Wendi Dunlap is SVP, Outcome Based Planning at Kinesso, with a career in digital spanning almost two decades. She was nominated by Dr. Femi Olu-Lafe as her digital hero. Now she passes on the honour by choosing her own digital hero.
Who is your Digital Hero?
What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?
For over 25 years, Michael has been a pioneer in diversity and inclusion in Digital Media. In early 2000, he helped bridge the “Digital Divide” by driving ad sales and revenue for Community Connect, a collection of ethnic-targeted social media communities (Black Planet, Asian Avenue, MiGente) that pre-dated Facebook and MySpace.
These pioneering social networking sites encouraged digital participation from communities that were left out of the dotcom boom, bridging gaps in accessibility and proficiency. Michael would move on to lead Sales for theGrio.com as well as the prestigious Black news and culture brand, The Root, founded by scholar Henry Louis Gates.
In addition to bringing diverse content to the internet, Michael has been an ambassador for greater inclusion in Ad Sales leadership. Michael is currently Head of Multicultural Sales & Business Development at G/O Media which includes The Root as well as other culturally relevant content properties.
How has his heroism helped drive digital?
As marketers balance brand safety with consumer reach, too often the sacrifice is diverse content that traditionally do not receive a strong share of advertising budgets.This limits funding for those under-represented voices and perspectives that may resonate more strongly with BIPOC communities.
Brands miss out on forging stronger community relationships and these communities miss out on enriching products and offerings. Through the creation of successful revenue models and driving big brand investment, Michael has dedicated his entire career to ensuring that BIPOC voices and culture have a home in the digital world and that brands can reach BIPOC audiences with respect and authenticity.
What is the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?
Connection is the greatest challenge in digital right now. This extends beyond the “cookieless world.” Consumer demand for privacy and greater accountability from digital behemoths are consequences of this connection loss. In fact, the deprecation of 3rd party cookies is forcing the industry to refocus on the person and what it means to market ethically and responsibly to build meaningful relationships.
This is not an idealistic goal. It is a necessity for data-driven marketing success. History has shown us that brands who have sustained cultural relevance are those that emphasize community over commodity.
We need Digital Heroes who will champion digital responsibility and accountability and create performance models and communications strategies that are built off this commitment.
What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?
My most heroic personal achievement in this industry is survival.
I’ve had many professional achievements from pioneering addressable audience strategies to building cross-screen reach/frequency planning models to standing up new service capabilities and revenue models. I’ve had to pull up my own seat to the proverbial table, and push space aside for other Black professionals to join me.
Throughout my career I’ve worked with so many brilliant BlPOC professionals who left the industry due to marginalisation and disillusionment. Those of us who remain are battle-tested but not weary. This industry needs our perspectives, our creativity, our tenacity, and our commitment. We’re here to stay, lead, and thrive.