Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Dan Rosen, M&C Saatchi Performance

Dan Rosen is Chief Operating Officer at M&C Saatchi Performance. Dan is a true digital veteran and has held global roles at Telefonica, Joule and AKQA.

Who is your digital hero?

Steve Jobs, Founder and former CEO, Apple.  

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

For transparency I am an Apple fanboy.  His category defining digital products have had a profoundly positive effect on my life personally and professionally. 

He has produced too many digital heroics to mention them all here, but for me it is because he was the master of re-invention.  His singular and obsessive focus on simplicity in user experience and design meant that he re-imagined technology to make it so damn simple, beautiful and joyful to use that it felt magical.  

He didn’t invent personal computing but Macs re-shaped the category.  He didn’t invent personal digital music players but the iPod + iTunes changed the way we listen to music.  He didn’t invent the Cell Phone, but he brought us the iPhone which to me remains the most transformative digital device of our lifetime. 

When I and a few others who worked in mobile marketing and advertising throughout 2000-2006, we achieved some notable success in helping brands engage consumers through mobile. However, honestly it wasn’t until the birth of the iPhone in 2007 when brands really started to recognise the channel and invest appropriate sums in mobile experiences or their distribution via mobile media.  

How has his heroism helped drive digital?

Again too many to mention exhaustively here, but some of his strengths that are often overlooked are his powers of persuasion and negotiation, backed up by the desirability of his products from consumers, that allowed him to transform entire industries by bringing them around to his way of thinking.

For example, with music he famously managed to convince all global record labels to allow digital downloads of songs for 99 cents each on iTunes.  An extraordinary achievement in an industry whose same music giants famously never agreed with each other on anything.  The playlist was born.

Similarly with the iPhone, he managed to convince the all-powerful Mobile Carriers to cede control of the content and features on the iPhone. Without that deal the App Store as we know it and the amazing other app experiences that we take for granted today may never have existed on iOS or the other platforms that followed.

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

As a parent of young kids, somebody needs to find a way of making navigating the web for kids safe without turning it into a dull experience.

We need stronger regulation of Ad Fraud, it’s a crime so should be treated as such.

Empowering people to have control of their personal data without stifling their experience of the free web 

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

I guess it was seeing the potential of mobile as a marketing channel early before the rest of the Industry, and joining a mobile start up in 2001 to prove it to brands.  You’d be hard pushed to find anybody else to agree that was heroic though, especially when we all had so much fun doing it!

I’m fortunate to have worked within some hugely talented teams and partnered with some smart and bold brands over the years in order to help them grow.

Many of these partnerships have produced some amazing work that that I’m very proud to have been part of including Heineken Star Player dual screening App, Nigella Lawson Cooking App and GTi Real Racing game for VW.

I think the most proud I’ve been recently has to be when my daughter started using the Nike Training Club App for some exercise at home during lockdown and I actually managed to get some kudos (not readily forthcoming from my 11 year old!) when I let her know that I was part of the original team (at AKQA) that helped launch it back in 2009!