My Digital Hero: Chrysi Philalithes

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

Chrysi Philalithes in 2000, during the dotcom crash, helped launch Espotting, Europe’s first paid search network. As the first Chief Digital Officer at RED, the organisation founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver, she helped create cultural and digital firsts with Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Snapchat, Twitter and more.

She’s currently a senior advisor to XQ, the education initiative founded by Laurene Powell Jobs and Russlynn Ali., and an investor in Beauty.con. 

Who is your digital hero? 

Musa Tariq, Global Head of Marketing Airbnb Experiences.

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

Musa’s track record is second to none. Helped put Burberry on the digital map. Drove a real-time digital marketing trend at Nike and then took his digital skillset to Apple, Ford and most recently Airbnb.

But that’s not why I’ve chosen him.

Musa puts people first. Always. Whether it’s the customer, the user, his team or the community he’s built across his social media presence. Digital is the vehicle. He never loses sight of who’s on the other side. 

How has his heroism helped drive digital? 

He joined Burberry in May 2009 as its first ever Head of Digital/Social Media. Burberry didn’t just have a goal. Its CEO Angela Ahrendts had a vision – to be the digital luxury brand in the world.

With Musa at the helm, it was one of the first luxury brands to embrace social media, UGC (through Art of the Trench) and stream its shows live to the world, which in turn impacted its business model.

The power of using social to truly connect with people runs deep for Musa. With the recent announcement of 400 marketing layoffs at Uber, a former Uber marketing employee created a Google doc to help his ex-colleagues find new roles. Musa immediately took to social to support and as AdWeek wrote

“What ultimately took the document beyond the network of ex-Uber workers was Airbnb’s global head of marketing, Musa Tariq, sharing it with his roughly 60,000 followers across LinkedIn and Twitter. In the 24 hours since the greater marketing community caught wind of the document, Houck has seen former colleagues already secure interviews for new careers. Others have reached out asking to have their name removed from the list, as they’d already found new positions.”

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

We’ve seen how social and digital has been used to spread lies and hate messages. Both foreign and domestic players have undermined the democratic process to influence elections.

Propaganda is nothing new – the speed of proliferation now is. Added to that the fragmentation of media – we are now in a digital world where we live in echo chambers, and the common cultural links and references that used to be bond people of varying views have diminished and we live in eco-chambers and a world of our own truths.  

This proliferates the notion of us v. them, with a lack of empathy and desire for understanding of others’ views. And with AI and video being the future, the need to safeguard the facts from manipulation are only going to get greater.

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

I have to confess I struggle with the word ‘hero.’ Yes, that’s the Brit in me.

It’s also because no task is ever down to one person alone. Looking at the initiatives I’ve been lucky enough to work on the one I’m proudest of is partnering with Apple, some of the leading app developers in the world, and the team at (RED), to turn the App Store into an AIDS fighting machine.

We did it twice – APPS FOR (RED) and GAMES FOR (RED), was creative, innovative and powerful – raising millions to fight AIDS in Africa. 

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