ZMI ALPHA:Head of Agency of the Year (Creative/Advertising) 2020: Xavier Rees

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ZMI ALPHA:Head of Agency of the Year (Creative/Advertising) 2020: Xavier Rees

Chief executive officer, Havas London

One of the industry’s good guys, Xavier Rees is a worthy winner of this hotly contested category. 

While Rees told Campaign that the early days of the Covid crisis had plunged him into an emotional roller coaster, this didn’t stop “Xav” from meeting the challenges of 2020 head-on, leading the agency back to growth after an initial dip by expanding work with existing clients and winning new business.

He fuelled a creativity-led culture, championed by his 2019 appointment of chief creative officer Vicki Maguire (this year’s Creative Person of the Year). Work highlights featured campaigns for the Department for Education, Durex, Heinz and Carling, and 2020 was the agency’s best ever year for client satisfaction scores.

Despite the challenging nature of 2020, Rees also found time to launch the Havas CX network, bringing together digital transformation, ecommerce, customer experience design and customer acquisition and engagement.

A true people person, Rees increased investment in HR initiatives, focusing on the career progression, personal development and wellbeing of talent. Measures included putting in place a team of mental-health ambassadors.

Rees feels passionately that the industry should work together when it comes to diversity, which he demonstrated by open-sourcing the agency’s Press Pause initiative, aimed at helping employees challenge problematic behaviour, following the Black Lives Matter movement coming to the fore. 

Judges heaped praise on this empathetic leader for implementing a future-facing strategy and a purposeful approach. 


Helen Calcraft, co-founder, Lucky Generals

Calcraft led a strategy over 2020 that put existing clients first, nurtured the agency’s people and ensured that its wider responsibilities to society were not neglected. She rallied the team to produce standout campaigns for the likes of Co-op and Yorkshire Tea and continues to be an outspoken champion of diversity and inclusion.

Tammy Einav & Mat Goff, joint chief executives, Adam & Eve/DDB

Resilience and agility have characterised Einav and Goff’s leadership over 2020, as well as a commitment to creating the most inclusive agency community in advertising. Their vision helped support the agency’s clients in challenging times, delivering over 1400 projects across 150 campaigns for more than 50 brands.

Sarah Golding, chief executive and partner, The & Partnership

Golding ensured the agency responded swiftly and effectively to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. The & Partnership won eight major pieces of new business and retained all existing clients. Under her leadership, the agency put into place a “distributed” approach to content creation, so teams of content creators could work together seamlessly in remote situations. 

Sam Hawkey, chief executive, Saatchi & Saatchi

Hawkey steered the agency to some of its biggest wins, drove organic growth from existing clients and introduced the S&S Client Board, where clients meet with leadership on a quarterly basis to help steer and shape the agency. He also addressed diversity issues through creative education, open entry talent and affordable accommodation.

Sara Tate, chief executive, TBWALondon

Tate made diversity and inclusion a business critical priority, using an audit and staff survey to draw up recommendations, together with introducing regular online “listening circles” with the agency’s diversity officer. Under Tate’s leadership, the agency won five new clients in 2020 and increased its total business revenue.

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