Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Dave Birss

Dave Birss is a creative legend in the digital industry. A global keynote speaker, consultant and author, he was previously a creative at agencies including Poke, McCann Worldgroup, OgilvyOne and DraftFCB.

Who is your digital hero?

The legend that is Patrick Collister.

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

Patrick has never been one to just follow what everyone else is doing. And he’s never been afraid to follow a different path. His pioneering approach led to him starting the first digital creative unit inside an ad agency.

The agency was Ogilvy & Mather and this was years before the birth of Ogilvy Interactive.One of the first projects he brought in for this new unit was to create Guinness’ first ever website. This was when technology truly was the wild west full of explorers and gold miners.Patrick was a hugely respected ad man at this time but his drive to piss on virgin snow led to him embracing a new media channel that wasn’t being recognised by his peers.

It was Patrick’s pioneering spirit that made things easier for people like me.

How has his heroism helped drive digital?

As a creative at the forefront of the ad industry, Patrick legitimised digital in the early days.It was, at that point, the land of geeks and cowboys and he turned it into something that truly deserved respect from the industry and clients.

He’s made brave choices throughout his career, even returning to the digital industry to be creative director of Google Zoo for a number of years.

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

I don’t believe digital is a valid marketing distinction any more than film or print is. But rather than needing another agency-side revolution, I think the heroism and vision needs to come from clients now.

We simply need great marketers who understand how to get great cross-media work from their agencies. And understand that just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s a useful metric.Because currently the obsession with measurement seems to have led to a lack of truly powerful work.

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

It was leaving the industry.That was a really hard thing to do.I had a good job and lots more job offers but I wanted to explore the world of creativity more broadly and help companies solve bigger problems.

I’ve been doing that for nearly 10 years now and I’m loving it. It has led me to consult for amazing companies, write books, make films and speak at events all over the world.I’m constantly learning. And enjoying sharing those lessons as widely as I can.

But I still miss prodding those pixels and playing with shiny new tech.

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