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2016 Trend Forecast: 16 People To Watch
Holmes Report
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

2016 Trend Forecast: 16 People To Watch

The Holmes Report picks out 16 people from the marketing communications and PR worlds who are poised to make waves in 2016.

Holmes Report

2016 Trend Forecast: 16 People To Watch
Our 2016 Trend Forecast has already uncovered the key PR issues that are likely to impact various sectors: consumer, technology, digital, healthcare, public affairs and corporate reputation.

But who are the people that are likely to have a particularly interesting year ahead? The Holmes Report's editors pick out 16 people from the PR and marketing worlds to watch in 2016.

How did last year's People to Watch fare? Check out the 2015 list here.

Charles Watson
Chairman, Teneo Holdings International

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Charles Watson arrived at Teneo 12 months ago to oversee the consultancy's international expansion strategy, after minority investment in the firm by BC Partners. Already, the former Financial Dynamics CEO has demonstrated that he is not about to waste much time, buying three UK firms — including the iconic Blue Rubicon — within six months of taking on the position. 2015 ended with Teneo linked to a number of deals, including, of course, APCO, suggesting that 2016 is likely to see Watson navigate even more global expansion at one of the industry's more intriguing firms. It is a task for which Watson is well-suited given his track record of business growth and dealmaking at FD and, latterly, Karmarama. — Arun Sudhaman (AS)

Guillaume Herbette
CEO, MSLGroup


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Guillaume Herbette’s hire as MSLGroup global CEO came amid a fairly tumultuous year for Publicis Groupe, amid a significant restructuring at the holding group and considerable senior-level turnover at its PR network. Herbette prefers to focus on the positives, talking up MSLGroup’s potential for integration with its sibling ad shops, but there is no question that his new agency has experienced plenty of disruption in recent years. Much will depend on whether the ex-Fleishman executive can chart a more successful trajectory for the agency, particularly in the US, where the firm has underperformed. The early returns, via P&G, are not bad, but Herbette will be aware of the need to keep building a cohesive senior team that can compete with its PR network rivals. — AS

Jessica Lee
Director of corporate communications, Netflix


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Jessica Lee arrives at Netflix as the US streaming service embarks on a dramatic global expansion, tripling the number of nations it serves to 190. Unsurprisingly, Asia has emerged as a key region for the company, with South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and India all coming online in 2016, leaving China as the only major hold-out. As Netflix’s first corporate communications head in Asia, Lee has that rare opportunity to try and shape the regional narrative from scratch, while also dealing with inevitable criticism from consumers and backlash from rivals. But Lee will likely be well-prepared for the role after spending seven years with McDonald’s, where she was chief communications officer in China, and helped to usher in a shift towards content management, brand publishing and social media. — AS

Jack Martin
Global chairman and CEO, Hill+Knowlton Strategies


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This time last year, there was a widespread assumption that Jack Martin was about to step down from his role as chairman and chief executive at H+K. If he had done so, he would have left quite a mark—he presided over the merger with his Public Strategies, Inc., public affairs firm; the strengthening of digital and data capabilities; a rebranding; and the appointment of new leadership in North America and Europe—but having reconsidered what would have been a premature retirement, Martin now looks set to stay for the foreseeable future—and he appears to be re-energized. He has ambitious plans to finish the job of restoring H+K to its former position as one of the leaders in our industry, and appears to have the resources to realize those ambitions. — Paul Holmes (PH)
 
Jennifer Palmieri
Director of communications, 2016 Hilary Clinton presidential campaign


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Managing communications for Hillary Clinton is a massive challenge—she is viewed with suspicion by both conservatives and liberals and attacked by The New York Times almost as often as by Fox News—and with most observers viewing the former First Lady as clear favorite to be the next President, expectations are high. But Palmieri—a former White House communications director under President Barack Obama—is used to the pressure, and will help keep Clinton on message while taking full advantage of digital and social media to connect with people directly, without the unpredictable media filter. — PH

John Saunders
President and CEO, FleishmanHillard

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While Dave Senay’s retirement from the FleishmanHillard CEO role had been mooted for some time, the alacrity with which John Saunders was promoted to lead the network still took many observers by surprise. Except, perhaps, Saunders himself, who probably harboured a quiet confidence that the top job would one day be his. Popular within the agency, the 25-year Fleishman veteran prevailed over other contenders for the CEO role, and is now tasked with restoring a more rapid pace of growth at a PR firm that was once the world’s biggest, but has since dropped to number three. A veteran of Fleishman’s EMEA operations, Saunders understands the global milieu well, but much will depend on his efforts to continue transforming Fleishman into a more modern communications agency, particularly in the US. Looming over all of this, meanwhile, is the prospect of further integration among Omnicom’s PR firms, as evidenced by Fleishman’s recent merger with Fishburn in the UK. — AS

Joy Tan
President of global media and communications, Huawei


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Huawei’s rise to become the world’s third-ranked smartphone player has been remarkable, powered by growth in Europe and Asia. If the Chinese tech giant truly hopes to take on Apple and Samsung, though, it must take the fight to the US, helping to explain why it recently reshuffled its global consumer PR support. As the person who is effectively entrusted with Huawei’s global reputation, Joy Tan’s work will prove pivotal as Huawei aims to overcome lingering concerns about its Chinese origins to become a truly global force. That shift is clearly underway; it will be fascinating to observe whether Huawei can become the first Chinese company to crack the glass ceiling that has prevented thee emergence of global consumer brands from the country. — AS
 
Kass Sells
President, North America, WE Communications


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When Waggener Edstrom (now WE) hired Kass Sells in April 2015 it was with the hope that Sells would revive its fortunes in North America as president of the region. Sells stepped into a business where revenues fell 9% to $106.7m and in North America declined $98.3m to $87.5m in 2014. Likely, 2015 was a 'honeymoon' for Sells to acquaint himself with WE’s business and even PR, in general, after spending eight years at Wunderman. In 2016, the industry will look for tangible examples of Sells’ leadership reflected in notable work, client acquisition, and more generally, in boosted morale at the newly-rebranded WE. When hired, a well-placed source at WE said Sells is “incredibly good at unifying and he's going to be tasked with unifying across regions and teams.” This year, we look forward to seeing the agency reap the rewards of this. — Aarti Shah (AaS).

Madan Bahal
Founder and managing director, Adfactors

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Over the past 30 years, Madan Bahal has built Adfactors into India’s largest PR firm, and one of the 100 largest in the world. But Bahal’s aspirations are unlikely to stop there, as he gears up for further expansion in 2016. Bahal wants Adfactors to play beyond India, and is eyeing markets in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Such a move would make his firm an anomaly among Indian PR firms, and place it next to Blue Focus as one of the few Asian PR brands with credible international aspirations. Amid all this, of course, Bahal must defend his position on home turf, where a slew of big account wins and campaign awards have established Adfactors as an operation that is as much about quality as quantity. And, of course, the question of succession hangs over all these calculations — will Bahal look to sell his firm, or are other options in the offing? — AS

Margi Booth
EVP, Next 15 and chairman, M Booth


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When Margi Booth became chairperson of her eponymous firm in 2013, it’s not a surprise that, rather than winding down, she ramped up her involvement with parent company Next 15. That role was formalized this year when Booth was made EVP of Next 15 — the only ‘client-side’ position in addition to CEO Tim Dyson. "She embodies the values that we value” Dyson said when making Booth EVP, noting she’s her knack for making meaningful contributions and building teams — and knowing when to "get out of the way" and let others shine. After a hugely successful sale, Booth — if she wanted to — could sunset her involvement with the consumer agency she built. That she’s taking an even broader role at Next 15 is likely a good sign for, not only M Booth’s sister agencies, but also the industry as a whole. — (AaS)

Nan Williams
Group chief executive, Four


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UK independent Four Communications received a £10 million investment of equity finance from BGF (Business Growth Fund) in August of last year, at which time CEO Nan Williams suggested that the funding could take the £32 million agency—which already includes operations in the UAE—to “the next level.” Following in the footsteps of José Antonio Llorente (one of last year’s People to Watch whose firm received similar investement last year), Williams has already acquired financial and professional services specialist Broadgate Mainland and Welsh firm Francis Balsam, and can be expected to kick on with additional acquisitions in 2016 as the firm expands its international footprint and broadens its capabilities. — PH

Pete Marino
Chief public affairs and communications officer, MillerCoors


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Since joining brewing giant MillerCoors in 2012, Pete Marino has helped the company navigate all the issues associated with the beer business and seriously strengthened his management credentials, to the extent that many observers believe he could be the next public relations professional to graduate from the communications discipline to a broader operational role. On the other hand, having already demonstrated his entrepreneurial credentials by building Chicago’s Dig Communications into a national creative force, and later selling it to ad agency Olson, it’s not out of the question that Marino could one day return to his agency roots and disrupt the current landscape again. — PH

Robert Gibbs
EVP and global chief communications officer, McDonald's


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Former White House press secretaries are always in demand in the corporate world, but it’s fair to say that the track record of such appointments is mixed. And Robert Gibbs, who took over the senior communications role at McDonald’s in June of last year—having departed the Obama administration in 2011—faces one of the tougher challenges. There’s a perception of McDonald’s as a brand in trouble after a sales decline in 2014, and there’s no question that the fast food giant is in an issues-rich environment, with constant questions about everything from the nutritional value of its meals to the low wages of most workers. Gibbs will have his work cut out turning around a reputation that is under constant fire. — PH

Rachel Whetstone
SVP, public policy and communications, Uber


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Google's noted policy and communications chief Rachel Whetstone left the plum post last year to become SVP of public policy and communications at Uber. Her newsworthy hiring came less than a year after the car share startup hired Democratic strategist David Plouffe for a similar role (he has moved into an advisory role at Uber). Whetstone certainly has a big fight on her hands. Uber is entangled in several regulatory battles — with its legality often coming into question. CEO Travis Kalanick has said he’s “in the middle of a political campaign” against “the Big Taxi cartel” as its opponent. But she’s kicked off 2016 with a victory — in the UK, Transport of London dropped a proposal that would tighten regulations around private-hire cars.— AaS

Scott Allison
Chairman and CEO, Allison+Partners


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That Allison + Partners is a global player with offices across US, Europe and Asia is especially impressive considering its total revenues are less than $50m. Allison has astutely built a rare type of agency — it’s global, unified under a single P&L and manages to play across several sectors with a client portfolio that has included Toyota, Samsung, Sony, Orbitz, Best Western International, Progressive, Seventh Generation, BoxedWater, NBC Universal, Honeywell, Dick Clark Entertainment, Merlin Entertainment, Adecco and Harley-Davidson, among others. Now in its 15th year, the MDC-owned firm must cement the foundation to allow for its ultimate expansion into a large agency.—AaS

Susan Butenhoff
CEO, Access Emanate Communications


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After selling her tech-focused firm to Ketchum, Butenhoff successfully steered Access Communications into the consumer sphere. The next stage of this is Butenhoff taking over the newly merged AccessEmanate. Butenhoff now oversees a $35m operation that is looking to shakeup the midsize agency sector. The new firm has 200 staff across four offices: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and London. Access' clients include Intuit, EMC, Facebook and Beefeater Gin, while Emanate's roster features Philips, Nivea, Henkel, Sees Candy and Reckitt Benckiser. Fusing two long-standing brands won’t be without challenges, Butenhoff is convinced this merger is unlike another this industry has seen. "This is more of a marriage than a merger," she said. "We are committed to taking that scrappy boutique mentality and scaling it. We haven’t seen anybody at this size try this model." — AaS
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