The 12th edition of the Performance Marketing Awards (PMAs) takes place on April 24, and with the shortlist now officially announced, the Industry Rising Star Award will return once more to highlight the next generation of performance marketers ready to take the industry by storm.

Sponsored by Affiliate Future, this prestigious award recognises key attributes in performance marketing professionals at the early stages of their careers, including natural talent, work ethic, enthusiasm, creativity and innovation.

Following a final judging round where the candidates were interviewed by three of the PMA judging panel, just 12 finalists are now in the running, and one winner will be decided by an algorithm of 25% for each of the three judges’ scores, while a crucial 25% is reserved for the final industry vote.

For those undecided or yet to cast their vote, here’s a chance to meet the Rising Star 2018 candidates, along with words from peers on their progression in the performance marketing industry.

Meet the Rising Stars

Belinda Aylward – Rakuten Marketing, strategic client services manager, display

Within her role as strategic client services manager for Rakuten Marketing’s display client services team, Belinda Aylward has been warmly praised for her hard work and professionalism over the past 14 months while inspiring change and innovation in a vastly-growing industry.

“As we move further into a world where machines increasingly inform our decisions, having someone like Belinda instilling confidence, and ensuring quality, clarity and innovation, is central to why our clients continue to thrive,” said Mark Haviland, EVP, global development of Rakuten Marketing.

Chris Maddern – Button, co-founder & chief product officer

Co-founder and chief product officer of mobile partnerships platform Button, Chris Maddern has been working hand-in-hand with the team to push forward the first app affiliate technology to the performance marketing industry.

Founding team members have described Maddern as a smart, impressive engineer with the “uncanny ability to take complex concepts and distribute them in a digestible, simple manner that anyone can understand”.

Craig Dempsey – Fetch, account director

Within six months, Craig Dempsey of Fetch moved up from account manager on Expedia and eBay to senior account manager. He then pitched for Shop Direct Group’s mobile business before securing the mobile company’s account and becoming a key group client for Dentsu Aegis Network. Soon after, Dempsey was managing his own team which involved redesigning structure, overcoming challenges and boosting morale in maintaining success to the channel.

“Whilst I specialised in mobile marketing this was my opportunity to prove that I could lead clients and brands across other performance disciplines – taking my unique approach to performance marketing to deliver results, showcasing my approach to success is channel agnostic,” said Dempsey.

Eleanor Vernall – Smarter Click, client services manager

Becoming a key member of Smarter Click’s client service team, Eleanor Vernall – with her strong, early knowledge of performance marketing – has helped grow the business’s clientele while ensuring the smooth management and initiated processes of new and existing clients – leading to 93% client retention in 2017.

“I am confident with Eleanor’s attitude and drive, she will in the next few years continue to position herself as a very successful woman in the tech world and will be a very influential professional in the industry in years to come.” said David Ayre, Smarter Click’s country manager.

Fred Maude – NMPi, performance manager

Fred Maude began his career at NMPi as an analyst at graduate level before quickly progressing to performance manager which has seen him grow the business, client accounts and NMPi’s performance offering in 2017. One of those offerings is the firm’s Google Shopping proposition, where the company states that Maude has “vaulted” them as market leaders in the space while also given them a unique proposition.

“Fred has applied his unique work experience to enormous effect in performance marketing, what he’s managed to achieve in such a short space of time is quite frankly astounding,” said the company; “He most certainly is a Rising Star and an incredible asset to the team and business.”

Guy Vernon – Wavemaker, digital account director

Guy Vernon’s career journey has seen him drive innovation in performance marketing while also creating market leads and growing client business on multiple levels. Since his introduction in 2012, Vernon has generated incremental revenue for Wavemaker while also being responsible for seven industry award wins – including the Grand Prix at the 2016 PMAs. In addition, Vernon has been invited to the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) mobile council.

“I am actively helping to grow people around me as well as the industry.” he said.

Jade Bassett – Direct Line Group, senior affiliate consultant

Starting her career working through the ranks at Awin with clients such as Debenhams, EE and the Shop Direct Group before moving client side and in-house programmes for over 30 different brands and products (across Direct Line, Churchill, Green Flag and Privilege); Jade Bassett has helped steer Direct Line Group’s affiliate channel, delivering performance-led activity for a number of household brands.

As well as driving performance, Bassett has developed her skill set in the affiliate space; attending a number of key holding events – including speaking on a panel at this year’s Affiliate Summit. Jade is keen to encourage other ‘new blood’ in the industry and is currently earmarked as a future leader for Direct Line Group.

“Jade for me is without a doubt one of, if not the best, account manager that I deal with. Diligent, friendly, and proactive…,” commented Steve Toombs, account manager, UK Web Media.

Katy Lee –, senior account manager

In her role as senior account manager at intuDigital, Katy Lee has supported the channel in building strong relationships; working with affiliate network publisher services team to establish growth, and developing key accounts to generate revenue for the business.

“Katy is always willing to go the extra mile and take on anything that is thrown her way, whether managing client events or taking on our staff party. She is the beating heart of not just her own team but the whole intuDigital department.” stated the company.

Kenda Macdonald – Automation Ninjas, CEO

Having founded Automation Ninjas in 2014 at just the age of 24, Kenda Macdonald has readdressed the email marketing channel to much success for smaller businesses; expanding the platform globally while growing the company internally and externally.

“Automation Ninjas are a force to be reckoned with – I have first hand witnessed Kenda take clients by the hand and lead them confidently to effective solutions that have revolutionised their business – a true expert and a pleasure to work with.” said Lisa Catto, business coach & consultant.

Lisa Gardiner – TopCashback, partnerships manager

Rejoining the TopCashback team in 2015 having completed her degree, Lisa Gardiner has been instrumental in the company’s recent establishment as one of the largest affiliate publishers. This is down to her work ethic, going above-and-beyond and building relationships with clients; proposing solutions and opportunities to those unable to network with London affiliates – leading to great results for TopCashback.

“TopCashback are a huge partner of ours across clients, and working with Lisa as our main point of contact has certainly strengthened what we do in the cashback space,” said Andrew Fazakerley, associate director, head of affiliates for iProspect, Manchester.

Nuria Boj – CJ Affiliate by Conversant, senior account manager

Having exceeded expectations across her portfolio at CJ Affiliate by Conversant, Nuria Boj has worked exceptionally with clients across the company’s major affiliate accounts to ensure maximum return and satisfaction across the channel. Nuria also dedicates time to building the wider team in CJ, coaching her peers to help them succeed within the business.

With heaps of knowledge, a passionate lifestyle and exceptional work ethic, Nuria’s is set to rise further and inspire the company in years to come.

“Nuria applies a relentless work ethic to a consistently positive attitude which results in driving her accounts and those around her forward.” said, senior management.

Sophie Strong  - Wavemaker, Team Red Digital Manager

Another rising candidate among the Wavemaker team, Sophie Strong has delivered impressive business outcomes through innovation and measurable media; from client leadership for Vodafone, agency leadership for MEC/WM UK to leadership in the charity space. Strong’s passion for learning, involvement in new projects and strong leadership roles has contributed to multiple awards and achievements – most notably for best use of programmatic at last year’s UK and International PMAs.

“Sophie is phenomenal at setting the bar for exceptionally high standards, and regularly exceeds my expectations.” Laurel Kaye, head of display, Wavemaker.

Who should be crowned 2018’s Industry Rising Star? Vote for your winner here.