What makes a great media leader in 2024?

What makes a great media leader in 2024?
From left: Bremond, Iu, Edwards, Williams and Affleck
The Media Leader Awards 2024

Listening, bravery and patience were some of the top leadership qualities cited by The Media Leader Awards winners.

In The Media Leader Awards’ Leader of the Year section, Patrick Affleck, CEO of Havas Media Network UK and Ireland, won in the Agency category; Thomas Bremond, senior vice-president and chief revenue officer, international, at FreeWheel, was handed the Technology gong; and Rob Edwards, head of media and digital at Arla Foods, picked up Advertiser. Dominic Williams, chief revenue officer at Mail Metro Media, won the Media Owner prize as well as the Grand Prix.

Affleck, Bremond, Edwards and Williams joined The Media Leader deputy editor Maria Iu on stage after the awards announcement to talk about the opportunities and challenges facing the industry.

The need for humanity

Edwards shared how in one of his first jobs, Dame Carolyn McCall, now ITV CEO, knew everyone’s name, what drove them and took the time to speak to staff. This behaviour makes people believe and have confidence in their leaders — something that will then feed into their work.

To this point, he highlighted “humanity” as his first quality of a good leader, followed by being prepared to do what you ask your team to do and being accountable, especially when you make mistakes.

Edwards also pointed to taking the time to understand what was having an impact on the business and learning from “the ups and downs”. Having spent a big part of his career media owner side and agency side, Edwards believes that these varied experiences help to inform his current role.

Under Edwards, Arla Foods has built a robust retail media strategy to utilise this channel’s strong growth and launched an in-house content studio that allows the brand to move quickly.

Listening and honesty

Meanwhile, Williams emphasised listening to teams, whether internal or external, as a crucial quality not just for good leaders, but for media and advertising practitioners who want to be in touch with the needs of their consumers and clients.

The importance of true collaboration and partnerships was also highlighted by Williams, whether that was with agencies or other entities, as well as being flexible and adaptable to changes.

He added honesty and the bravery to test new things to his list of what makes a good leader, noting that the team and the culture are critical to success.

Williams has worked to reorganise his team into “hubs” to provide a simplified offering to advertisers and agencies, while in recent months Mail Metro Media has unveiled a number of key strategies, including a global gaming offering and a full-service video proposition, Edits.

Patience is a virtue

For Bremond, patience is “very often undervalued” as a trait for leaders.

This is especially the case for those who work on the revenue side of companies, where it is a “very rarely found” trait amid a pressured environment that is defined quarter by quarter.

Bremond also called out conviction and responsibility as key qualities.

Having spent a decade at FreeWheel, Bremond has guided his team through a transformation in the video landscape. To this end, along with Comcast stablemate NBCUniversal, FreeWheel launched a global marketplace for premium video and expanded into more markets to capitalise on opportunities in this space.


When asked to provide three words that make a good leader, Affleck chose to take creative licence.

He said: “Don’t stop listening.” This is because it is “really important” for leaders to listen to their people, their clients and also the market around them.

One of the big challenges Affleck sees in the industry is the “rapidly changing” and evolving needs of clients and businesses — something that he has tried to address by “massively simplifying the organisation” to focus on what people are good at.

Since joining Havas Media in 2020, Affleck has restructured the group into three core strands: Havas Media, Havas Entertainment and Havas Market. At the same time, the group has deliberately pushed sustainability to the top of its agenda, rolling out its Sustainability Marketplace and The Carbon Calculator, among other initiatives.

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