Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Barney Worfolk-Smith, MD, EMEA, DAIVID

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Barney Worfolk-Smith is MD, EMEA, DAIVID. He’s workedin been in digital “since the agencies started ‘digital’ departments as a catch all to deal with that ‘internet stuff'”.  After leaving RealPlayer in 2009, he joined ChannelFlip which sold to Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine in 2011. After a stint at Unruly, he launched social creative agency, That Lot, selling to Weber Shandwick in 2018. He is now heading up DAIVID, founded by another former Unruly executive, Ian Forrester.

Who is your digital hero

Sarah Wood, co founder of Unruly and all round upbeat genius. 

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

It’s coincidental that Ian, CEO of DAIVID and I started at Unruly on the same day in 2012. Ian as Global Insight Lead and me as Global Head of Creative Solutions. I clearly remember us making eye contact at the end of the day. ‘Pint?’, he said and we went and downloaded. 

We had walked into a business operating at a level like neither of us had ever seen and Sarah was a large part of that, especially for our roles. 

Firstly, in terms of digital marketing, the machine Sarah built was epic. Constant invention which drove the conversation around viral video, rather than being just a part of it. Also, the way this enabled the sales team to go upstream with clients was something else. 

Next, the idea of the viral was in a bit of a malaise at that point. The metrics regarding measurement and ROI were a loosey goosey so through the application of academia and rigour, Sarah helped make digital video distribution grow up and rightly find a place on digital media plans – beyond the hype. 

Finally, the working practices driven by Sarah, were ahead of their time for a digital media business. We iterated through software and habits until we found optimum. It sometimes left people a bit breathless but without doubt, it drove us forward. 

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

When we started there, ‘Tech City’ was still an idea, struggling to define itself in practical terms. By the time Unruly sold to News in 2015 Sarah’s relentless work had put a flag in the ground for others to rally round. 

It’s also worth saying the legacy of former Unrulies is pretty impressive. Wherever you look, they’re adopting the attitudes Sarah embodied and they’re smashing it. 

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

We met with the legend that is Sir John Hegarty last week. He was wondering whether the fracturing of advertising channels had killed the ‘big idea’ as focus falls down into channel executions. For what it’s worth, I think the big idea very much can still exist but it takes a much more coherent view on onmi channel planning and it’s subsequent measurement. Hero to sort that one out, please. 

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

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in all sorts of successes but one that I drove that felt heroic was at Unruly.

We’d developed the ‘science of sharing’, the academic codification of what made ads shareable. I sold, helped produce, created the deal structure, distribution and even wrote the press release for a Renault viral. We were able to have fun with the iconic Clio va-va voom concept and it was a real test of the academic work we’d done at Unruly. It worked.

The day it dropped, I sat there watching the shares rack up across Youtube and the social platforms. Deeply satisfying.