Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Dan Larden, Head of UK at TPA Digital

Dan Larden is Head of UK at TPA Digital. We asked who his digital hero is.

Who is your digital hero?

Belinda Smith – Founder of The Second Arrow and formerly CEO Americas at M/SIX and  Head of Global Marketing Intelligence at EA Games.

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

*Disclaimer* I have never worked with nor even met my hero (because you know what they say right?) but this is someone who I feel deserves recognition for being a genuine and original thought leader and inspiring digital practitioners like myself from afar for a number of years.

Belinda had a different background than most of the people I came across in my formative years in programmatic – having worked on the marketing team of various adtech companies – she thought like a marketer but began to learn the adtech space inside out. Not many people were coming at it from that point of view and her views were always so refreshing to me whenever I would hear her speak or read her thought pieces. 

At a time where agencies were hiring maths grads to run campaigns, predominantly looking at numbers in platforms Belinda said, “just because you can use a DSP, doesn’t make you a marketer”.

It was a lightbulb moment for me and something that I’ll always remember as a pivotal point in my digital career – digital advertising is about more than numbers, it’s about the consumer, the end result, the messaging – something that adtech and trading desks in particular famously failed to address at the time.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

During 2020, Belinda became one of the strongest voices of my ‘follower’ network advocating for more education around the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s impossible to overstate how important it was at that time for me personally to embed myself into the thoughts and feelings of people who have had a different path in life than my own.

I will always be incredibly grateful for the time and effort that she put in to using her gift of communicating deeply complex thoughts into simple words to educate and inspire different thought processes in people. Belinda still writes on these topics today and I believe everyone whatever background would benefit from reading her strong points of view about what we can all be doing better as an industry on DEI topics.

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

What is the value of digital advertising?

So much to unravel here still. I am lucky enough in my role to speak to a lot of large digital advertisers about their individual funnels, channel KPIs and long term business objectives and no-one feels like they’ve got it right.

But that’s also the beauty of digital advertising and why I and so many others love it – if you’re not in a state of constant evolution and learning, you’re falling behind. 

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

Running the first real-time OOH campaign in the UK.

When I think back to that time we ran it, we just had the perfect blend of owning the tech, having a great client who wanted to test and a team of engineers, product and agency guys all going above and beyond  to get this brand new thing to work. Going from smaller screen ads and optimising MPUs for 6 years, then seeing the log level data of buying a big ad on the roadside in real time was very cool.