Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero bear edition: Joy, IAB UK’s Chief Digital Cheerleader

Joy is the IAB UK’s Chief Digital Cheerleader. Her mission is to help marketers rediscover the joy of digital advertising. ‘There’s no better bear cut out for this challenge’.

Who is your digital hero?

If you’re being very strict then you’d say my choice is an ad industry hero rather than digital specifically, but who’s splitting hairs? Everything’s digital now, right?! Don’t @ me.  

It has to be Nicola Kemp, a woman who wears many hats. Not only is she Editorial Director of Creativebrief where she celebrates cutting-edge creativity (very much my bag), she’s also a powerful advocate for inclusion within our industry and a brilliant columnist who doesn’t shy away from asking difficult questions. As a fearless feminist myself, I relate. 

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

It boils down to two very simple things: really caring about making our industry better and being unapologetically vocal about what needs to change. In her role at Creativebrief, Nicola is spotlighting out-of-the-box thinking that deserves attention.

Great advertising hinges on great ideas and she is helping to raise the bar by recognising brilliant work. My focus at the IAB is about encouraging marketers to invest in smart digital creativity rather than getting swept up by the next ‘big thing’, so you could actually say that she’s making my job easier (cheers Nicola). 

Add to this the fact that Nicola doesn’t hold back when it comes to creating a more inclusive and diverse industry. Whether it’s calling out manels or ME-EOs, she says what she thinks and backs it up with action – helping to develop the frameworks and support networks that are challenging systemic bias. 

To top it all off, Nicola is a genuinely nice person. There’s a bit of a stigma around being  ‘nice’ isn’t there? There shouldn’t be. Being kind and courteous is underrated – “Be More Nicola” is my motto. 

How has her heroism helped drive digital?

I’m a huge advocate for the power of digital advertising (clue’s in my job title), but digital hasn’t yet fully shaken off its reputation for short-term, tactical activations. Nicola’s commitment to celebrate and inspire envy-inducing creativity is important because it shows what can be achieved when advertising is driven by human imagination – which applies as much to digital channels as to any other media. 

Of course, a big part of this will always come back to our industry’s ability to attract and hold on to the best talent. As Nicola explains  (far more eloquently than moi)  on The IAB UK Podcast, we can only do that if we’re prepared to change age-old systems and actually practice intersectional allyship. If you’re not already, what are you waiting for? 

What’s the biggest challenge in digital we need another hero to solve?

It would be poor form for me not to mention cookies. The twist is that you – yes, you – can be the hero here. We all know that third-party cookies are soon to be a thing of the past, posing a big challenge for marketers. But it’s also a rare opportunity to hit reset and make the digital ecosystem better for consumers. That relies on you getting well acquainted with the alternative solutions that are out there, throwing yourself into testing, and feeding back to developers. 

At the IAB we’ll keep roaring it from the rooftops, but there isn’t going to be a universal replacement to cookies and – by taking action now – you can find the suite of solutions that works for your business. If you want more support, head to our site or catch our CMO James Chandler at LEAD last month. He breaks it all down very nicely, with a little bit of help from Gwyneth. 

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

How long have we got? Hahaha. No but seriously, it’s got to be encouraging marketers to rediscover the joy of digital. Between deciphering the acronyms, fighting the urge to chase clicks, and keeping up with the unrelenting pace of change, digital advertising can be a lot. We categorically know that because advertisers told us – straight from the horse’s mouth as it were. 

But use it right and digital advertising can be joyful, funny, moving, unexpected and very effective at building brands. My mission is to land that message and get marketers thinking differently about digital. No small task and I’m only a few months in so you can expect plenty more from me – but I’d say I’m knocking it out the park so far.