Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Agencies Shortlist

Agency Collaborative Champion

Bella Noakes

Publicis Media

Read entry

“Bella Noakes is the Senior Innovation Manager of NextTECHnow, a Publicis Media capability that delivers disruptive media solutions to clients through our partnerships with the ad tech start-up community.

We are so pleased to be nominating Bella for Agency Collaborative Champion. She is a big thinker who always strives to help our ad tech partners and PM clients reach new milestones regularly. She possesses a hunger for expertise and knowledge and is passionate about her role and our unique offering within Publicis and the wider media agency industry.

In her one year with Publicis and NextTECHnow (NTN), she has changed the game not only for some of Publicis’s biggest clients (who are always challenging us to think differently and support in driving market leading activations to ensure they stand out from their competitors and better connect with their audiences), but also for our growing list of ad tech partners.

She has proven time and again to be indispensable to our partners, driving growth for them and paving the way for them to move from start-up to scale up. In her first year and first foray into agency role, she delivered £875k in revenue for our start-up partners.

She has managed this by collaborating closely with over 50 different client teams across Publicis as well as ideating, developing, and hosting a variety of Publicis Media events to ensure our agency teams are always at the forefront of innovation and in the know with the latest tech offerings and solutions.

Everything from a Metaverse event, which covered a mix of educational and inspirational sessions as well as demos to bring the tech to life, to developing, introducing and hosting our New Partner Showcases which provides an opportunity for new ad tech partners to get valuable face time with agency teams and clients direct and also bringing ad tech partners together as a pseudo ‘ad tech matchmaker’, to strategically combine solutions in new ways, to our Sustainable Tech event, which saw a huge amount of positive feedback from agency and clients as well as turning that feedback into active briefs for our start up partners.

But don’t just take my word for it…here are a few quotes from a few of our key partners, clients and colleagues:

Bella is hard working, smart and loved by her clients, which is a tribute in her ability to build and maintain strong relationships. Her knowledge and expertise in the global digital space is second to none. This is supported with her strategic analytical thinking. An absolute pleasure to work with. – Paul Gibbs, Cluep Sales Director, UK/EMEA

Always takes initiative, never has to be re-chased for a request, always meets deadlines and does whatever is required to help us reach a solution. continue to be a great colleague to work with! – Charlotte Adley, Starcom Account Director

Very open and easy to work with and has a very calm approach. – Alicia Davenport-Handley, Picinic Account Manager

Please consider Bella Noakes for Agency Collaborative Champion”

Ben Rooke

Total Media

Read entry

“Ben joined Total Media as a Digital Account Director and, in just two years, has become an integral part of all digital and commercial operations at the company. He has made a significant impact on improving processes, from operations, to the planning process and onboarding of tech partners, to the way data is visualised. His improvements in the ad-ops process alone have resulted in saving over forty-two person-hours collectively in the digital team a week, not including the potential mistakes alleviated, from upskilling the wider team on how to better spot mistakes.

Ben has conducted training sessions with staff, making them more proficient in ad trafficking and platform usage. The broader digital team are now a lot more comfortable setting up, briefing on, and checking the accuracy of the floodlight and tag fires.

Ben has also worked directly with the Ad-Operations team to make the process more efficient and effective for compelling storytelling. He’s a proactive lead in the integration of our new trafficking system with Claravine, a process which has significantly halted the number of mistakes in our reporting dashboards.

Overall, Ben has helped break down barriers between the ad ops, data & digital departments, empowered staff in digital to be more self-sufficient, and freed up time for the Ad-Operations & data teams to focus on more commercially lucrative work.

Ben collaborates with all departments at Total Media, contributing to the Comms planning approach and working with the Strategy, Data & Client Service teams on initiatives such as visualising client objectives in dashboards using a media plan template he created from scratch. He has introduced standardised creative frameworks and the use of regression analysis for reviewing creative performance.

Alongside all of this, he has conducted training sessions within the agency and co-hosted ‘Advertising Unlocked with Total Media,’ in association with the IPA. A session with visiting high school students from Kingsford Community School, where Ben briefed and judged their presentation tasks for the afternoon. The session was created to introduce students from the lower socio-economic London Borough of Newham, to what a Media agency does, encouraging them to get into media, and how one goes about working in media after school or university.

Ben has also completed an eight-week mentoring programme with the non-profit WYK Digital, which helps young people, with or without formal education, gain experience in buying digital media with the view of improving their chances of being hired in the agency world. Ben mentored a young WYK graduate in building his confidence and interviewing skills, as well as helping him decide what type of role and agency would be best for what he wants to do in his career.

In addition to delivering high-quality work for key accounts, Ben has also helped improve poorly performing accounts and taken ownership of the development of the digital team.

All of this makes him a real asset to Total Media and the wider media industry.”

Stephanie Dahl


Read entry

“Stephanie Dahl is a true Collaborative Champion and here’s why….

Last summer we were thrilled to win a new account with European Microsoft services provider Broad Horizon. What started out as a brand narrative brief for the group quickly evolved into what became affectionately known as a total de-brand; a decentralised people-led movement called The Digital Neighborhood. The result was a unique, contrarian group identity that truly sets them apart in the world of B2B IT.

Steph had not worked in the ICT space previously and was keen to jump in and take on a range of new challenges. She quickly became the linchpin between agency teams and the client or “The Engine” as they like to call her.

Co-ordinating a steering committee representing 11 entrepreneurial CEOs, brands, services and unique cultures, Steph was key in delivering a number of key stages of the project. These included Brand Strategy and Development, the Internal Launch and the External Launch across Northern Europe.

Creating a new group identity and narrative that so many entities and individuals could all get behind was never going to be an easy brief. However, this was achieved due to a number of factors; We had a visionary client that was ambitious, open and generous with their time. We had an agency team that totally immersed themselves into the project from strategy and brand through to launch campaigns and digital engagement. Critically, we had a delivery team headed by Steph who collaborated throughout each stage at both granular and global levels with total commitment and professionalism.

We’re all very proud of Steph, she’s been an inspiration on this project and has played a huge part in its delivery.

This is why I’d love to see Steph win the Collaborative Champion award.

Stu Dawson
Managing Director, J2″

Karina Patel


Read entry

“Karina started at Incubeta as a Pay Per Click Account Executive five years ago, and after receiving four promotions is now an Account Director sitting within the biddable leadership team. She is the only Account Director within Incubeta with planning and activation experience across Search, Social, Programmatic Display, and YouTube. This experience has allowed her to lead on the cross-channel strategy for Incubeta’s leading client, M&S. The account is run in both the UK and internationally, thus giving her experience of driving growth in challenging market conditions.

As a manager of ten across specialisms such as Search, Social, and Display, Karina has been fortunate enough to watch many in her team progress, with 50% receiving promotions within the last 12 months under her leadership. She has implemented a series of training for junior members, equipping them with the skills they can use for effective communication in face to face meetings or calls. She uses her specialist YouTube knowledge alongside her broader best practice training such as client communication to help upskill her colleagues.

Karina is an inspiration to those she works with. She is the winner of two awards from The Drum; she won Best Health Campaign for Superdrug Online Doctor, a Paid Search script based strategy utilised to help drive efficiency off the back of increased search demand following a TV ad campaign for a new Erectile Dysfunction product Viagra Connect. The tactical implementation of these scripts led to a 36% cheaper cost per click which improved ROAS by 60%. What’s more, she won Most Effective Use of Creativity for Quintain Living, an innovative strategy in response to COVID-19 impacting the rental market as renters couldn’t view properties in person. Her response to the issue was the creation of virtual viewings that users could engage with within programmatic Display banner ads, with an engagement rate of 7%, exceeding the benchmark of 5%. They also saw session duration on the website improve, at 1 minute, a 2x increase on the previous creative which did not contain the virtual viewing.”

Agency Hero

Gabriella Krite

The Kite Factory

Read entry

“Gabby has worked in media since 2014, starting her career at All Response Media and Blue 449 (now Spark Foundry) before moving to The Kite Factory, where she has been for the last six years. She joined The Kite Factory as a Planner Buyer because of her passion for charities, and four promotions later, she is now Head of Digital Operations, leading a department of 34 people and ensuring the right processes are in place, the right resources are on accounts and the proper training is implemented.

Gabby was promoted to the Senior Leadership team before turning 30, not due to game playing or politics but by staying true to herself. Since stepping up, she has continuously driven genuine change throughout the business and has been a positive force for our people and clients. She leads with empathy and respect, proven by the increase in employee retention in her department, which has positively impacted the wider agency. The best validation of this approach is the agency’s inaugural listing in Campaign Best Places To Work this year.

Gabby has instigated and implemented several game-changing initiatives:

• Creation of our full-funnel KPI framework, which has enabled clients traditionally fixed on line-by-line ROI or CPA to transition spend into consideration and even awareness tactics, leading to record-breaking and award-winning campaigns for WaterAid.

• The digital rollout of our proprietary reporting system FlightDeck™, giving all clients access to accurate interactive data from multiple sources to generate greater insights while saving Execs 1248 hours of reporting time P/A.

• Producing our first-ever digital handbook outlining processes, ways of working and best practices across everything we do. This 150-page document has improved and standardised our proposition whilst accelerating junior development resulting in 14 promotions in the past 12 months.

Gabby has spearheaded the transition and upskilling of an operations-focused digital team into a sophisticated planning and buying team with the ability to lead on strategy, culminating in a nomination for Agency Team Of The Year at this Years Drum Awards for the Digital Industries. Gabby also created Digital Champions, tasked with keeping the department, and broader agency, up to date in each digital specialism. Training and knowledge sharing are at the heart of her working methods, proven by the 2,572 training her team logged in 2022, a 494% YoY increase.

The team has grown by 55% to 34 people across 12 months, during which time we have onboarded 12 new clients with a 21% increase in billings and 22% income growth. This has all been achieved whilst maintaining a record client satisfaction score of 86%.

Instilling a culture of top-down support across the whole agency, Gabby played an instrumental role in creating the support package for junior staff as we moved deeper into the cost-of-living crisis.
She also leads the agency’s Diversity & Inclusion committee and mentors many female colleagues. As a result, she has built a team that is 61% female, 30% BAME and truly multi-national, beating all IPA benchmarks.”

Felicity Cusack


Read entry

“Since joining digital agency Croud as an Account Executive, Felicity Cusack, aka Fliss, has risen through the ranks, now leading our Programmatic proposition as our Programmatic Strategy Director.

She is the embodiment of the phrase ‘leading by example’, effortlessly straddling the gap between coordinating high level cross-departmental projects, external partner engagement, client engagement, alongside jumping into bid adjustments, dashboard amends and tracking support, when her team needs the support or guidance.

Fliss is integral to the Programmatic team, leading on key Croud clients including Pret A Manger and Pearson. In 2022, Fliss spearheaded the launch of Pret A Manger’s digital out-of-home campaign in collaboration with Hawk, running out-of-home ads within 5km of Pret shops in London. Using Hawk’s technology, the campaign retargeted users who had been in the vicinity of a Pret A Manger store on their mobile devices with breakfast, lunch and post-work advertising depending on the time of day to ensure messaging remained relevant. This campaign gained a 280% stronger click-through rate amongst Hawk retargeted users compared to our non-dynamic business as usual audiences on mobile.

Fliss has a real passion for the Programmatic and wider digital marketing industry. This is exemplified through her involvement in many groups and initiatives. As an advocate for sustainability in advertising, Fliss championed her team’s creation of a bespoke carbon calculator tool, which was so impressive it also won our internal Croud x Google awards – going as far as to secure the top spot in the competition. Carbon reducing ad products are always prioritised by Fliss – recently, she led the programmatic team’s collaboration with SeenThis, an IT services and consultancy company who use advanced streaming technology to reduce data transfer to cut carbon emissions.

Fliss is a strong leader of industry discussions, an example of this is when Fliss and a few of her team travelled to Fuengirola, Spain, where they presented to the Sector Alarm Group, and local marketing managers. The team presented on KPI frameworks, GMP and advanced bidding, with Fliss expertly exploring how to tie this into the Programmatic channel, garnering excellent feedback from the group.

Fliss’ tireless attitude expands beyond her day-to-day job – she’s also a strong proponent of equal opportunities within her teams. This is reflected in her active role as a member of The Women in Programmatic Network, where she has discussed her involvement and why this means so much to her in this New Digital Age interview:

To sum up, a few words from Hannah Driffield, Head of Digital Operations at Croud:
“Fliss is such a driven character, who is constantly learning and developing in this complex world of programmatic advertising. Fliss has an inquisitive and competitive nature, making her ideal for driving forward ideas and initiatives. No project is too much for Fliss, and if she doesn’t know something, she will find it out; delving into the details and assessing all possible solutions. Alongside this, she is extremely responsible and trustworthy, making her a huge support to her team.””

Sarah Edwards

Make it Clear

Read entry

“Sarah is a pragmatic, data-focused leader who is down to earth and able to solve highly technical problems. This approach has carved her and the agency’s position in the marketplace by, as our name suggests, making it clear. She is an expert at working with organisations such as Cambridge University Press, Virgin Media and Thales to distil and refine their highly complex offerings into something that is approachable and accessible for all types of users and customers. Working in an agency for over 18 years, Sarah thrives on supporting changing industries, be it academic publishing, consumer technology or cyber-security.

Completing a management buyout 16 years ago, Sarah has had quite the journey transitioning from designer to business owner. She is constantly striving to develop as a leader. During her tenure, the company has implemented a number of new systems and structures that have enabled the agency to produce industry-leading work on the shortest timelines as well as create an inclusive and positive company culture with strong and defined vision and values.

By creating dynamic and adaptable systems and processes, Sarah’s main business vision is to enable the people within Make it Clear to grow and be their best, inside and out. She believes that when individuals grow, so will the business.

Sarah strives to create a family life where she and her wife can work high-intensity and demanding full-time time jobs, but ensure they prioritise their two young children. When examining the big picture of family life and work, she describes a need to compromise on all fronts to create this environment. Sarah explains there is a fine balance between working hours to provide the best life for her family as a sole small independent business owner and spending time to support and nurture her children and relationship. One without the other creates an imbalance. Working the whole time results in a bad family situation and working fewer hours may result in negative business performance, so true to form, she analyses it, putting all of it into perspective.

When talking about her time working for the company, Sarah explains the management buyout she completed 16 years ago and the new challenges it created. As a passionate designer with a world of knowledge, Sarah loves to support and help everyone around her. However, she explains the constant battle of transition from an integral member of the team to the overall role as a business owner. Using the power of self-reflection, she actively works on creating an environment where those around her can learn and grow into their roles so she can take a step back.

Sarah has focused on staff retention rates with employees like our Account Director and Production Manager staying at the company for 5 and 10 years, respectively. Ben, our Production Manager in a recent company interview specifically mentioned his positive experience working under the Creative Director and Owner, Sarah, highlighting ‘her leadership style and work ethic as reasons for his long tenure of ten years.”

Costas Michalia


Read entry

“As creative director, Cos led the development of websites, UX, and digital campaigns for brands including Alpro, Café Nero and Haribo.

However, he consistently recognised the need for more client-side digital knowledge, and specifically, understanding of digital thinking, and how it can add organisational value. So, Cos carved out a new role; Strategy & Insight Director. In this role, he’s made a fundamental difference, internally and externally.

Working relentlessly to identify the best martech tools and solutions including online surveys, customer experience planning, eCRM, e-commerce, data analysis and visualisation, project management, Cos has improved our agency efficiency and service immeasurably.

But, this was just his warm up.

A multi-national, blue chip client then invited him to a project team tasked with upskilling the organisation’s digital skillset across the globe. Led by a large management consultancy, it immediately became clear that the methodology lacked depth and granularity: not just its diagnostic ability, but in its practical recommendations for implementing change. Nor was there a results framework.

So, Cos rolled up his sleeves and convinced the client that he could develop a better methodology that was actionable, for a much lower budget. The client backed him, and, over the last two years, Cos has delivered a programme to improve the way the organisation uses digital, globally. It incorporates diagnostics, training materials and an online project management tool.

Entirely created by Cos, the programme starts with a diagnosis of an organisation’s digital capability in five core areas of business. Organisations are then categorised against five levels of digital maturity, from the most basic, digital producers, right through to digital visionaries.

The methodology focuses on how individuals and organisations can improve, by working on specific KALUs (Key Actions For Levelling Up). Using his design and UX skills, Cos has developed a range of tools including educational videos and an online playbook.

Conscious of the need to engage every individual involved, Cos turned to Lego. He introduced the Lego Serious Play (LSP) methodology, empowering teams to work together to find their own solutions. LSP allows issues and solutions to be identified through building Lego models.

Through LSP, our client saw their digital maturity level jump forward and, for the first time, organisational siloes that had been the root cause of so many of their digital initiatives failing were broken down. We have been flooded with workshop requests for other markets.

One participant commented:

“My perception of Digital Thinking has changed immensely.To be honest, I really didn’t know what Digital Thinking was and I was very sceptical about it. No-one has really explained it in simple and direct terms. I thought it was just about technology: now I’ve re-wired my brain to understand that it is actually a strategy we can leverage for our business.”

Cos deserves to be recognised. He works relentlessly not just internally but producing powerful results for our global clients, too, through new thinking and methodologies. He champions digital, in order to create an agency of digital champions, at an individual and organisational level.”

Simon Akers


Read entry

“I must admit this feels a little strange. In the past I’ve only ever voted for others/been voted for, but then I figured working for myself it’s hard to get current or former colleagues/clients to do it and put up the cash, so against better judgement, and with an NDA arm-twist, have decided to take this matter into my own hands…

An Agency Hero is someone who both delivers the work to exacting standards and challenges entrenched ways, but also non-self-serves, seeking betterment of both the industry and the individuals who make it so. I objectively feel that my whole purpose and strategy is aligned well with these 2 things, given my own marketing consultancy Raison-D’etre and outputs, combined with my pro-bono causes for young talent…

For most of my career, I have led initiatives, strategies and teams in agencies and tech brands globally and hopefully empowered a younger generation (I’m only 39 but still I am basically a veteran right?). However, since 2019, things have really accelerated. Archmon was born to help the right clients grow the right way. In other words, I wanted to provide alternative to traditional agency model and be interim marketing leader/supporter in-house, and work with a network of partners to transparently deliver for clients, serving both the role of planning and delivery. In 4 years, we’ve served media plans/executions for B2B, CPG, recruitment and travel brands, some of which have been ongoing since the pandemic. This was recognised in being shortlisted within The Media Leader Future100, as well as being asked to write for them, as well as discussing my thinking across industry (including NDA).

2 things:
Archmon is built to embrace freelance talent in the digital space from technical SEO through to Facebook Buyers and Measurement in all corners of the UK (and Spain/US!). Talent who otherwise would not get a seat at the table of bigger clients, by collaborating in Archmon we can effectively pitch for bigger work. David+David=Goliath stuff!
I try to devote 10% of my week (half day give or take) to social mobility causes with hope to diversify equity of voice and opportunity in industry. The Marketing/Advertising space is statistically the most elitist, and having grown up in the East Midlands and working class, and spending most of my life in the dark about own neurodivergence (ADHD diagnosis in December), I know what it’s like to feel on the outside. I feel this not only makes me proud of much of above, but also propels me to help out. To that end, I volunteer as a mentor for Brixton Finishing School, who support young talent from school age from challenging background, the CIM, and support founders of Common People who want to help more working class get into and thrive in the digital and creative industries.

IN SHORT – both my business agency alternative and goal to enable celebrate diversity of person and background, helps me confidently put my hat in the ring for NDA’s Agency Hero!”

Josh Lewis


Read entry

“In my time working with big Global brands, I have come across some exceptional account people. There is something truly different about them. Josh is one of those people.

An account person can tick all the boxes of being efficient, timely, and even being pleasant in meetings. But what makes someone like Josh different is that he really understands that it’s not about going from point A-B. Working on the McDonald’s account, he always looks to understand what the client is asking for and then not just do it, but work with the agency team to get under the skin of it so he can offer back insight and additional value against that ask.

Somehow he makes his clients feel like real partners and that their contribution, along with his, matters. This results in great work.

He knows what it means to work as a team. People are willing to follow him to maximise every opportunity, and give their all to deliver great work and brilliant results. It’s not always something you see. His calm curiosity, perseverance, and integrity means he leads in the right way, delivering excellent work where everyone involved feels supported and part of it.

Josh deserves this award for, well, just being Josh.”