My Digital Hero: Lindsay Pattison, Chief Client Officer, WPP

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

Lindsay Pattison is Chief Client Officer of WPP. Her long and distinguished career includes roles as GroupM’s first-ever Worldwide Chief Transformation Officer, Worldwide CEO at Maxus Global, and Managing Partner at PHD. She was also previously President of WACL

Who is your digital hero?

It has to be Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry 2006-2014 and Senior Vice President of Retail for Apple 2014-2019.

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

As CEO of Burberry, Angela blended digital innovation with a deep understanding of commerce to revive a flagging Burberry and revive the British fashion industry.

Think everything that was cutting edge in 2010 – merging digital and physical shopping experiences by equipping sales teams with iPads and stores with audiovisual technology. Creating a new consolidated brand site designed to speak to millennial consumers through beautiful, compelling content: music, movies, heritage, storytelling.

Being one of the first brands to step into the world of customisation; ‘Burberry Bespoke’ on burberry.com offered some 12 million possible trench styles.

At Apple she continued on this theme, executing her vision of stores as living, breathing, and beautiful spaces, not just a place for functional transactions – all enabled by technology.

How has her heroism helped drive digital?

By demonstrating the powerful business effects of digital and tech innovation in commerce – at the end of 2012, Burberry’s revenues and operating income had doubled over the previous five years, to $3 billion and $600 million respectively.

The company’s stock price more than tripled and WSJ credited her with “transforming 154-year-old Burberry into a technologically savvy international powerhouse.” That’s no mean feat. Today, many of the conversations we have with clients, across categories and geographies, are evolutions of the digital themes Angela made mainstream back then.

But also by bringing education, creativity and technology together with ‘Today at Apple’ – an initiative offered in Apple stores that Angela pioneered.

Think walking tours that teach you how to photograph architecture, coding for beginners, or how to make a movie trailer. It was a really smart way to inspire customers to go further with their passions and the products they love.

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

I’ll give you two. Firstly, ensuring that as voice commerce really starts to take off, we understand how search behaviour changes. With no screens as the interface between shopper and product, shoppers search for new products differently and we need to figure out how best to surface our clients’ products and services. 

And I think we fundamentally have to solve the trust issue in media. We need to ensure online environments are safe – and that can only be done if advertisers, publishers, agencies and tech platforms collaborate.

At WPP we are proud to be a key part of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media – an alliance of ‘digital heroes’ from all aspect of our industry, including 17 of the world’s leading advertisers, working to rapidly improve digital safety.

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

I won’t give a specific one but I’ll give you a fun fact instead… around eight years ago I asked Ed Sheeran for a selfie. When he took the selfie (on an early iPhone) he pressed the left side button to take the photo (rather than using the thumbpad) – a trick I had never seen before but have been using ever since… 

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