The Fishbowl: Dan Durling, Alight Media

The Fishbowl: Dan Durling, Alight Media

The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media industry’s top salespeople revealing questions, drawn from our fishbowl. The questions will be drawn at random and contain some tricky posers set by the commercial chiefs themselves.

This week is Dan Durling, managing director at Alight Media.

Dan Durling started his career as a group head at Chrysalis, which later became part of Global Radio.

He has also held sales and leadership roles at Yahoo, Oath, Verizon Media and Nozzle, before joining Alight Media in 2022.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

From the age of five to 18 I wanted to be an artist and paint for a living. I basically wanted to be David Hockney (and still do!). I bottled it at the last minute and instead of going to do my Art Foundation course I decided to go and do a Geography degree at Sheffield University. I think deep down I realised I wasn’t good enough.

**Peer question** What was the last podcast you listened to?

I started listening to The Rest is History this year and am now obsessed. I’m working my way through all the episodes and have just listened to the one on the History of London…they are amazing!

** Question from Sally Keane, head of enterprise sales for Northern Europe.

**Peer question** What advice would you give yourself at the start of your career with the hindsight you have now?

My fantastic role as the managing director at Alight Media has been heavily shaped by my varied experiences over the last five years. I would push myself to try more roles in different teams earlier in my career.

**Question from Ben Walmsley, managing director of The Sun.

Outside your own company, which sales team is doing really well?

There are loads of teams I admire and work that makes me jealous, especially in digital out-of-home (DOOH), but the names I keep hearing about are The Ozone Project and Digital Cinema Media (DCM). They seem to be getting things right.

What are clients most excited about right now?

We are loving seeing how excited clients are when you talk to them about the opportunities that DOOH provides. In the latest Kantar Media Reactions report, DOOH is now ranked in the top three media channels by marketer preference.

According to the report, marketers are highly receptive to DOOH ads, it’s seen as the most innovative channel out there — especially as it takes advantage of high screen resolution and fast-developing creative technologies. Trust is also high for OOH advertising among marketers.

There are also important areas that are coming up more and more like sustainability and inclusivity, but I think effectiveness is still one of the most popular conversations when we speak to clients. We believe the most effective OOH campaigns are integrated from the start — allying OOH’s strengths alongside online and other channels.

In Ebiquity’s Re-evaluating media report for example, OOH emerged as the best-performing channel for maximising both campaign reach and frequency — making it an essential part of a media mix for brands wanting to talk and engage with a mass audience.

If you could learn any new skill from scratch, what would it be?

There are skills that I feel I should learn like playing the piano or speaking fluent French, but it would have to be something like counting cards or kung fu.

What’s the bravest thing you have ever done?

From a work perspective it was moving from Verizon Media to Nozzle in 2020. I left a huge American 120,000-person public company to go to an eight person start up. We had no defined product market fit and our burn rate was significantly higher than our monthly revenue. I learnt more in my first 12 months than most of my early career (including what a burn rate meant!)

Outside work, I once stopped a robbery by chasing the getaway car down a small dark lane in Kent with a piece of wood…I have no idea what I would have done if they’d stopped.

Which actor would play you in the film of your life and why?

I would love it to be Casey Affleck as I am a huge fan and love all his films, but my family would say Hugh Grant as they think I look like a cross between him, Anton Du Beke from Strictly Come Dancing and Steve Ovett, the 80s middle distance runner!

**Peer question** If you could work anywhere in the world, where would you and why?

It would have to be the England and Wales cricket board (ECB) as I’m a huge cricket fan. Being number two to Brendon McCullum, the head coach of the Test team would be pretty cool.

** Question from Lydia Parker, head of international agencies at Samsung Ads Europe.

What’s been your biggest challenge this year and what are you doing about it?

We are hugely proud of the success we’ve had building Alight Media into the business it is today. We have grown from a start-up into the UK’s number one digital billboard network for audience reach in just four years.

Our people, values and behaviours have been instrumental in our journey and what keeps me up at night is thinking about how we continue to scale while maintaining our brilliant culture. We have asked our team to collectively help us navigate through this with various volunteer groups from across our business.

Read more Fishbowl interviews here and see what media’s top salespeople say about working in the industry and what concerns their clients. To suggest an interviewee, contact ella.sagar@uk.adwanted.com.

Adwanted UK is the trusted delivery partner for three essential services which deliver accountability, standardisation, and audience data for the out-of-home industry. Playout is Outsmart’s new system to centralise and standardise playout reporting data across all outdoor media owners in the UK. SPACE is the industry’s comprehensive inventory database delivered through a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution which delivers the ooh industry’s audience data quickly and simply into clients’ systems. Contact us for more information on SPACE, J-ET, Audiotrack or our data engines.

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