My Digital Hero: Amir Malik, Accenture Interactive

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

Amir Malik, Digital Marketing Expert, Accenture Interactive is one of our industry’s most informed, passionate and bluntly forthright figures.

In a typically outspoken interview to pick his My Digital Hero, he warns businesses to treat carefully that “annoying, know-it-all programmatic and digital marketing expert who used to be in the corner of your business, who’s now in the front, influencing the C-suite.”

Who is your digital hero?

It was a very difficult decision. Many people don’t know that before I got into a professional career path, I was programming, blogging and part of an esports community.

At the top of a small pyramid of inspiration was Bill Gates, almost ironically for a lot of us as we looked for exploits across his software. However, the real inspiration came from the early generation of millennial founders like Shawn Fanning (Napster founder).

The one individual I find most inspiring is Sean Parker. Somewhat controversially. But he has accelerated a generation scaling from founders like Mark Zuckerberg to your unknown disruptive engineer at Google and Microsoft.

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?

Parker epitomises a powerful delineation between traditional corporate excellence and modern disruptive talent. He can see how the world is changing including the disruption of programmatic, data-driven advertising all related to behavioural change driven through digital.

His imperfection as well as track record also humanises his success; long gone are the Steve Balmers of the corporate world who topple even ‘modern’ software companies. Instead, we now have a precedent for a high-performing digital expert who doesn’t fit the conventions of corporate conformity.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

Parker’s main contribution, beyond Gates, is to utterly shatter the legacy framework of hierarchy.

Knowledge sells, and knowledge rules. If you know how to scale businesses and what people want, everyone needs to get the f* out of your way.

It was tough choosing Parker over Satya Nadella for instance but Nadella has not inspired a generation of disrupters. Advertising from a platform perspective and ‘walled garden’ solution is largely born out disruptive technology.

MySpace’s failure and Facebook’s success, Spotify, Snapchat … Parker has a fingerprint everywhere.

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

The main challenge in digital is a problem that an individual cannot solve alone.

The most pressing issue I’ve seen burdening Fortune500 companies, excluding the digital natives, is the operating model. Paid and owned media being split, digital and data being split. We need to rethink our business infrastructure to maximise customer experience which in my opinion draws on an amalgamation of expertise of strategists and digital experts.

Companies are bleeding cash and missing opportunities to scale acquisition because of broken organisational structures. Digital feels old to a lot of our adtech community but it’s still a new evolution lacking maturity in big businesses.

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

As you rise the ranks, people find reasons to admire you and others, to dislike you, this is human nature. People you’ve never met. Doing panels and talks doesn’t always help with the haters.

We like to describe others in a way that makes us feel better about ourselves, less shit and less jealous. Again, people we’ve never met.

However, whether you like it or don’t like it, know it or don’t know it … that annoying, know-it-all programmatic and digital marketing expert who used to be in the corner of your business, who’s now in the front, who seems to be influencing the C-Suite, jumping on panels, getting press attention, and having the answers you don’t know, was established through five long years of provocative content that I’d caveat I didn’t ‘own’ but definitely helped originate, contributed to and drove for my generation in programmatic advertising.

By my own admission, a lot of us are annoying millennials. Treat us carefully though, the glove of legacy hierarchy only makes us fuck off to your competition, quicker than you can say “fuck off”….

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