My Digital Hero: Damian Burns, Senior Director of Gaming EMEA, Facebook

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

It may seem unimaginable now but there was a time when Google didn’t really engage with UK agencies. Damian Burns changed that forever when he joined Google in 2005 as head of agency relations for EMEA. Previously he’d been a founding member of ZenithOptimedia’s first digital outfit, Zed Media almost twenty years ago. He left Google in 2015 to run Facebook’s Atlas operation, before taking the lead over its gaming business in 2017.

Who is your digital hero? 

Emma Lowndes – former General Manager at MINI, now Director at Applied Insight

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

In 2001, during my time at Publicis, I was the strategy lead for BMW’s digital media and Emma was my client overseeing the launch of the all-new MINI

For the majority of clients during those formative years of the web, we were typically (and frustratingly) seen as the ‘little internet’ dimension of marketing plans. We would consider ourselves fortunate if we managed to grab the remaining spoils of campaign budget leftovers and were always the last to speak during the planning sessions.

Emma turned this on its head with her mindset and MINI’s consequent marketing strategy. She was resolute that, if any of the MINI activity ‘looked like a typical car ad or behaved like a typical car ad’, then it would never see the light of day.

We saw incredible ideas emerge and the cheeky persona of the MINI brought to life with some truly ground-breaking work 

Almost two decades later, I still meet people who fondly reminisce about MINI’s digital campaigns.

And on top of all that, she was an incredibly passionate, kind and fun person to have as a client. Our whole team loved working with Emma and her team.

How has her heroism helped drive digital? 

Emma believed in the internet and its ability to build brands. She had a tacit appreciation of the web’s capacity for astounding creativity coupled with its unique opportunities for interactivity.

She walked the talk and put major investment behind internet marketing. And she was rewarded not only with multiple industry awards but also meaningful brand and business impact.

Emma challenged the muscle memory of marketing. Her foresight truly elevated internet marketing and inspired an industry to think differently.

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

I’m going to push the boat out here….

Given that ‘digital’ pretty much permeates ever corner of our lives, I’d like to see these technologies rise to, quite possibly, humankind’s biggest challenge.

There’s a huge opportunity for the web to be an incredible force for good and show how its globally-connected community can play a game-changing role in mobilising people and resources to effectively address climate change.

That’s a group of heroes we can all get behind.

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

I do take a lot of pride in my team’s contribution to Facebook’s Women in Gaming initiative

Our mission is to champion diversity in gaming, encourage more women into leadership positions and work with key partners to inspire change.

It’s still early days but I do feel we’re having a material impact and have received very encouraging feedback on our collective efforts.

I also look forward to us broadening the scope of our Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.

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