Media Director of the Year: Lauren Richards, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group

From ad fest Spikes Asia in Singapore to ideation culture training sessions in Hong Kong and L.A. to NYC to collect Creative Media Awards hardware at Ad Week - Lauren Richards' average week is more akin to that of her counterparts at the top creative agencies than a media agency CEO. And that's the way this year's strategy Media Director of the Year likes it.

From ad fest Spikes Asia in Singapore to ideation culture training sessions in Hong Kong and L.A. to NYC to collect Creative Media Awards hardware at Ad Week – Lauren Richards’ average week is more akin to that of her counterparts at the top creative agencies than a media agency CEO. And that’s the way this year’s strategy Media Director of the Year likes it.

When Richards joined Starcom MediaVest Group Canada in 2006, she set out a three-year plan to introduce an additional layer of thought-leadership, innovation and creative thinking into the product. As the two-time strategy Media Agency of the Year’s accomplishments can attest, Richards has opened the door for media agencies in Canada to step beyond media buying and strategy into more creative territory.

The Canadian team won a bevy of domestic and international awards for work for Johnnie Walker, Pogo, Oreo, Nintendo and others. ‘I’m just elated and shocked at the degree that we’ve been able to deliver,’ Richards told strategy on the advent of her Media Director of the Year nomination. ‘New business success wouldn’t be accomplished until we had the right talent, the right product, the right momentum, and now the dream is coming true. We’ve been able to move forward on the new business front in the last year or two.’

Richards has built her career around a vision of the creative media shop. Prior to joining SMG, she spent close to 20 years at Cossette Media, where she worked with clients including Bell, McDonald’s, Nike and Coca-Cola, driving the agency into The Gunn Report for Media Creativity – the only Canadian media group to be ranked at that time.

Her international perspective suits her new role as chair of the SMG Global Product team, which identifies the best work from countries in the network to put forward for awards. She was the first Canadian judge on the Media jury at Cannes (and again this year), bringing her learnings home to help develop several domestic awards programs including Young Media Challenge and the Globe and Mail Young Lions Challenge.

The 28-year industry veteran has also overseen the implementation of new proprietary research in 2008 and 2009, such as a TV engagement study that provides a qualitative insight into Canadian viewer engagement that spans 3,500 French- and English-language shows, the first of its kind in Canada to her knowledge. SMG Canada has also played a role in a global network study of purchase intent tracking.

A risk-taker herself, she has made a conscious effort to encourage people to do the unexpected – and those efforts appear to be paying off. ‘It’s almost contagious. As soon as you start promoting collaboration as the secret to success, people that were working more siloed get passionate about the business. It’s been very exciting, seeing that kind of transformation.’

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Intro

Next Media Star: J3′s Trevor Bozyk

Gold: Starcom MediaVest Group

Silver: OMD

Bronze: Cossette

Honourable Mention: Media Experts

Judging panel