Hussain Chowdhury is a Director at recruitment and exec search firm Ultimate Asset. He has two decades of media experience and was formerly a digital commercial leader working at the likes of Bauer Advertising, Auto Trader, Discovery, and Habbo Hotel.
Who is your digital hero?
My old boss at Habbo, Phil Guest. Phil’s genuinely one of the most inspiring and nurturing digital leaders I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Phil is a fantastic operator, smart, strategic, and also great at bringing people together.
He is excellent at building teams and always leads from the front, (no doubt drawing on his previous military experience). He’s had some great gigs in the past running AOL The Exchange Lab, Peer Index, Emap and is currently running his own start-up incubation business, Revcelerate where he’s working with start-up Founders and CEOs on growth and monetisation models. Phil is understated in his style, and genuinely one of the nicest people you could possibly meet in digital media.
What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?
Phil’s superpower is his leadership skills He’s great at taking his teams on the journey with him through developing a shared vision, encouragement, and great coaching. He’s always led from the front and has a unique eye for strategy. He’s always seen things ahead of the curve and his entrepreneurial spirit means he can spot the opportunity and create brilliant GMTs and commercially sound digital strategies that deliver.
Phil hired me at Habbo Hotel, (now owned by Azerion) a proto-metaverse social-gaming virtual world which was a predecessor to the likes of Roblox and Minecraft. At the time, Habbo just didn’t fit the media landscape and with Phil’s inspiring leadership, we won over clients and media agencies. We built immersive virtual experiences for the likes of Capri Sun, EA Games, 20th Century Fox, Coty and many more. We punched above our weight and teamed up with the NSPCC to create a Virtual Creative Agency with full programme of events, activities and virtual briefs that won an NMA’s Best Use of Social Media beating campaigns from Facebook, and some of the other bigger players at the time.
He was a mentor to me and taught me a lot about leading commercial digital sales teams and how to launch nascent propositions. We created some pioneering work in the Social / Gaming / proto-metaverse space at Habbo, where we pushed the boundaries of engagement marketing, creating robust measurement of non-standard creative solutions and custom builds that ensured confidence in our clients – which resulted in us delivering a fantastic book of business.
How has his heroism helped drive digital?
Phil could have taken a role in a big commercial department at a large digital publisher or media owner but that would be too easy for him. He’s chosen to challenge himself mentoring and coaching early-stage Founders and CEOs of start-ups on helping them develop their go-to-market strategy, troubleshooting what they do, and what their value proposition is.
He also works closely with the Founders to spot the barriers to growth, then working with them to develop robust strategic frameworks to help make their businesses more attractive to investors when it comes to raising funding. I can’t think of anyone else better equipped to help the next generation of entrepreneurs hone their craft.
What the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?
The journalism, content and publishing model on the modern web is broken and no one seems to have a definitive answer on how to fix it. Advertising alone isn’t sufficient to pay for a free web. Most consumers don’t want to pay for content, journalism and music. Publishers are still suffering at the weight of GAFA taking the vast lion’s share of digital ad spend and this has created an unsustainable model.
This is fuelling the slow death of publishing which is stifling creativity on the internet. I lament the recent news that Pitchfork’s editorial team is being scaled back and merged with GQ. Buzzfeed has outsourced a lot of its written content to AI. Some of the promises of Web 3 are still a long way from being realised.
However, social platforms aren’t all bad, the likes of YouTube and TikTok have shifted the balance of power to into the hands of the bedroom Content Creator who still has to split their revenue with the social platforms. The sphere of influence on editorial authority has shifted and it’s in the hands of consumers now. There are some interesting benefits to this as content creation is no longer elitist in the form you don’t need to own a printing press or TV station to get your content out there.
What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?
I’m proud that I’ve led and founded several branded content studios at the likes of Habbo and Auto Trader. I’ve always pushed the boundaries of innovation and creativity in digital content creation for brands and the proof is in the pudding.
I have twelve career awards to my name for my branded content partnerships and digital work. However, I believe the work I’m doing now is really exciting and rewarding as I’m helping Founders and CEO’s scale by helping them find world class talent that help solve their business problems.
As a former commercial leader turned head-hunter, I have a unique overview view of the market and I’m a trusted confidant to several CEOs, Founders as well as business leaders who ask for our opinion at Ultimate Asset on the market and identifying the very best talent that can unlock hyper growth. The people we place are key engines in those businesses helping founders scale and I get a certain satisfaction from hearing of the great work of the people I introduce to my clients.