ZMI ALPHA:Head of Agency of the Year (Media) 2020: Tim Irwin

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ZMI ALPHA:Head of Agency of the Year (Media) 2020: Tim Irwin

Chief executive EMEA, Essence 

Over the past year, Tim Irwin showed that it is possible to flourish even during a global pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, Irwin’s strategy as chief executive was to continue pushing for double-digit revenue and profit growth, in line with Essence’s previous performance. While the onset of Covid-19 put a dent in this plan, his focus on clients and new business, people and innovation ensured that the WPP shop’s growth surpassed 2019 levels. 

On the innovation front, work was condensed into shorter timescales, sometimes as little as 48 hours, to meet the needs of clients against the background of a fast-changing environment. The agency’s suite of machine-learning tools, which focus on optimisation, forecasting, contextual ads and CPM data, were significantly improved upon. 

In light of the pandemic, Irwin implemented new ways to stimulate growth for Essence and its clients, from helping to accelerate the ecommerce ambitions of one brand, through to moving paid media budgets into data strategy and scenario planning to reflect the changing media and fitness habits for others.

Online pitching was transformed, with extra sessions for clients and intermediaries devoted to relationship building, to create chemistry in a remote setting, while Irwin also oversaw several key in-house promotions, building an experienced management team. 

By the end of 2020, under Irwin’s direction, Essence had won new-business accounts, a string of awards and achieved some of the agency’s highest employee satisfaction results.


Nadine Young, chief executive, Starcom

Nadine Young joined Starcom as managing director in August 2019 and was promoted to chief executive one year later. Young has focused on building high performance teams that are fundamentally invested in the success of their agency and client, championing a “my-team-first” approach. Under her leadership, Starcom has secured a series of big-brand new business wins and impressive client satisfaction scores. 

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