The first 10 inductees into the BIMA Digital Hall of Fame have been announced today at ad:tech, including Sir Jony Ive, Martha Lane Fox, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Stephen Fry.
The first ten to be inducted into the British Digital Hall of Fame were: i-level co-founder Andrew Walmsley; AKQA founder Ajaz Ahmed; Mark Cridge from glue Isobar; government digital advisor and co-founder of Lastminute.com Martha Lane Fox; Foviance co-founder Catriona Campbell; Apple's design chief Sir Jony Ive; author, actor and TV presenter (as well as Twitter guru) Stephen Fry; founder of RealTime Phil Jones; CEO of ARM Warren East and father of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
The next 10 leading digital figures to be inducted will be announced later this afternoon (Wednesday 19 September).
That business is AKQA, today one of the world’s largest and most acclaimed digital agencies with a staff of 1,160 in offices in London, New York, Washington DC, Shanghai, Berlin and Amsterdam and a client list that includes Nike, Gap and Microsoft X Box. It boasts 19 Agency of the Year titles and is the reigning Digital Agency of the Year in UK trade magazine Campaign and US title Adweek.
Ahmed founded AKQA, the name derived from his initials, in 1994 after dropping out of a business studies degree at the University of Bath. He was just 21 at the time but precociously gifted and blessed with an acute awareness of the rich potential of the web, evidenced by the fact that his agency has consistently generated double-digit growth ever since; its revenue today stands at £147m.
He is fabled for his entrepreneurial spirit and it was this particular quality that Sir Martin Sorrell lauded when asked why he had splurged so much cash to acquire a majority stake in AKQA in June. “Ajaz is highly creative, highly entrepreneurial,” Sir Martin said; high praise indeed coming from probably the world’s most notable marketing entrepreneur.
Although one might be inclined to suggest Ahmed was prescribed with innate vision, given how early he realised in the power of the web, that isn’t a notion to which he subscribes. “Pretty much all the evidence shows that it’s not nature but a person’s environment, influences and education that makes the difference,” Ahmed tells The Drum. “Entrepreneurs are made, not born. It’s the same for just about any discipline.”
AKQA was the world’s largest independent digital agency before its acquisition, and Ahmed is staying at the helm under its new ownership. He insists his entrepreneurial endeavour will not be suffocated by being part of the world’s largest marketing group. “The reason WPP invested in AKQA is to protect the magic and help us share our vision and values in markets where our clients want us to be and where we want to connect with audiences in new ways,” Ahmed says.
Ahmed adds that the agency can retain its independence, if not literally then at least in spirit. “Independence is a mindset. It’s about caring for the work, caring for the clients, good teamwork, preserving the core values while stimulating innovation and progress.”
Despite all he has achieved and earned, Ahmed’s ambition remains undimmed. “The way we look at it, we’re only as good as our latest project. So even though we are lucky to work with so many great brands it’s important to be relentless about creating a body of work that keeps getting better.
And of course there are lots of industries that would benefit from being reinvented through digital innovation. We would love to do that across many industries.”
In one moment, I realised the power of [the web] in its ability to bring humans together, transcending the limitations of geography and time. I knew then I had to get involved.”
The wannabe adman who had previously bought TV airtime and sold Rolls-Royce helicopter engines for a living had now found his true calling. His subsequent MBA studies on agencies in the digital age only strengthened his belief that the internet was the place to be, and it was during this time that he dreamt up the idea for launching the digital agency that would become i-level.
After a spell as head of digital at ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Walmsley decided it was time to share his idea with the world and in 1999 brought i-level to life alongside business partners Charlie Dobres and Craig Wilkie. Over the next decade it would go on to become one of the UK’s best-known and most celebrated digital agencies, winning a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation and becoming the first digital agency to pick up an IPA Effectiveness Award.
After 10 years, i-level had grown to a £100m turnover business with 150 staff and a client list that included Orange, the Football Association and News International. But its time was coming to an end. Not long after losing the government’s multi-million pound digital account, i-level was placed into voluntary liquidation in May 2010.
Since i-level’s closure, Walmsley has remained in demand and has occupied himself with non-executive posts at Cognitive Match, The Eden Project and most recently mobile marketing agency Fetch. He is often a spokesman on industry matters and in a 2010 magazine profile he was described by colleagues as a “visionary”.
Will he ever run a digital agency again? Probably not, given that he has doubts that digital agencies as we know them today will be around for much longer. He tells The Drum: “The digital age calls us to create organisations that fuse capabilities around data/analytics/creativity/process/technology/insight/execution. Individually, these are relatively easy. Making an organisation that can cause them to sing together is both the challenge and the opportunity; and the baggage that legacy gives us is the biggest enemy of progress.”
It was never the technology that fascinated him about digital, but the technology’s ability to bring people – cricket fans in the pub – together. “I’m generally not inspired by technology, but by the possibilities it offers to change the world.”
It is the need for usability and accessibility that obviously drives Campbell, the founder of user experience company Foviance, which works with 43 of the UK’s top 100 FTSE companies.
“Digital influences everything we do now, but we have to ensure that the digital we create is usable and accessible!”
When asked by The Drum what she sees as the next game changer in digital, Campbell cites one of this year’s digital buzz words – big data – as the most powerful way of understanding behaviour and creating better experiences.
Prior to founding Foviance (which has recently merged with merge with service design agency Seren Partners), Campbell worked at BP, General Electric and Barclays Plc, where she worked on the digital banking strategy team. She is also a Dadi judge and a regular speaker at digital industry conferences and events.
Campbell is a qualified psychologist, and her credentials in the field of human computer interaction, the discipline concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive technology, are regularly called on by the UK government and public sector organisations.
When asked what she would be doing now if she hadn’t founded Foviance, she says she could have “easily gone down a different route” and become a criminal psychologist, a field she finds fascinating.
Her favourite thing about the internet is its ability as a platform for sharing knowledge easily. She describes a tablet PC project worked on by Foviance for Microsoft ten years ago, which allowed doctors in hospitals to upload patient notes using handwriting recognition software.
“The notes were immediately available to search by doctors UK wide,” she explains. “So if a series of medication worked for a patient in Devon, a doctor in Edinburgh could use this knowledge to cure his patient. Previously, the handwritten note would have been filed in some file in the hospital and never seen again – all of the knowledge was in the doctor’s head, and they would share it only at symposiums.”
It’s this kind of accessibility that can become, in Campbell’s words, “life-changing”. So if she could change anything about the internet, she would “change the fact that there are no real design standards, and implement some, thus ensuring consumers understood how to get around more easily.”
He entered the world of advertising in 1994, when he worked as an art director for agencies in London and Birmingham.
Five years later, at the height of the dot-com boom, he founded Glue London, the UK’s original digital advertising agency.
Deciding to sell the company in 2005, a £15 million deal was struck with Aegis Media. The digital agency was rebranded under the Isobar network in 2010, becoming glue Isobar. Cridge remained the chief executive of the agency until May 2010 when he moved to the role of global managing director of Isobar – a digital communications network of Aegis which includes over 2,200 people in 32 worldwide markets.
glue Isobar now has over 150 people in its London office, with its work evolving to encompass all forms of digital and traditional creative for clients including: adidas, Bacardi, the Green Party, Kellogg’s, Nokia and Toyota. Prior to Cridge’s repositioning within the company it declared a total income of £12.2m for 2010, a marked increase from the previous year’s £9.8m. The agency earned a place in the Sunday Times’ Top 100 Small Companies To Work For list.
Cridge has received a multitude of accolades for his services in the industry, including being featured in the Financial Times Creative Business 50.
He is a regular speaker at industry events and member of award juries including the Titanium & Integrated jury at Cannes, chair of the D&AD Integrated jury and chair of the Asian Advertising Awards.
In 2011 Cridge took a sabbatical from his position at Aegis. He worked for the Green Party and was selected to stand in the Hyde Park ward by-elections, campaigning for 20mph speed limits in residential streets, a low emission zone to tackle poor air quality and more affordable housing. The party came third in the election, receiving 7.3 per cent of the votes. Cridge continues his support for the party through his role as management co-ordinator.
Cridge was due to return to the company in June 2012, but has since resigned from his role as global managing director. His personal blog, muck&brass, suggests he will not have decided on future career plans until later in the year.
Martha Lane Fox
Lane Fox has worked within the digital industry since graduation; her first role as a management consultant with Spectrum saw her involved with a project for BT entitled ‘What is the Internet?’ and it was here she met Brent Hoberman, with whom she went on to create lastminute.com.
Launching in 1998 and floating at the peak of the dot-com bubble, Lane Fox and Hoberman’s online travel and gift business revolutionised the travel industry. Lane Fox made the shock decision to step down as MD in 2003 and five months later faced a personal battle as she was badly injured in a car accident in Morocco, shattering her pelvis and breaking 28 bones.
In 2005 the US owner of Travelocity purchased lastminute.com for £577m, netting Lane Fox a further £13.4m, adding her previous earnings of £5m from the site.
In late 2005 Lane Fox became involved in ad executive Julian Douglas’ idea for Tokyo style karaoke booths in London. With the help of Nick Thisleton ‘Lucky Voice’ booths opened in London’s Soho, of which there are now seven bars nationwide and a range of additional computer-based products and an app associated with the brand.
Her latest contribution to the digital landscape is the ‘Go ON UK’ charity which “aims to bring the benefits of the internet to every individual and every organisation in every community across the UK.”
In a recent interview Lane Fox commented: “When I took the role I didn’t give it much thought: it brought together lots of things I’m interested in – the internet, excluded groups, consumer behaviour. But I have been surprised at the profound effect the internet has on people’s lives. It has really surprised me how many people have said to me that the internet saved their life.
“I used to think of the internet as a tool for people to use. I didn’t really understand how it could reduce deprivation. So I’m now quite passionate about the opportunity we have to create lasting social change by engaging people with technology more deeply.”
Lane Fox is also on the board of high street retailer Marks and Spencer as a non-executive director, and still works with Brent Hoberman on the board of his interior design and furniture website, mydeco.com.
In the 70s and 80s, Jones worked in the area of typesetting; having written, typeset and printed a book of 30 song lyrics called “Inside Looking Out” in 1972 and finishing his five year apprenticeship as a compositor the following year.
Discussing with The Drum his former work and what he would like to change about the internet, Jones mused: “I suppose as somebody who comes from a typographic background where grammar, kerning, spacing and good punctuation were expected on every job, I am saddened by how ugly much of what we see on the internet is.”
He describes the 90s as his ‘digital decade’, having launched Real Time Interactive, the digital arm of Real Time Studio, in 1995; four years after he joined as MD.
Speaking about his experiences on the internet, he disclosed an event which took place a year after the launch of Real Time Interactive: “My first memory was receiving a signed England football shirt from the head of marketing at Canon UK for Euro 96 and him asking me if I could help him write the brief for agencies to pitch for the first Canon UK website. He said “this internet thing” is looking as though it might catch on and we need to get ourselves a website and apparently it’s my responsibility, where do I start?
“That chance conversation started a run of good fortune that included creating the Canon Europe website, the first ever e-commerce site for Diesel, the first premier league website, the launch of the new mini online and scores of projects that we had so much fun (not to mention many nightmares) launching in the 90s and the noughties.”
Jones held his first Digital Podge lunch – having previously held Podge lunches for a decade – in 2003.
When asked what prompted him to start the events, he said: “There was a pretty awful recession in 1990 and many of the design agencies I worked with in my APT days struggled to survive. I organised a lunch in 1994 at Quaglino’s in the private room for thirty owners of design agencies because I thought it would be great if we all got together and shared war stories and lessons learned. I took charge of the bill, split it between us all, and named our gathering the Podge Council Lunch for fun.
“Ten years ago I started Digital Podge for the owners, MDs and CDs of digital agencies. Stodge Podge is the North of England version.”
Having worked as a non-executive chairman for various agencies such as Reading Room, Naked Penguin Boy and Green Square, Jones says his work for each has depended on their needs, concluding: “it all makes for a fun and enjoyable life enjoying what a successful career in digital gave me.”
Sir Jonathan Ive
From the formula of the glass in the iPad’s screen to the design of the box you have to open to get to it, Ive’s creative vision has been central to our perceptions of the Apple brand and his obsession with detail is legendary: from travelling to Japan to learn about the principles of metals from samurai sword-makers to collaborating with a confectioner on the science of translucent colour control.
Born in Essex in 1967, Ive studied art and design at Newcastle Polytechnic before going on to co-found design consultancy Tangerine, developing everything from hair combs and ceramics, to power tools and televisions, for a client list which included Apple.
Robert Brunner, then in charge of industrial design at Apple, was so impressed with Ive that in 1992 he offered him the chance to up sticks and join the company at its California headquarters. Brunner has since joked that his tombstone will read ‘The Guy Who Hired Jonathan Ive’.
Apple was in sharp decline at the time, taking a battering from rivals IBM and Microsoft, but with the arrival of Ive, and then the return of co-founder Steve Jobs, the catalyst was in place for design to take the forefront in the firm’s product strategy.
The pair set about establishing Apple’s creative reputation with a series of functionally clean, aesthetically pleasing and exceptionally popular products, starting with the iMac, which went on to sell over 2 million units in its first year and transform product design in the world of computers which had thus far comprised of clunky, soulless grey and beige plastic.
It was this collaboration between Jobs and Ive, and the product strategy they set in place, that brought us the stylishness of the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and iPad, changing the face of product design forever and revolutionising the way in which we consume media and music and use our mobile phones. The desirability this design-centred approach engendered, coupled with focus on use, and a determination to ensure ease and simplicity, has opened digital devices up to the masses.
Ive’s achievements have been as a result of the team effort by all at Apple, but clearly alongside Steve Jobs, he has been a visionary in revolutionising product design.
“But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail …” as Paul put it in his 13th letter to the Corinthians. No one knows where this new world will take us. Steve Jobs once described his company Apple as standing at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, or perhaps, as we would be more likely to say in Britain, at the intersection of technology and creativity.
The UK gave the world Tim Berners-Lee, who gave the world the web. And I mean gave. Just imagine if the world wide web had been developed and patented by IBM, or Microsoft, Apple or any other corporation. The UK has also punched way above its weight in the worlds of gaming, app development, chip design and all the arenas that make our digital world possible. I hope the Hall of Fame will encourage schools, local authorities, governments, funding bodies and sponsoring companies to keep Britain not just up with the pack, but ever ahead of it. That includes infrastructure. If Baltic countries like Estonia outshine us in fibre optic supply we need to think and think hard about radical investment, just as our Victorian forefathers did, with pipelines under the ocean and later the development of the copper wire exchanges that are still the basis for most people’s broadband.
I first joined commercial online services like Prestel, Compuserve and America Online in the late 80s and then the internet proper through Demon, the UK’s first ISP. I was instantly struck amidships by the possibilities of this astounding new way of communicating around the globe. I had an email address but none of my friends did; only fellow geeks around the world with whom one would share interslip and PPP scripts. Then Tim Berners-Lee wrote his protocols and Mosaic and the first web browsers arrived. Within what seemed a blink of the eye nothing was the same again.
I had the idea for Wikipedia very early on and discussed it with a friend. We agreed it was brilliant, but as usual, I couldn’t be arsed to do anything about it. Then I had an idea called SchoolGates.co.uk which I never even bothered to register. It was based on the advice parents waiting at the school gates would give each other about local plumbers, builders, shops and so on… a fabulous idea I still think, and one which has been tried in various directions by others but has never quite caught on properly. Ah well…”
Sir TIm Berners-Lee
“This is for everyone” he tweeted during the ceremony, with his message relayed around some 70,000 LED panels in the Olympic Stadium as Danny Boyle’s visual extravaganza paid homage to his pioneering role in the digital revolution. But the very fact that not “everyone” has access to the world wide web is something that perturbs its inventor.
While working for CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory, in the 1980s, Berners-Lee saw an opportunity to join hypertext with the internet, and in 1990 implemented the first successful communication between an HTTP client and server via the internet, resulting in the world wide web.
That was 22 years ago, and while 25 per cent of the global population has taken to the web in that time, it’s the other 75 per cent that concerns him most. And it is something he aims to address.
Berners-Lee is co-founder and director of both the World Wide Web Consortium and the World Wide Web Foundation, and through these vehicles is vocal in his attempts to improve the availability of the web. Along with Professor Nigel Shadbolt, he also is one of the key figures behind data.gov.uk, a UK government project to open up almost all data acquired for official purposes for free re-use.
The W3 Consortium, which he founded in 1994 at the Laboratory of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has three main objectives: “to advance one web that is free and open”, “to expand the web’s capability and robustness” and “to extend the web’s benefits to all people”.
Indeed, this is a theme echoed by Berners-Lee’s call for worldwide internet access in his keynote speech at the 2010 Nokia World conference in London. Berners-Lee argued that he would like to see the whole world given free access to the internet; a future he envisions is possible with the rise in mobile networks. In his speech, he highlighted the fact that only one fifth of the world’s population have access to the web, despite 80 per cent owning a mobile phone: “At the moment the world wide web reaches about 20 per cent of the world’s population. But 80 per cent have mobile phones. Why is there that gap?
“That’s why we’ve started the Web Foundation – there are plenty of organisations dedicated to getting people fresh water, and getting them vaccines. But it turns out that the web can be really instrumental in getting healthcare to people.”
East joined ARM as chief executive in 2001 and the company has since established itself as a global player in the development of computer chips. When you consider that its competition includes giants such as Intel, ARM is a remarkable UK success story. From an uninspiring industrial park a world away from Silicon Valley, it has licensed deals with Apple – the iPhone and the iPad are powered by ARM – and Microsoft to use its processing chips in their devices. Its technology is ubiquitous.
Knowing what a UK firm can achieve has left East frustrated that the “thriving tech sector” here doesn’t always get the recognition or backing it deserves. He has even gone so far as to describe the UK as having an “anti-technology culture”. When asked to elaborate by The Drum, East suggests that the industry suffers from a perception issue. It is hard to disagree when one of our country’s best exports – ARM shipped two billion chips in the first quarter of this year alone – barely gets a mention outside tech circles.
“If our people are out at a party and when asked what they do for a living they reply ‘engineer’ or ‘design microprocessors’, the eyes glaze over. Conversely, in California the response is more likely to be ‘cool, what do you think of Google’s latest Android version?’ As a business we find investors are very wary; business journalists remain sceptical.”
Against this backdrop, East knows his firm will need to recruit engineers from overseas to continue its pace of development. “Businesses need the flexibility to recruit talent from outside the UK to supplement our home grown supply in certain key roles,” he admits. “We need to inspire our young people to overcome dated prejudices and become more engaged in the tech sector. They will have a rewarding career, transform lives and make the world a better place.”
Computer Weekly described the unassuming East as ‘a role model for UK technology firms and budding entrepreneurs’. It’s a tag he brushes off with trademark modesty, but there is no doubt that the technology industry and potential investors will be keeping a close eye on the company’s developments. So having conquered smartphones, what will ARM’s chips be powering in five years’ time?
“It will be the so-called ‘internet of things’,” East says. “Mobile has forced companies like ARM and its partners to create technology which puts high performance PC computer power into the palm of your hand. This technology taken further can be used to make everyday objects ever smarter, wirelessly connected to each other and to the internet at large. Intelligent things will transform the way we work, our recreation and our health.”