My Digital Hero: Julia Smith

We’re asking some of our industry’s leading figures to nominate their digital hero and to explain what’s so special about them.

Julia Smith is an independent digital consultant, working for clients including Impact, Tug, Appetite Creative and The 614 Group. Julia was head of IASH, the historically important council within the IAB representing digital networks and sales houses and has long been an important figure helping drive the development of the digital industry.

Who is your digital hero?

It is incredibly hard to choose just one hero from the phenomenal people that I know in the industry, but I have settled on Maria Cadbury, Founder of influencer marketing agency, We Are Spring.

What have they done to win hero status in your eyes?

I have known Maria for eight years, but she became a hero to me when she asked me to do her maternity cover as MD of Evolve six years ago. I was only able to do a part time cover for the role of MD and as anyone who is in a senior leadership position knows, it is near impossible to do this kind of job in just three days per week. Needless to say, it highlighted how much she was needed when she came back full time.

What put her into my hero status was that she was my biggest supporter both during my time in her role but also when she returned. She heaped praise on the work I had done despite the limitations of time; she provided her insight while off on maternity leave with twins and she came back into a tough full-time role with twins and then a year later, had a third baby and yet still managed a full time MD role with three children under three!

Maria cemented my belief in her as a hero more recently though when she left the relative safety of an FTE role to set up her own company, We Are Spring. Since launching her influencer marketing company, she has proven to be a strong voice in this market and is working tirelessly for her clients and her team to build a business in a competitive market.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

Maria has been a strong voice for the power of influencer marketing for years – before it was even on trend! Influencer marketing is still a work in progress and brands require guidelines and guidance on how they manage it to enhance rather than distract from their brand messaging.

Maria is a hand holder for brands, agencies and media owners to ensure that their influencer marketing compliments their business strategy and that they protect their brand and messaging in the process. This is no mean feat and she protects her clients and those who she mentors from the pitfalls and complex intricacies of influencer marketing.

That makes her a hero as we all know the damage that can be done to a brand when social goes wrong. More importantly, influencer marketing is going to be a significant part of the future of digital and I feel confident that it will deliver for so many businesses; especially if Maria is one of the voices leading the industry to use influencer marketing responsibly and effectively.

What the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

I would love to see a hero emerge who makes real change in our industry’s’ policy on flexibility on hours and workplace location for employees. It seems archaic that we are required to be in the office from 9am to 5pm when we have the technology to allow us to work perfectly well from any location.

The theme for this years’ IWD was “Think equal, build smart and innovate for change”. Let’s hope we see this theme come into fruition in 2019 and I expect to see a hero emerge into this column by the end of the year, to drive change on this issue!

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

I have been a (loud) voice in the fight against digital ad fraud and advertising funding piracy, which in turn funds serious organised crime. I am proud that I have previously worked with the City of London economic crime division and the IFPI to help fight to reduce advertising appearing on pirate sites or on fraudulent impressions.

It is a cat and mouse game that we are playing with the fraudsters, and a challenge to always remain one step ahead. The good news though, is that as an industry, I am pleased to see real change in the commitment to reducing the amount of ad spend pouring into the hands of the criminals, and we are regaining the trust of brands in digital advertising.

I am also proud to have co-created the Digital Leading Ladies group. The idea became a reality with the help of Maria, as well as my other female heroes: Lisa Goodchild, Lisa Menaldo, Ellie Edwards-Scott and Melina Jacovou.

We created the informal and inclusive group which currently comprises almost 100 women who are part of a supportive group which connects, supports and provides opportunities for business and networking.  I am a huge believer that karma will out; so I ensure that I help and support as many people as possible and co-created this network to extend a group of trusted people even further.