The Reception


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3 tips: Excellence Awards

This year’s Judges of the Marketing Society Excellence Awards really are the crème de la crème of marketing. Chaired by Syl Saller Global CMO of Diageo, they lead the marketing for classic blue chip brands like Mars, Coca Cola, Tesco, IBM,  ASOS and Airbnb. So how do you impress them and get your name among the winners? Here are my three tips on how to impress the judges. 1.  Be Brave. There will be a new overall prize for the bravest brand from among all the entries, but in each category the judges will be looking out for brands that have taken risks and succeeded against the odds. 2. Embrace failure. If you are brave enough to share your failure with us this year you might be the winner of our “Heroic Failure” award – especially if you can also share what you learned and perhaps how this has been turned into a subsequent success. 3. Back it up.

New Society board

Last year at our AGM meeting, our new chair was revealed alongside a brand-new board line-up to support the company’s ambitious purpose, vision and mission and to create a vibrant, leading edge Society for its 2500 global members. Previous chair Stephen Maher CEO, MBA, stepped down to make way for Craig Inglis, customer director John Lewis who will lead the talented new team of senior marketing leaders. Chief Executive Gemma Greaves said, “Creating our new board was like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle - we were looking for the right constellation of skills, diversity of experience, talent and personality. “We now have a balanced mix of clients, agencies and media owners who will be helping us deliver our purpose of inspiring bolder marketing leadership and achieve our vision of being the leading global network for senior marketers. “I also want to say a huge thank you to Stephen for his outstanding contribution to the Society over the past four years. We’re going to miss his energy and vision but as a member of the Society he’ll remain a valued member of our family.”

Marketing therapy

This year, mental health has risen rapidly up the agenda of marketing leaders. But what is the unique contribution that our profession can make to improve the nation’s mental health? According to the ‘Time to Change’ campaign, around one in four people will experience a mental health problem in 2017. And, of course, when a quarter of the population experiences mental health problems, we are all affected by them. So each of us has a role to play in creating an environment that supports people in coping with their experiences or in accessing the right expert and emergency help when things take a more serious turn. But why is this agenda specifically one for marketers to take on?


I’ve been thinking for more than 25 years about how companies, services and the internet interact. I was director of strategy for the Government Digital Service when we made the UK government substantially better at the internet. I’m an advisor for a bunch of ‘digital’ startups. And I’ve no idea what people mean by ‘digital transformation’. So I thought it might be useful to explore a couple of definitions, and think about why it’s so hard and why you’re going to have to do it anyway. Michael Slaby, who made the Democratic Party election machine digital for Barack Obama, described it like this: “It’s not complicated, it’s just hard.” He’s right, but that doesn’t really capture just how hard. 1. It’s a battle just to get to square one There are two definitions of digital transformation I like.

More harm than good

Let me start with a confession: I don’t really understand what ‘bravery’ means when it comes to marketing. And let me follow that confession up with a provocation: I don’t think anyone does. And now a question: if you're an insightful enough marketer to spot that the world is a bit, well, ‘conflicty’ at the moment, and you reference that in your advertising, and then suggest that your brand might be the solution… Is that brave? Well, it rather depends. If you’re a soft drink, then no, that’s not brave at all. Suggesting a celebrity with a can could calm the rampaging hordes isn’t just not brave, it’s crass. 

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