2023 Rising Star Award Winners

Publicis Commerce and Amazon Ads are proud to announce the winners of the second annual Rising Star Awards.

The Rising Star Awards, a joint initiative created by Amazon Ads and Publicis Commerce, were designed to recognize and motivate emerging talent. These awards honor the young, promising leaders across Publicis Groupe who are beginning to leave their mark on the industry.

We're pleased to introduce the 14 Rising Star winners, who were selected from a pool of talented individuals across Publicis Groupe. Winners will be celebrated at a special event hosted at the Amazon Campus in New York.

Izzy Kerr, Senior Retail Media Strategist, Saatchi & Saatchi X

Izzy Kerr is an experienced digital marketing professional and Senior Retail Media Strategist at Saatchi & Saatchi X. After graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in communications media, Izzy has spent the last three years leaning heavily into the world of retail media, mastering the intricacies of retail media networks. After residing in northwest Arkansas for over six years, she recently relocated back to the suburbs of Philadelphia, where she enjoys playing volleyball, exploring new culinary creations, playing with her dog, Axel, and spending quality time with friends and family.

Sophie Tahiraj, Associate Commerce Director, Digitas

Sophie is an Associate Director in the Digitas Commerce practice. She is deeply rooted in the media world but loves working across the entire commerce spectrum, including media planning and activation, strategy development, content creation, and more. Her portfolio includes working with a wide variety of clients, from beauty to candy, retail and beyond. Sophie is based in New York and enjoys cooking, traveling, and dining out.

Tanner Thomas, Analyst Retail Search, Digitas

Tanner Thomas is a data-driven commerce media practitioner at Digitas in Chicago, specializing in search and display ads for a variety of retail partners. Tanner uses his experience to help brands expand their customer base while maintaining current market share across a variety of retailers. By focusing on the potential value each dollar can have in the commerce landscape, Tanner helps drive business decisions with data-driven testing and consistently applies his learnings in order to continue evolving in the fast-paced commerce landscape. Outside of work, Tanner is an avid gardener and musician who loves spending time with his family and traveling abroad.

Briant Illescas, Search Marketing Manager, Digitas

Briant Illescas is a Search Marketing Manager at Digitas, specializing in eComm search. His professional background includes collaborating with prominent CPG brands, from food to beauty and personal care. In his free time, Briant finds solace in long, leisurely car rides and is an avid crafter, whether it's constructing intricate Lego creations or assembling furniture and other DIY projects.

Fides Araneta, Associate Director, Digitas

Fides Araneta is an Associate Director at Digitas based in Chicago. She works across several retailers on the Haleon Commerce team and brings years of experience from a spectrum of channels and accounts. She is excited to be part of the evolution of the Retail Media landscape and loves collaborating with partners to set up standardized best practices. Outside of work, you can probably find her at a local bookstore or trying out a new restaurant in the city.

Annie Stirling: Analyst, Commerce Media & Paid Search, Digitas

Annie is a Boston-based Digitas Analyst, working directly with Amazon and several other large retail media platforms. Annie's extensive background in paid search has empowered her to introduce a range of search-focused strategies to her team, consistently delivering exceptional performance across accounts.

Connor Cockrell, Senior Retail Media Strategist, Saatchi & Saatchi X

Connor Cockrell is a Senior Retail Media Strategist at Saatchi & Saatchi X. He brings a wealth of experience in digital commerce strategy to the agency and has worked with notable clients like P&G, Duracell, Samsung, and Spinmaster. He brings a unique approach to retail commerce and shopper marketing strategy to drive innovative solutions.  Outside of work, Connor enjoys mentoring startups with the University of Arkansas incubator program. He's an avid outdoors enthusiast, finding solace in fly fishing, and has a passion for photography, with his work occasionally featured in magazines. 

Sarah Nicholson, Senior Strategist, Arc

Sarah was introduced to the world of commerce and shopper marketing as a Northwestern grad student when she consulted for Chicago-based shopper marketing agency, Arc Worldwide. She joined the company full-time after graduation, combining her love of data with her talent for storytelling into shopper strategies for Kraft Heinz, Molson Coors, and Fairlife.

Meredith Phillips, Senior Strategist, Formerly Known As

Meredith is an experienced strategist with expertise in integrated content marketing. Her specialty lies in working with premium consumer brands by enhancing their presence and engagement through compelling content. Her background includes working with cross-functional teams, which has allowed her to take a multidisciplinary approach to strategic development and crafting omni-channel experiences.

Maria Tavera, Senior Media Account Strategist, PGD LATAM

As the Senior Media Account Strategist at Publicis Global Delivery LATAM, Maria is responsible for the strategy and management of all social media channels for Publicis Commerce. From planning to implementation and evaluation of all social campaigns, her primary KPI is to increase and retain the digital audience worldwide. Before Publicis, Maria worked in eCommerce at multiple start-ups and held an array of roles in the Colombian film and TV industry. Maria's key talent is identifying new opportunities, developing digital strategies, and bringing these to life through social campaigns that build sustainable online communities.

Shannon Kilbride, Paid Search Supervisor, Razorfish

Shannon Kilbride is a Paid Search Supervisor at Razorfish, where she is part of Publicis Groupe's bespoke media solution for Marriott International, also known as M1M, overseeing hotel campaigns in the Americas and managing their eCommerce business. Originally hailing from Michigan but now situated in New York, Shannon has a deep passion for photography and is an avid traveler, with her most recent adventure taking her to Italy.

Sam Banjak, Platform Investment Manager, Starcom

Sam Banjak, a Platform Investment Manager at Starcom, is fueled by a genuine passion for creative problem-solving, sales, and all things digital. In his current role, he works across paid search, social, and programmatic channels for Alcon, where he dedicates his time to driving growth and maximizing ROI for leading eye care brands. Sam, a self-proclaimed "cool nerd," takes an innovative approach to every project by skillfully blending his creative ingenuity with his technical expertise and is always on the lookout for fresh ways to deliver outstanding results for his teams. Whether Sam is brainstorming campaign ideas or exploring the latest demand side platforms, he draws his inspiration from the transformative impact of digital marketing in forging meaningful connections between people and brands.

Allyssa Kagehiro, Associate Director, Strategy, Publicis Commerce

Hailing from Northern Virginia, Allyssa Kagehiro developed her eCommerce career on the agency-side where she executed retail and eContent strategy, management, and consulting services for high-profile CPG clients on Amazon, most notably in the Grocery, Health & Personal Care, and Beauty categories. From there, Allyssa has broadened and sharpened her cross-functional skillset within the world of commerce to expand into additional retailers and strategy services. In her current role at Publicis, she thrives in a highly collaborative environment, engaging with various teams and agencies spanning media, data, creative, marketing, and product, all while maintaining a passion and commitment to the development and execution of eContent strategies.

Susie McKeon, Retail Media Strategist, Publicis Commerce

Susie McKeon is a retail media strategist at Publicis Commerce. Her focus lies in the analysis of consumer behavior relating to online shopping habits across generations and the expansion of retail media. Her journey with Groupe spans almost two years, where she first began as a linear TV media buyer for Eli Lilly before transitioning over to the world of commerce. 

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