Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Media Hero: Rupen Shah, Thinkbox

Rupen Shah is the Head of Planning at Thinkbox and has worked as a media communications professional for over 20 years.

1. Who is your media hero?

Not unlike a huge swathe of the media industry I suspect, my media hero has to be Tess Alps, (outgoing) Chair of Thinkbox. Yes, I work at the aforementioned organisation and thus, she does sort of pays my wages so perhaps an obvious choice you might think, but c’mon, who would argue that Tess isn’t a genuine media hero? She’s media royalty! In fact, you should probably just rename this feature “Why is Tess Alps your media hero?”.

2. What has she done to win hero status in your eyes?

Tess is one of the most respected media leaders in the industry and she has a hugely impressive roll call of accolades and achievements. There are far too many to list here, however, perhaps most notably in 2018, she was given the highest honour that Britain’s marketing communications industry can bestow – the Advertising Association’s rarely awarded Mackintosh Medal which recognises both personal and public service to advertising.

Prior to starting my role at Thinkbox in late 2018, I had admired Tess from afar and even though I’ve not worked directly with her too much since joining, she just screams class act in everything she does. She is unwavering in her pursuit of excellence and as such, she sets the bar very high for everyone around her. But in spite of that, she is a genuinely lovely person with a wicked sense of humour and I’ve never met anyone that has a bad word to say against her. She is passionate and inspiring and if I can, through some form of osmosis, take on a tiny fraction of what she has, I’ll be a better person for it.

3. How has her heroism helped drive media?

Tess has, for many years now, been amazing at leading the charge in calling out the crap that far too many people within the industry spout far too often. Through the formation of Thinkbox, which brought together the main broadcasters and which has been crowned “Industry Body of the Decade”, she has consistently promoted the use of robust evidence and top-notch research to counter misperceptions and bust myths on the fundamental role that TV advertising plays in driving marketing effectiveness. It is this no-nonsense, evidence-based approach that has, amongst other things, won her so many fans.

4. What the biggest challenges in media we need another hero to solve?

For me, the biggest issue we need to fix right now is the ongoing decline in marketing effectiveness that has come about as a result of brands veering towards short-termism. As we all know from the legends that are Les Binet and Peter Field – who incidentally were in the running for Media Hero status – advertisers have, in general, been putting too much emphasis on short-term sales activation to the detriment of longer-term brand building. Brands need to get the balance right between the two so that we can get things back on track and start moving marketing effectiveness in the right direction again.

5. What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in media?

Hmmm… I don’t think I’ve really done anything vaguely heroic in media so far unless you count me sporting some unnecessarily long and particularly pointy sideburns in my earlier years as a press buyer! I am, however, immensely proud to be part of Media for All, a wonderful organisation set up to help encourage talent from different ethnic minority backgrounds into the media industry and to provide a support and mentoring network to ensure that they flourish. I’m also really proud to be helping shine a spotlight on the need for ethnicity pay gap reporting and highlighting how the Equal Pay Act 1970 (which sits within the Equality Act 2010) is in need of serious reform as currently, it offers women (for the most part) legal protections with regards to equality of pay which is great, but none of the other protected characteristics (race, age, disability, etc) are covered by the same legislation, which is absolutely bonkers in this day and age.