Stuart Austin is Director of Data and Audience at Live Nation Entertainment. Previously Programmatic Innovations Manager at Guardian News & Media, he has spent over a decade in the digital industry at companies including Ad2One and Perform.
Who is your digital hero?
Grant Allaway, currently an Investor but formerly owner of Ad2One.
What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?
Grant has been in digital advertising virtually from its inception. He was at Reed Business Information when it launched ComputerWeekly.com.
Headhunted to Ad2One in 2000 he launched the sales house and through a management buy out took ownership in 2002. The company went from strength to strength through the noughties until it took on the eBay account. He gave me the opportunity to manage the remnant inventory on the eBay site and from that small acorn I managed to grow my career
He has an ability to spot good ideas and the faith to invest his own time and money to make them successful. His forthright and positive attitude mean that his companies are always pushing the boundaries of what can be done and help drive the industry forward.
How has his heroism helped drive digital?
Grant has long been a driver of innovation in the industry and supported countless companies with advice and money.
During my time at Ad2One there were a succession of companies that he invested in that operate across the digital landscape. He found office space for Navigate Digital as it started out and we shared desk space until it grew to the point when it needed their own office space.
Mobsta too were desk neighbours as it started its digital journey until it grew too large and headed to Charlotte Steet.
Since the sale of Ad2One he has invested in the recruiter Round8, bringing the latest digital talent to market.
While at the helm of Ad2One there were always new projects being set up to make sure that they were able to offer agencies the inventory they wanted and publishers the inventory to sell, be that mobile or food specialists, or video inventory. It wasn?t always a success, but he never shied from trying and keeping at the front of what was possible.
What is the biggest challenge in digital that we need a hero to solve
I think the biggest challenge in digital comes from social media and the societal implications that it presents. It?s good to see that some advertisers are boycotting Facebook for the ambivalence to fake news and hate speech on its platform, but how has it taken this long to happen?
One could argue that without Facebook we wouldn?t have Brexit or Trump yet people still want to spend their money with them. Zuck ignored a parliamentary request from the UK Government to come and explain his company?s policies around disinformation and he simply ignored the request. Considering the money Facebook make in the UK I think the government should have issued a more robust request for his attendance.
If we cast our minds back to the 60s when advertisers used subliminal advertising in films, with a single frame that had a bottle of cola in it, that people didn?t necessarily spot. It sent them buying the drink in droves at the intermission. The government realised how powerful and persuasive it was and banned it. Why is the same rigour not being shown with national and global disinformation?
Ultimately if the government are not going to take the lead then advertisers should. Also think of the effect on the UK publishing industry if the extra money was spent on homegrown digital properties?
What is your most heroic achievement so far in Digital?
I?m very proud to be able to say that I started the programmatic advertising on both eBay and the Premier League, it?s something that people in the industry can understand but even non industry people understand who eBay and the Premier League are so it?s really tangible.
During the time I was Perform I took their remnant offering to an amount of money that was a nice extra bit of money at the end of the month to half of the digital revenue with a team of three. The sense that anything was possible was palpable and being able to take the senior leadership team with me on the journey was a thrill. I?m grateful for their faith in me at the time.
The Premier League no longer run any advertising but when I?m searching for vinyl on eBay (which is all too often), I always have a sense that I?ve a legacy there.