We’re lucky enough to be catching up with Dani Bassil this week, CEO of Digitas UK, one of the most respected marketing and technology agencies around.
We asked her the usual questions about what she does, how she got there, and what advice she might have for marketers starting out.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the CEO of Digitas in the UK. We are a creative, technology, media and data business. My job is to develop the strategy and direction for the business, help it and our clients grow and have some fun along the way.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
As CEO of Digitas I report into Sue Frogley CEO of PM UK, one of our solution hubs.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Patience, the ability to make strategic decisions quickly, to think about the team and not the self and to understand how digital plays a role in growing business for our clients to make a difference. Also agility plays a huge role, being able to flex on a dime is critical.
Tell us about a typical working day…
As we have a broad range of expertise, from our consulting arm, to customer engagement, to data and building technology to media and creativity, no two days are the same at Digitas. I think that’s why I love it so much.
From helping our teams get to great work, to helping our clients grow, to growing our people, everyday is unique and every challenge is different and interesting. I can be in a meeting discussing an experience and platform build, then the next might be a media pitch, to a great creative tech idea, to a more of a consulting project, building out a new division or looking at an acquisition in market. We have some incredible talent and spending time with their brains is the best part of the day.
Also, I don’t get up at 4am to hit the gym and have 12 power shakes while I meditate to tibetan monks listening to whales. I am not a morning person and without 10 cups of coffee please don’t engage with me until 9am.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Being able to make decisions quickly is an absolutely brilliant thing about this business. There are no layers of bureaucracy or red tape. I’m constantly learning from our incredible talent. Listening to our clients and helping them solve their challenges. Solving our own challenges. I think I’m a problem solver, it’s how my brain works. I absolutely love a meaty and complex problem. Some days I’m in meetings all day and it’s in much more of an advisory capacity and not directly making the work. I miss that bit sometimes. There’s no better feeling than being in a tight team working closely together to make something great.
The job is now different than it was 10 years ago and I think that’s the decision you need to make at some point in your career, do you stay involved in the day to day project work or do you move into management. It doesn’t suck persay as I love helping to run a company but I do smile and remind myself of some of the brilliant things I helped make back in the day.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Right now my goals are simple. Provide an environment for our talent to grow and be happy. Make brilliant work that our clients love us for. Keep growing and innovating. I think as an industry we try and overcomplicate everything. It’s actually quite simple. We have KPIs against all our goals which we revisit twice a year. Now we’re building out our 5-year strategy for growth. We have lots of plans and lots of ambition, and I may be biased but the team we’ve built is world class. It’s never been a more exciting time to be in the industry and never more so at Digitas.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
People. I need people to function. Rarely I need to lock myself away to think and sometimes write but most often I need other people to bounce off and that’s where I find my motivation. I think I’m a frustrated planner. I’m obsessed with what motivates people and how they think and behave, people help me get the job done. No woman is an island and the team for me is everything. Outside of work it’s my friends, some of who are like my unoffical mentors (you know who you are!). Their wisdom has guided me through this crazy world and I cannot thank them enough.
How did you end up at Digitas, and where might you go from here?
I started consulting at Digtas initially and totally fell in love with the agency. I couldn’t believe the talent and capability. I remember the day explicitly, I was in a meeting with one of our data scientists who blew my mind apart. Then I had a meeting with one of our tech leaders and I remember thinking ‘imagine if I had you at my last agency’, then I sat with one of our programmatic media leads and that sealed the deal for me. Every agency I’d ever worked at wanted desperately to build out these capabilities and we had it all under one roof. Two weeks laters I joined as COO and then six months later Sue Frogley offered me the CEO role. I still sometimes can’t believe my luck.
Which campaigns have impressed you lately?
I love the D&AD award winning Project Revoice by the ALS Association. I love it for many reasons. It solves a real world problem using deep learning and technology to make peoples lives significantly better. It’s clever and wonderful and makes your heart sing. I wish we were involved in making it.
What advice would you give a marketer just starting out?
Marketing departments are still operating in silos and that makes it harder to truly connect with customers. People don’t know that organisations are siloed and don’t care, and nor should they. My advice is to try and break down the barriers internally as much as possible. Every consumer touchpoint is as important as each other. It’s not enough to just make great ads anymore, if the experience online is lacking you’ve lost them and vice versa. And learn as much as you can about your data and technology stack and it’s capability. It’s complicated we know, but it will set you apart.
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