealed!

We present this year's most innovative and effective marketing leaders

The ABC’s director of audiences, Leisa Bacon, has taken the number spot in this year’s CMO50 list among a list of familiar and new faces in the top 10 this year.

It’s the sixth year for the CMO50 recognising Australia’s most innovative and effective chief marketing officers transforming their organisations. The program is sponsored by Adobe.

Bacon, who has been a consistent performer in the CMO50 top 10 for several years, took the top spot for a program of work that demonstrated cross-functional and leadership excellence, including the ABC’s first truly comprehensive Content Plan. She also showcased a true commitment to audiences and harnessing insight, innovative marketing, increased data sophistication and propelling the national broadcaster forward.

Taking second position this year is The Iconic’s chief marketing officer, Alexander Meyer, another returning top 10 CMO50 honorary who judges agreed demonstrated the skills a modern marketing leader needs today, from thoughtful commercial decision-making to innovative responses to changing customer behaviour and needs and a true commitment to the brand’s sustainability and diversity.

In third position was new entrant to the list, Optus’ head of marketing Melissa Hopkins. The marketing chief sits across a transformation of the brand that has seen her breathe new life and vigour into the ‘Yes’ moniker as she works to turn Optus into one of Australia’s fabric brands.

Retaining fourth position for a second year is IAG chief marketing officer, Brent Smart, who stepped onto the insurance giant’s Australian leadership team this year. From spearheading the $10-a-month NRMA plan in response to the COVID-19 crisis, to the ‘First Saturday’ program of work aimed at ensuring the consumer’s world is a safer place, the marketing chief demonstrated both creativity and commercial throughout his submission.

Rounding out the top five of the 2020 CMO50 is Telstra chief marketing officer, Jeremy Nicholas, another stellar performer whose submission illustrated cross-functional clout, a willingness to harness data to deliver better messaging and engagement with customers, a commitment to commercial success and making Telstra’s purpose come to life.

Overall, the top 10 for CMO50 2020 represented many of the country’s most iconic and significant brands and marketing leaders, including ANZ’s Sweta Mehra, Westpac’s Martine Jager, Auto & General’s Jonathan Kerr and Woolworths’ Andrew Hicks. A fresh entrant to the CMO50 top 10 was Inspirations Paint’s head of marketing, Joel Goodsir.

All CMOs in the top 10 demonstrated incredible adaptability and resiliency during the unprecedented crises thrown Australia’s way this year, from bushfires to COVID, team commitment as leaders, significant influencer as business executives driving change and purpose in their organisations, and commitment to modern marketing excellence.

This year’s list  

The intention of the CMO50 is to highlight and celebrate the stellar work our marketing chiefs – and by extension, their whole marketing functions – are doing to drive growth and customer engagement in their organisations today. It’s about celebrating the discipline of marketing as a strategic business contributor, an essential part of the c-suite, and as a function delivering sustainable commercial outcomes. This year, we also sought to celebrate the adaptability of marketers to the unprecedented situation we’ve had to navigate in 2020.

It’s been another mammoth year for getting this list together, a job made even tougher by a record number of entries as well as unique impact the COVID crisis has had on all industries, jobs and how consumers connect.

This resulted in a serious, earnest tone to the bulk of the CMO50 submissions this year. That’s not surprising given the crises we’ve had to navigate from devastating bushfires to a global pandemic and the health, economic and societal tsunamis created in its wake.

Every one of the submissions was worthy of being on the list. Our final 50 is an incredible portfolio of marketing achievement, and every one of those who have made it onto this year’s list should be applauded for their commitment to taking this profession forward through excellent work and leadership.

Every CMO showed their commitment to brand building, cross-functional collaboration, fostering resiliency in their teams, adapting to suit their customer, striving for more innovative marketing programs, and a desire to pursue growth by being the customer champion. All judges agreed every submission was good.

CMO would like to sincerely thank our CMO50 2020 judges for giving so much of their time and energy to this debate - their valuable insights are what we need to continue taking this profession forward.

Lying at the heart of the CMO50 this year was one of the most important questions our profession is still working to answer: What does it truly means to be a CMO in a world where you have to be both scientist and artist?

What came out from the day was art and creative inspiring and influencing, while data and technology delivered. Creative is what drives emotion and human connection; data ensures it lands in the right moment and with the person it matters most to. Creativity is a leadership mindset; data and technology help teams to thrive.

The art and creative is what too many c-level executives still limit marketers too; the science and commercial impact is what we need to harness in order to prove to them marketing is so much more than that. Neither exists without the other.

CMO tenure and influence

Across the CMO50 this year, average tenure dropped slightly compared to 2019 to 3 years 1 month. However, overall company tenure is much longer: Well over six years.

In addition, 94 per cent of the CMO50 2020 are members of the executive team, on par with 2019, and 72 per cent report directly to the MD / CEO. The large remainder are reporting to a division MD or chief, or the COO.

Across the full 50, six were returning to the list, half in a new CMO guise at a different organisation. There were 25 new entrants in total.

It’s also worth noting two-thirds come from ASX-listed or Australian headquartered organisations.

Marketers needed to complete this year’s questionnaire in order to be considered. Judges then read and rated every submission on:

  • Business contribution and innovation
  • A Customer engagement-led approach to marketing thinking and effectiveness
  • Application of data and technology in marketing strategy and programs
  • Empowered, bold and agile thinking
  • Resiliency and adaptability in the face of change
  • Demonstration of marketing’s commercial acumen  

Each are given a score, with the final combined score used as the basis for our list. Judges met to debate the final order of the CMO50.

The full CMO50 for 2020, along with more insights into this year’s list, can be found in our special CMO50 portal.



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