Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero – Alex Tait

The digital industry’s not really about technology, it’s about people. The digital economy is supported by technology but is conceived, created and developed by people, the heroes of digital.

But who are their heroes? Who inspired, supported and taught them along their journey and to become digital heroes?

Alex launched the media, content and digital consultancy Entropy in 2017, after senior marketing roles at brands including Unilever, Kellogg’s, American Express and the Post Office. He’s long played an active role in industry development, including at the IAB and ISBA where he chaired their Digital, Data & Direct Group.

Who is your digital hero?

I nominate my former leader, mentor and now friend Alison Bain who has had a great impact. The really positive thing this series is doing is highlighting great leadership we’ve experienced.

I’m choosing to focus on a mentor as they aren’t talked about a lot publicly. However, they are an essential part of how most people develop professionally. In my experience it is always a two-way street too. The mentor certainly learns a lot from the mentee as I have from various people I’ve mentored over the years.

Alison was one of the most senior people in marketing globally in American Express when I worked there and she enabled a lot of progressive change in the business.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

We were really quite ahead of the curve in, for example, setting up one of the first DMPs in 2012, with a project I led integrating planning, targeting and measurement across the various marketing teams.

Many brands are only just adopting a more holistic consumer journey-based approach to marketing now which, as well as making consumer sense, also clearly maximises ROI.

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

I launched our consultancy Entropy around the purpose of “putting trust back into marketing communications” in early 2017. Since then a clamour for change on the topic seems to have grown within the industry but also from the wider public. For example, “trust” was the theme at the Ad Association and DMA conferences a few weeks ago and it is going to feature heavily at the ISBA conference in March too.

We’ve set ourselves up to do this in two ways. Firstly, by maximising the effectiveness and efficiency of brands’ media, content and digital investments. To take one example, something we are seeking to do for the organisations that we work with is to change the fact that with too many of companies, these budgets are still viewed as a cost rather than a growth driver.

However, we also get involved in solutions to industry “knotty problems” to help catalyse positive change by adding our team’s energy and expertise. This is borne of my belief that increasingly in modern marketing we need marketers to get involved in the industry to help drive positive change.

The trade bodies do a great job but with the complexity of the landscape and numerous vested interests, member engagement makes them all the more impactful.

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

Well I wouldn’t call it a heroic personal achievement just something that urgently needs to be done really. I co-founded a not for profit with Benedict Pringle last year,  The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising. The fact that political advertising has almost no rules in contrast to the many we experience every day as marketers is clearly in our view one of the most important issues in advertising today.

It is the topic that when you discuss it with almost anyone they agree with the need for change. However, it has also been one that historically few people have wanted to talk about publicly. That has really started to change this year with support we’ve been given by numerous organisations including the ad trade body ISBA.

Also with ad inventory we’ve been given to raise awareness of the issue from many supportive media owners in the industry including the Times, the Sun and the Guardian. 

The theme of trust that has been laid out by the industry this year means as an industry we need to get even more vocal and consistent on the topic of political advertising to influence legislative change. As one of the most talked-about areas in advertising by the public and the media it not only impacts citizens generally of course but also has a significant negative halo onto the rest of the advertising industry.