Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Alex Dawson-Smith, Business Development Lead, Ex.Co

Alex Dawson-Smith joined the media industry in 2017, working in commercial roles at Perform Media, DAZN, Snack Media and is now the Business Development Lead for EX.CO in the UK and EMEA.

Who is your digital hero?

    Marc Thomas is the former MD at Taboola and EX.CO and now Global Head of Strategic Partnerships at Smartly.io. He is also a mentor at MEFA (Media for all) and Bloom UK. 

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

    Marc and I worked together at EX.CO, which is a publisher video platform powering successful video strategies for the world’s leading media groups. During his time with us here, his leadership was exceptional. Not only did he manage to put up with persistent questions from me all year, but his guidance and support, along with seeing how he managed people both inside and outside the company, was incredibly valuable.

    Even now he continues to mentor me, offering wisdom and encouragement, and the odd message about Arsenal.

    His career trajectory is one that I (and others, I’m sure) aspire to. His influence was evident in the rapid rise of businesses like Criteo and Taboola, and he left a pretty lasting impression on the people at EX.CO.

    Beyond his professional achievements, Marc’s dedication to mentorship stands out. He is involved in roles at both Bloom UK and MEFA (Media for All) which illustrates his commitment to supporting and empowering women and ethnic minorities, ensuring they have the opportunities and support needed to thrive in the media industry.

    How has his heroism helped drive digital?

    A big part of Marc’s influence has been his unwavering commitment to DEI. As an industry, we need to step up and bring in more people from different backgrounds and genders. It brings a variety of viewpoints and experiences, which can lead to more creative and effective solutions to serve clients better, delivering a variety of strategies and campaigns that are more targeted, relevant, and effective.

    On top of that, Marc is well-known across the industry for his incredibly likeable personality. His approachable and friendly nature not only makes him a pleasure to work with but also inspires others to follow his lead. As somebody who worked under Marc, I can personally attest to the fact that he gives you the platform to grow and succeed, and for the fortunate many who have also reported into him, he has managed to help them succeed as well.

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

    I’m a member of several adtech WhatsApp groups, and this question is asked often. Improving DEI efforts overall comes up quite a bit, and there is a strong focus on empowering women. Lately, I’ve been to several events where there are hardly any women on the panels, and trust me, when there are, everyone notices! It’s a big issue, and it’s clear we need to do better.

    One additional area that is top of mind amongst my colleagues and peers is around third-party cookie deprecation and the rise of AI. While these topics may bring exciting new changes to the industry, they’re also upending traditional revenue streams and creating challenges for many businesses while trying to catch up.

    At times, it can feel like all the changes only seem to be benefitting a small number of tech giants, and therefore are being met with some scepticism. As such, the work that organisations like the Independent Publisher Alliance are doing to stand up to some of these tech giants is really promising to see.

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

    I am a long way from being a hero…a legend maybe haha, but no hero!

    You may have seen some of the press releases that our company has recently issued, but I’m very proud of the work we’ve been doing in the UK with so many publishers. In particular, one of our major partners is the digital media cooperative 1XL. We’re working so strategically and collaboratively with them and they are seeing really great rewards as a result.

    ​​It’s about making sure we’re setting up our clients for success and helping to save them time while still delivering results. I’m hoping to achieve similar results with many more publishers around the UK and EMEA in the coming months.

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