Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Phil Acton, Adform

Phil Acton is Country Manager, UK & Benelux, Adform. With a career spanning over twenty years in digital, previous roles have included Adobe and Bigmouthmedia.

Who is your digital hero?

Paul Frampton, President Control V Exposed.

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

Paul has been in the industry longer than I have, which is saying something, and he worked his way up from being a planner and buyer at Mediacontacts to becoming Havas Media Group CEO.

He was one of the first C-level voices in the UK to challenge the status quo and to highlight that over-investing in Google – especially YouTube – had brand safety and transparency issues, and that it was bad for the industry –in terms of competition and also for agencies and customers.  

After leaving Havas he became President of Control V Exposed (CVE), the international arm of the Goodway Group in the US.  Goodway and CVE are disrupting the industry and Adform is proud to be chosen as their EMEA tech partner, as our messaging is lockstep with their data-first approach.

Paul also finds time to work with charitable initiatives including mentoring at The Marketing Academy and supporting schemes to get young people into our industry. Plus he has fabulous hair.

How has his heroism helped drive digital?

Paul is extremely passionate about what he believes in, which is creating a diverse and inclusive environment so everyone can benefit from working in our industry, not just a chosen few. He’s a disruptor, preferring to work with a company that is a hybrid of data-driven, consultancy-led and service-oriented rather than following the traditional media agency model.

When we first talked about how Adform FLOW could partner with CVE on its go-to-market strategy I knew it would be a great match, that we’d drive digital forward in the right way, that we’d transform modern marketing for the better and that we’d have a lot of fun in the process. We see CVE as a major independent that wants to harness technology to provide data-driven solutions, and Paul’s ethos is very much around being open and consultative across digital strategy and in-housing of programmatic.

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

Where do I start? First there’s financial uncertainty across the globe due to the pandemic, and increasingly strict legislation around using data in advertising. In addition walled gardens are becoming more and more closed off and our industry continues to be shown up by reports such as the ISBA and PwC study, which concludes we still operate in a murky world of hidden fees.

If I had to tackle one challenge, it would be to educate those that work outside of our industry about what we do, why the internet needs advertising to stay free, and how using someone’s data can be done in the right way to improve the experience for all.

We forget how little the person on the street knows about this. They get drip-fed misinformation that serves to perpetuate the myth, so more education is required across the board and we need a trusted global industry leader that can provide this.

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

I’m not really one for banging my own drum; I much prefer my team to take the spotlight. I’m really proud of the way my Adformers have kept the team spirit going in a testing year, while still driving their clients’ businesses and our company forward. It’s no coincidence Adform’s strapline is “Forward. Together.” 

We’re a very mixed bunch in the UK office, with lots of different personalities and nationalities, so sometimes it’s difficult to replicate the office atmosphere on endless Zoom calls but they’ve done a great job. That said, we can and must do more to promote diversity. Our mix of male to female workers is pretty good at almost 50:50, which is as good as any environment I have worked in.

But other elements of diversity need work, and there are a number of initiatives we are looking at, from apprenticeships to mentoring programmes for local inner city schools.