My Digital Hero: Simon Halstead, Verizon Media

Simon Halstead is Senior Director, Exchanges and Supply, Verizon Media.
In a twenty-year-career in digital, he has worked at companies including All Response Media, AOL and Microsoft and was chair of the IAB Europe Programmatic Trading Committee from 2016 to 2019.

Who is your digital hero?  

It is hard to pick a single person, and the early pioneers of programmatic in EMEA  deserve strong shouts, from Martin Kelly and Andy Cocker at Infectious Media and Gurman Hundal and Lee Puri at MIQ. I admire the bravery of founders, and risk takers such as Matthieu Roche at ID5. 

But I am going to pick Marco Bertozzi.  Marco and I have known each other a long time, from my graduate days at Zenith.  We don’t always see eye to eye, but he has been and continues to be a pioneer.  

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

Marco has been a true digital pioneer.  From being a founding member in the first Zenith Interactive team, with a few well known faces, to being the leading advocate for Agency Trading Desk Models  leading Vivaki across Europe before programmatic was cool and later internationally for Publicis.  Now driving forward the value of audio and podcasts at Spotify.

Outside of these career highlights, he has also been a strong campaigner for bringing people into the industry from diverse backgrounds, and supporting learning and education around the opportunities in the industry. He gives his own time to support these programmes.

He always brings passion, and high expectations.  It doesn’t always make him easy, but he is someone you want to have on your side.  

How has his heroism helped drive digital?

I honestly think that Marco was a significant factor in the growth of programmatic trading in Europe.  He constantly develops talent and is also a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, which we need.

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

Diversity and Inclusion – I hope we are at a genuine inflection point right now, but we do not have enough diverse voices or opinions in the industry. 

This doesn’t need a hero to solve, it requires everyone to proactively ally and consider how they can individually address the imbalance.  We need to also celebrate the diverse leaders in our industry, like my bosses Kristiana Carlet Stagno and Rose Tsou, and leaders like Emma Newman and Kathryn Schlieblen. 

We also need to solve how to value and fund news production.  High quality and diverse journalism is more essential than ever in our society, and it is important it is actively supported by advertising models.  The value of appearing next to well produced content should be realised, and consumers trusted to see adverts alongside news, however tough the subject. 

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

I will always be immensely proud of my work with IAB Europe as the Chair of the Programmatic Committee as we went through GDPR impacting the industry.  The great work of the committee continues with David Goddard as current chairperson.  

At the same time, I am proud of my work in consolidating Verizon Media Exchanges through evolution and mergers from Microsoft to AOL to Verizon Media.   We are looking forward to the coming years, and coming out of this covid period.

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