Thought Leadership

Women in Marketing celebrates the pioneers

To celebrate twenty years since the first Women in Marketing event, Founder Ade Onilude pays homage to the leaders who support and inspire the awards, launched in 2010.


Marketing is an industry known for its pursuit of the new. Yet a constant cycle of innovation doesn’t often leave space for gratitude or introspection. For Ade Onilude, as she embarks on the 20th anniversary since the creation of the first WIM event, looking back and ‘giving flowers’ is at the top of her agenda. 

Launching this year’s awards, for which Creativebrief is the media partner, Onilude urged marketers not to put their plans on pause. In an era of delayed decision making and overwhelm it is all too easy to chase the seemingly urgent, at the expense of the important. 

It is clear that it is hugely important for Onlilude to celebrate and recognise the leaders who have made the Women in Marketing Awards so unique and enduring.

With this in mind, Onilude has embarked on a retrospective of over a decade of the awards. She explains: “As I reflect on our 20 year anniversary I have to give flowers to the supporters, sponsors and trailblazers of Women in Marketing who have made such a positive impact which is still felt today.”

Each year the awards have a different theme, reflecting the ever-shifting marketing ecosystem. Onilude explains: “The global pandemic had a disproportionate impact on women, which influenced our shift towards a yearly theme. The first being 'Hope, Humanity, Healing'.”

Celebrating the trailblazers who helped build Women in Marketing 

She credits marketing trailblazer, Gail Gallie for 'being there at the beginning and being a key supporter in terms of sponsors, speakers and advice.' Gallie founded Project Everyone, alongside director Richard Curtis, the campaign unit that launched the Sustainable Development Goals on behalf of the United Nations.

She credits advertising guru, Kevin Allen the creative brains behind the iconic Mastercard ‘priceless’ slogan as being a key supporter. “Thank you for being the first and key male ally to sponsor the awards,” she says.

Heide Gardner, who spent 20 years as IPG’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, has had a profound impact on both Women in Marketing and the broader industry. As the first Chief Diversity Officer for an advertising holding company, Gardner helped IPG establish diversity, equity, and inclusion as a key differentiator. Onlilude explains: “Heide is one of the key individuals who has provided the blueprint for DEI in this industry. She is one of the founding voices behind the Unstereotype Alliance. I must thank her for her vision and sponsorship.”

The global pandemic had a disproportionate impact on women, which influenced our shift towards a yearly theme. The first being ‘Hope, Humanity, Healing.

Ade Onilude, Founder, Women in Marketing

Paying tribute to the trailblazers, it is important to Onilude to note that the industry is built on the hard work of those who paved the trail first. She highlights the work of Azadeh Akbari, Founder and Creator of The DIMA Summit (Diversity in Marketing and Advertising), which was held in 2018 and 2019. “I want to recognise Azadeh for her visionary and pioneering work and for asking me to be a part of it,” says Onilude.

Copywriting champion, Vikki Ross is also top of Onilude’s list for recognition. While Ross will no doubt squirm at the recognition, there are few individuals in the marketing industry who have done more to champion both the craft of copywriting and celebrate the people writing it.

Onilude explains: “I want to thank Vikki for saying yes to partnering on the copywriting award, it’s a homage to your tireless contribution to the important role of words in marketing communication and the women that contribute to it.” 

Celebrating the educators 

While headlines on the ‘great resignation’ may have subsided, Onilude believes that education, inspiration and elevation are the three pillars of a successful marketing career. She credits Dr Eva Kipnis, Professor of Marketing at the University of Bradford School of Management, and Professor Natascha Radclyffe for successfully flying the flag for education within the Women in Marketing community. As the industry evolves she believes a focus on continual education is vital. Leaders need to think more critically about how they value and reward the experience of their teams as well as how they attract and retain talent.

“There is a whole swathe of talent who don’t want to work for you, they want to work with you. Those days of a marketing leader being in the same organisation for 30 years and then retiring is over,” she explains.

Onilude also pays tribute to the global advisors who have helped build and evolve the Women in Marketing community. Advisors including Carolina Pinheiro, Co-Founder and CEO of Inbrax, Chile, Alice Yu Yuebo Partnership and Industry Marketing at NCS Group, Gabriela Lungu, Founder of Wings Creative Leadership Lab, Henry Windridge, Director Media and Content EEMEA at Mastercard and Patrícia Weiss, Chairwoman of the Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA), South America.

While in the UK marketing leaders such as Daryl Fielding, Tamara Gillan, Debbie Ellison, Lisa Lugo and Beth Gordon have all made tangible contributions to the awards by fronting and hosting our awards celebration evening.  

A movement for everyone

Onilude notes that Twitter (now X) has been a key platform in the growth of the global footprint of Women in Marketing. She explains: “I was honoured to be featured in from 2017-2018 #SheInspiresMe and #HereWeAre campaigns, which included pioneering visionary women from the world of marketing, media, advertising and entertainment. I have to give flowers for the inclusion to Nola Weinstein. The former Head of Brand Experience and Engagement at Twitter who is now sharing her magic at Apple.”

She also credits celebrated advertising journalist, Doug Zanger for telling the Women in Marketing story on his podcast. She also highlights the contribution of  WIM’s talented directors Andrea Djan-Krofa and Maria Andrews for their continued support of the awards. 

Notably, Onilude believes passionately that Women in Marketing is a movement for everyone. “I must pay tribute to the male allies and advocates, the pioneers,” she explains. Crediting Paul Frampton, Kevin Allen, Antonio Lucio and Russ Lidstone for having a hugely positive role on both Women in Marketing and the broader industry ecosystem. 

Humanity is a competitive advantage

For those who have worked with Onilude and Women in Marketing, it will not surprise you to read her dedication to ensuring that every single person who contributed to the organisation’s growth is recognised. The full list of the Women in Marketing award winners underlines the positive ripple effects of the awards. While two decades have passed it is clear that Onilude is just getting started.

In 2024, with the Paris Olympics on the horizon, Onilude looks back to the 2012 Awards, the year the of the London Olympics, in which WiM Awardee Suzi Williams played a prolific part as a moment of reflection. This was also the year when Burberry was recognised as the WiM company of the year. As Onilude prepares for the 2024 Awards, she credits industry leaders Karen Blackett, Tina Fegent and Sherilyn Shackell for their enduring contribution to the industry. 

Twenty years on Onilude’s commitment to utilising Women in Marketing as a vehicle for positive change shows no sign of slowing down. Onilude explains: “From inception, it’s always been my vision to use our awards evening as a further opportunity to amplify the work of NGOs and social enterprises that support women and in certain instances girls.” Previous partners have included UN Women, Women Win, Women for Women UK and more recently Refuge, via awards partner The Independent.”

You have to equip yourself with adaptable and fluid skills.

Ade Onilude, Founder, Women in Marketing

Looking back on twenty years of Women in Marketing serves to underline how important it is to remain curious, outward-looking and open to change. Onilude has a simple message for the next generation of talent: “You have to equip yourself with adaptable and fluid skills,” she explains.

"I am really excited by the growth of women’s sports and the intersectionalities of culture and entertainment. Prisca Moyesa of Moyesa & Co. did an insightful presentation on this at the WMS 2023 Kotler Summit in partnership with Women in Marketing. I see so much growth and opportunities in this cross-sector and I’m looking forward to learning more from Prisca, who has been a pioneer in this area.”

She continues: “I am also excited by the growth of experiential and immersive marketing. My interest has been heightened by the work and vision of 2019 WIM Awardee Meredith O’Shaughnessy who has just been appointed Global Head of Brand Experience at Aston Martin, and will be looking forward to what she produces."

Ultimately while the platforms and products of marketing continue to change, the fundamental competitive advantage of the industry remains the talent of the people making the work. Onilude explains: “The biggest disruptor has been technology, now the big focus is AI. But it is important to not forget the human aspect of everything. Soft skills are going to be super important. The human aspect is going to be more important than ever.”

It is this humanity which sits at the heart of the Women in Marketing community. Those countless positive ripple effects, connections and the simple joy of being seen make the awards so special. An impact that is far more meaningful than this simple sentence can convey. While Onilude is so committed to ensuring that industry trailblazers get their flowers it is equally vital to recognise the seeds of change planted by the awards. Championing women is about more than words and Onilude’s actions continue to raise the bar for everyone. 

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Awards Women in Marketing