Mike Dee has been in the media industry since 2004, holding various commercial positions at Centaur, Incisive Media and Hyve Group. He relocated to Scotland in 2014 as Commercial Head of Digital for DC Thomson and is now Product Manager for DC Thomson’s centralised Platform team.
Who is your digital hero?
David Hayter, former Head of Digital at Stylist, now Head of Product for Stylist and Beano at DC Thomson
What have he done to win hero status in your eyes?
Primarily, he’s put up with my incessant questioning for the best part of a decade, but in reality it’s his foresight and creative thinking. On more than one occasion, he’s made a strategic decision that is way ahead of the wider media industry, particularly around access to inventory and the use of first party data.
How has his heroism helped drive digital?
Obviously some of his approaches have had immediate revenue impact, which we love to see, but he’s also an evangelist for being master of one’s own destiny and reducing reliance on third parties. Anyone who’s pitched to David will know he’s a nightmare to sell to as he will inevitably listen to a tech vendor and if he likes the principles, he’ll work out how he can achieve the proclaimed result himself.
Subsequently this has sparked a tonne of digital evolution across our business.
What’s the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?
Although there are many from a technical standpoint – third party cookie deprecation, the rise of AI, and so on – I think a fundamental challenge is enabling customers to understand why consenting to cookies or subscribing is critical to the future of their online experience. I think we as an industry have done a terrible job of truly explaining to users that allowing us to show ads means we can pay people to create content.
Unfortunately some of the major players have astronomical revenue targets to hit because there’s shareholders expecting chunky dividends, so they take the mickey once consent has been granted and make websites unusable. This ruins it for the rest of us. As an industry we’ve got to do better.
Stacking those sub-$1 CPMs on your page is a mug’s game.
What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?
I think that rather than an individual event, it’s the cumulative impact of my time at DC Thomson.
If I look back ten years, I was cropping logos from a client’s website, making a rudimentary 728×90 and pasting it onto a news website homepage, then printing it off for a sales person to use as part of a pitch to their clients. There was no ad ops team, there was no digital sales team; I was just this gobby bloke from Kent evangelising about the internet at a Scottish publisher.
I managed to convince the commercial leads at the time that I should get out to key industry events (not just because I love a beer, honest) and started to make us more visible as a publisher. We started to develop deeper direct relationships with our publishing peers and with ad tech land, built some strategic partnerships with key vendors, built an ad ops team, revenues grew, and the rest is history.