Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Alys Donnelly, Head of Programmatic, Kinetic

Alys Donnelly is Head of Programmatic at Kinetic. She currently leads the programmatic business and commercial operations at the WPP-owned agency, having previously held roles at WPP’s Xaxis and GroupM, as well as at Google. We asked who her digital hero is.

Who is your digital hero?

Stuart Hall, Chief Product Officer at GroupM.

What have they done to win hero status in your eyes?

Stuart is one of those rare people who has immense knowledge and capability in driving forward progress in the media space, has vision to spare in terms of how media could be and should be, as well as being one of the most compassionate and supportive mentors you could ever hope to have.

His influence goes further than I think he knows. I’ve heard people spontaneously quote him or his approach in panels at media events (when he isn’t even in the room) and have seen the connections and teams he has helped foster and grow go on to do great things once he has had to move on from a project.

I’ve personally found the down to earth and flexible approach he’s shown in his working life inspiring, as role models taking a potentially non-linear pathway through the media world are not always so visible.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

Stuart has helped bring multiple ground-breaking products to market in the UK digital space ranging from Inca to Sightline, all of which have helped to drive digital forward in their specific channels and push forward the boundaries of the possible in these areas. But the way in which Stuart has championed and supported the people around him to move on and grow in their careers in the digital space may well be the biggest way he has helped drive this part of media forward. Supporting, trusting, and coaching these people as they take on new challenges and deliver new ideas and products in their respective roles is the definition of ‘paying it forward’ and bringing on the next generation to my mind.

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

There are lots of different challenges in the digital world that we need to work out how to solve together, but breaking down artificial silos between channels is something that I think will bring a lot of value to both brands and agencies.

With ever-improving tools at our disposal, we have greater opportunities to join up previously separate parts of the media plan, providing additional benefit to clients by sharing and acting on insights from a range of channels.

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

No one succeeds at anything purely on their own of course, but an achievement I’ve found really satisfying has been launching the GroupM programmatic OOH product, Sightline. Building out all the different elements of this business unit, with all the ups and downs it’s entailed has been a real learning curve and a fantastic challenge to take on and deliver successfully.

One of the most exciting and pleasing parts for me personally though has been building up the programmatic team, seeing them progress through their roles and deliver award-winning work for clients (and having a good time while doing it!).