Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Jody Shilliday, Director Global Advertising Solutions, Adform

Jody Shilliday is Director of Global Advertising Solutions at Adform. She previously worked at Starcom MediaVest Groupe and mobile agency Fetch and won the Ad Tech Rising Star award at  ExchangeWire‘s The Wires.

Who is your digital hero?

They are actually from outside our industry, so appreciate this might be a bit left field, however my digital hero is Dr. Sarah Parcak. She is an Egyptologist, Professor, and T.E.D. Prize Winner and is more commonly described as a ‘space archaeologist’.

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

I think it’s safe to say that archaeology would not be the first field you would associate with pioneering digital and technological transformation.

She is a trailblazer in harnessing digital technology, specifically algorithmic image processing on satellite and lidar data, and combining that with her more ‘traditional’ expertise to uncover lost Egyptian pyramids, ancient ruins and other historical sites that have been lost over time, and she has really drawn attention to the practice and potential.

How has her heroism helped drive digital?

Her work has driven an even bigger focus and excitement around how we can use algorithms for learning in the field of imaging and basically the more applications of that technology, the faster it will evolve.

When algorithms can distinguish between pile of rubble and an ancient city wall from a picture of the ground beamed from space, the implications are pretty big, especially when framed in the context of applications in our own industry.

Advanced image recognition for brand safety or contextual reasons will drive advancements in information and advertising but will also raise concerns around security and data privacy when it comes to the power of these kinds of algorithms on social media platforms.

Her work is definitely fuelling investment in this area and also driving the increased ‘digitisation’ and accessibility of her field. Increasingly ‘space archaeology’ tactics are being used to uncover lost historical sites and alert the local authorities who can investigate and preserve the finds, so that items of historic and cultural value are not lost to looters – literally anyone with an internet connection can log into her GlobalXplorer website and help find lost settlements in the jungles of Peru.

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

I think the biggest challenges in digital we have at the moment are regulatory challenges around data and what to make accessible and what to protect.

So much of the digital data world has incredible potential for good but also for abuse or harm, with implications and bad practices often discovered too late when it is difficult to ‘wind back the clock’ and change situations and behaviours. We saw the beginning of that with GDPR, and I think there is much more to come.

The drive to send and gather data across the internet and internet of things is only accelerating – and the implications are wide-reaching in many ways still uncovered. SpaceX has just launched thousands of satellites into space to ‘extend the internet’ and increase the digitalisation of the planet – the implications of that will be vast and unexpected.

Already these satellites are interfering with astronomy work, and there are tens of thousands more satellites planned from SpaceX and other tech giants like Amazon, so definitely there needs to be more checks and balances on our digital progress so that growth does not come at a cost elsewhere.

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

Early on in my career I helped to test and develop one of the first Facebook Alpha API marketing platforms when I started working at TBG Digital, now part of Sprinklr. At this point, the only way to buy inventory was one advert at a time through Facebook’s own tools, so this early self-serve advertising platform provided an alternative option.

This ability to scale, automate, and optimise ad campaigns drove the creation of new departments in media agencies globally and now this way of buying ads on Facebook takes the lions-share of digital advertising budgets.

So while my contribution was some time ago, I still see the impact of that today.