Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Maani Safa, Founder and CEO of Poppins Agency

Maani Safa is an award-winning creative technology pioneer who has built multiple successful global digital agencies and is now CEO of digital creative agency Poppins.

Who is your digital hero?
I have been lucky enough to learn from some incredible people throughout my career but the one that truly kick-started my journey was Paul Cheesbrough now CTO at Fox and President of Digital.

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

During the 2000’s running up to the period before the iPhone was released and mobile started to truly transform digital, no matter how much I banged the “mobile” drum it seemed to fall on deaf ears within the company. It wasn’t until Paul joined that his support and belief resulted in us launching an innovation Laboratory sponsored by Apple, Google and Adobe. This led to launching the world’s first news apps on iOS, Android and the first newspaper on Kindle – the beginning of what has been nearly two decades of award-winning (and in some cases world first) products across mobile and digital for some of the biggest brands in the world, and building multiple successful global agencies.

It’s important to mention that another digital hero of mine is the current executive team at my company Poppins – I realise this may not be your typical answer, but for one I don’t believe in a “Steve Jobsian” approach to leadership where all kudos and praise is given to one “glorious” leader. Secondly, this team of incredibly talented and compassionate leaders believed in me and the vision of the current agency enough that they helped kick off a new company bang in the middle of a world gripped by a pandemic – the result? One of the fastest-growing agencies in the U.K. with a real focus on giving back.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?
Paul’s gone from being a boss, to a mentor and dear friend. He’s spent the last couple of decades at the helm of some of the biggest media businesses transforming technology and culture along the way. Above all else is his desire to bring others along for the journey, to help them grow and his incredible ability to recognise talent.

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

I believe that we are in the grip of a digital misinformation pandemic and experts are currently split on whether the coming decade will see a reduction in false and misleading narratives online. The only real way to solve or at least improve this issue is through technological fixes, so the next digital hero will hopefully be able to fix this challenge.

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

The word heroic is a very difficult one to live up to, and I’m not sure I’d ever use the word for something I’d personally achieved – I will say that I am incredibly proud of the work and achievements during this pandemic. Managing to not only set up and launch but grow and succeed at building a new agency during these turbulent times has been an incredible experience underpinned by more hard work than I ever thought possible.