The CMO50 2019 is revealed
- 18 October, 2019 08:07
Marketing chiefs from digital-first companies, FMCG, media, retail and ecommerce have dominated the fifth annual CMO50 list for 2019.
The CMO50 list recognises Australia’s most innovative and effective chief marketing officers transforming their organisations. The program is sponsored by Adobe.
Top honours for 2019 went to Uber director of marketing, Steve Brennen, making this second appearance in the CMO50 for the role as well as in top 10. Brennen, a well-regarded and experienced marketing leader, was previously recognised in the CMO50 for his work heading up marketing at eBay.
Brennen announced his departure from Uber last week to join Australian fintech darling, Zip.
“Every single day at Uber, I needed to compete to win our customers as myriad well-funded competitors enter the marketplace, creating more choice in Australia,” Brennen says of his tenure and approach at Uber. “This has required me to spend more time evaluating our brand’s unique value proposition to understand where we can win.
“At Uber, we have customers using both our offerings - as riders and eaters - so we need to reward and be mindful of our ready-built competitive advantage. In turn, that’s sparked more introspection and focus on allowing real-time data to influence our marketing approach.”
Taking second place in this year’s CMO50 was ABC director of audiences, Leisa Bacon, also making her third appearance in the CMO50 top 10 this year. Bacon has achieved significant impact in her four years the ABC, in what has been an arguably tumultuous time for Australia’s public broadcaster. But it is the drive to be audience-led that has helped it ride the wave of political turmoil, she says.
“At the end of the day, my job is a commitment to audiences and this doesn’t change despite the noise in our external environment,” Bacon says.
“It’s easy to remain focused on my responsibility to ABC audiences and the Australian public. To do this, we must understand if there is any changing sentiment and we needed to be proactive during this time. We dialled up our brand communication in that period, and got on the front foot with a positive narrative.”
Third on this year’s CMO50 list is Unilever marketing director, Paul Connell, who saw his remit extended to general manager of refreshments just over a year ago. Among his many accomplishments are bold moves to extend the FMCG’s reach through new categories, channels, partnerships and brands, turning around what had been a largely declining frozen foods business to growth and introducing two new brands and four world-first innovations in the process.
Across the CMO50 2019 list, nine of the top 10 marketing chiefs had previously appeared on the CMO50, demonstrating their resiliency, executive influence and sustained business impact.
The only new entry to make the top 10 this year was Telstra marketing executive and chief brand officer, Jeremy Nicholas, who took fifth spot. Like many of his CMO peers, Nicholas has spearheaded significant transformation over the past year, from the ASX-listed telco’s overarching T22 business transformation, to a shift to Agile ways of working, a reduction in staffing, a realignment of products and the introduction of new customer services including a fresh loyalty program.
“I don’t know if you can ever be fully prepared for it, or ever really know what it’s going to be like,” Nicholas says of navigating transformation. “But if you stay true to yourself, be honest and transparent, and try to do the right thing all the way through, and hold to what you believe in, you know you’re doing the right thing.”
Also making the top five this year and in fourth position was IAG chief marketing officer, Brent Smart, who has overseen a turnaround of the NRMA brand to chalk up its biggest brand growth in seven years.
“You can’t just do short activations or long-term work, you have to do both,” Smart says. “I’ve focused to make sure the short works as good as it can, but in the context of the bigger brand narrative.”
Across the full list, there were 23 fresh faces, the largest percentage of which came from the retail and ecommerce sector (19 per cent). Other well-represented industry categories this year included FMCG and technology and telecommunications.
This year’s CMO50 was revealed during CMO’s third-annual CMO50 dinner at Beta Bar in Sydney, attended by 100 of Australia’s top marketing leaders.