Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Rewarding the industry’s heroes: Dan Brain, Co-founder and Content & Marketing Director, MAD//Fest

With the NDA Heroes Awards fast approaching, New Digital Age is running a series of interviews with the highly-respected names on the judging panel. Next, we hear from Dan Brain, Co-founder and Content & Marketing Director, MAD//Fest.

Why did you agree to be a judge?

Who could resist an invite from Justin? 

Seriously, these awards are much needed. There are enough awards to celebrate the best omnichannel campaign of the year and such. At some point, we forgot to celebrate the people who make the industry tick, the trailblazers who change the conversation, the individuals who push creativity and innovation to new levels. NDA is putting this right through Heroes.

How important is it to highlight the individuals doing great work, rather than just the businesses?

Fundamentally it’s people who drive innovation and progress. One of the positives to emerge from the pandemic is a better appreciation for the talented individuals who have produced outstanding work during what’s been an incredibly testing time for the industry. When necessity is the mother of invention, it’s only right that we take stock and appreciate the innovative individuals who have excelled, led with distinction and made a positive contribution to the overall health of our industry.

What makes a hero in this industry?

Heroes aren’t just competent people who rock up at work, do a good job in their private office and make us all sleep easier at night by ensuring the good health of their company’s share price. Heroes have generosity of spirit. Heroes aren’t afraid to stick their neck out in a debate. Heroes have an ethical compass and reply to emails, whether it’s the next big client or someone just looking for a little career advice. Ultimately, a hero should be a force for good who inspires others to do the right thing.

What are you looking for from the entries?

Authenticity, generosity and leadership that permeates through a business and into the wider industry. The beauty of celebrating people over businesses and campaigns is that we won’t get a load of entries for work that was created solely to win awards. I want to see people who shift the agenda, do’ers who use their influence and energy to address what’s wrong with our industry and diverse leaders, from the data geeks to the creative mavericks, who do remarkable things, whatever their expertise and style.

Who has been your career hero?

Sorry, I need to mention four people here. Control v Exposed’s Paul Frampton for his valuable encouragement, support and enthusiasm when MAD//Fest was just an idea on a Google Doc.

Time Out Media CEO Mary Keane-Dawson for her creative energy, friendship and drive to make cool stuff happen.

After shooting our new MAD//Masters course this week, I’d also have to include Rory Sutherland for his brain. Rory has an incredible ability to make sense of a confusing world and seamlessly digest his thought process into wise words laced with a healthy dash of humour.

Finally, you’ve got to love Justin Pearse, right?

Who has been your personal hero?

I’m a sucker for a flawed genius like Gazza, Maradona or Bob Marley, the kind of fascinating, slightly irritatingly exceptional people who find things so easy that they have to make it harder for themselves. But I’d have to say my personal hero is my wife, Gemma. Unfortunately, I’m not quite up there in this lofty list of talented mavericks so Gemma’s encouragement, hard work and passion to make MAD//Fest the biggest success it can be has been invaluable every step of the way. She’ll probably find this somewhat vomitous in her cynical trademark Geordie style but I stand by it!