Women In Digital – Debbie Ellison – Head of Digital at Geometry Global

Geometry Global combines data, insights and pitch perfect creativity to find and own precisely the right combination of spaces, places, moments and voices along the Purchase Decision Journey. This unique approach results in more people, buying more of our clients’ brands, more often.

Debbie Ellison, the Head of Digital at Geometry Global, was wonderful enough to squeeze a quick interview into her busy schedule to feature in our Women In Digital series. Read the full interview below…


There are several awards specifically for women in the industry, what personal accolade would you like to win and why?

I don’t have a specific award in mind but the two areas I’m particularly passionate about is new technology and developing and supporting young people’s careers within our industry.

My first award would be for “Effective marketing through the use of digital innovation or technology”. I’ve always suffered from my inner geek, so I’m constantly fascinated by the advancements technology and innovation can bring to marketing. I’m particularly interested in how we can use innovation to cut through quite a technology-apathetic younger generation and deliver outstanding results. We all believe that young people are the first to adopt and use new technology, but that can be a dangerous assumption. We are now marketing to a new breed of shopper who want maximum return for little effort and this is reshaping how we engage across the purchase journey.

The second award would be for “Future Leader” and would be given to someone on my team or whom I’d mentored. There is a certain mind-set and attitude that lends itself to being a member of a digital team. It’s one that is constantly reinventing, researching and learning. I’m proud that we continue to develop the careers of a number of young people within the digital team and our retention rate is second to none. Whilst we as an industry are getting better, I’m committed to creating opportunities for internships and work experience for young people that wouldn’t ordinarily think of advertising or digital as a career option or don’t have the network or contacts to get a look in. This means working closely with youth organisations and local schools or colleges and providing a structured learning experience.


What is there to look forward to in 2016 from your organisation?

I’m really excited for Geometry Global and there is much to look forward to in this year and into next. There are many agencies that exist to create brand love through awareness, but our unique proposition is helping to turn that brand love into action and sales. This means that we’re re-imagining the shopper like never before and like no other agency. We understand the complete purchase journey, the key points of influence and develop pivotal ideas that change shopper behaviour across that journey. To me that means we don’t deliver cookie cutter solutions, but unique, innovative experiences that really deliver results for our clients and engaging experiences for their shoppers. In digital, primarily that means mobile and social commerce, digital experiential and shoppable content/content which sells. As part of our armoury, we have a unique tool called Pathfinder, that uses Wi-Fi in-store to track shopper behaviour and enables us to build heat maps on how a store is being used. With the appropriate permissions in place, it also enables us to message shoppers in-store with context sensitive, relevant promotions and information. In the first quarter of next year, we’ll also be launching our new lab. A physical space within the agency that solely focuses on technology and innovation that influences shopper behaviour. We’ll bring to life, through a completely immersive experience, new shopper journeys influenced by technology such as gender and emotion recognition, beacons, RFID, NFC and wearables. Bringing all of this together means that this is truly an exciting time to be part of the team and agency.


Wearable technology, will you be an early adopter?

I bought an Apple watch for myself as a birthday present in May last year – shortly after it was made available to the public. I wore it for a little over eight weeks. For the non–fitness fanatic like me, wearables still have a long way to go. I was intrigued as to how the watch helped me make small changes in my work day, reminding me to go for a walk, stand up and nudge me to exceed previous goals it had set for me. Working in an office environment means you can go for long periods without doing any of the above and I’m convinced that small changes really can make a difference to overall health and wellbeing. The dependency the watch still has on the phone is a huge barrier to adoption and makes little sense to most people to carry both. I was keen to hear that anonymised data from wearables could be made available to health organisations, which would help to develop more effective health strategies and focus investment on prevention rather than cure. Connecting data from wearables to influence the in-store shopping experience is also an exciting opportunity for us, in particular connecting health data to the pharmacy experience.


If you could how would you boost the representation of women in the industry?

We need to be our own cheerleaders. We need to celebrate our achievements and support the development and achievements of other women. I have to admit, only in the last few years have I built up my own network of women (inside and outside the industry) who I respect and are trusted advisors and mentors. I’m not sure it comes as naturally to us and we need to expect women to do this at a much younger age. We need to be seen to be contributing more to thought leadership and speaking events to really inspire a new generation of women into the industry and also to champion the men in the industry that actively support us too.


Unemployment remains high what are your plans for expansion in 2016 and beyond and how best would you advise graduates looking to get into the sector?

Appraise your attitude! A lot can be said for someone who is keen, bright and willing to learn. We’ve helped to develop the careers of people who have had no experience in digital at all, but what’s really set them apart is the old cliché of a “can do” and positive attitude. Do your homework. Being aware of what’s going on in the industry and develop your own point of view – demonstrate that in your CV and in your interview. Above all, start building your support network. Foster relationships with people in the industry that can support your development. They don’t have to sign up to be a lifelong mentor but an hour here or there can be extremely valuable.


Have you ever felt that you have been discriminated because of your gender whilst pursuing your career?

I’m really happy to say that I’ve never felt discriminated against, although I do recognise it feels harder for women to reach beyond a glass ceiling. The pressures of work and home life are hard to balance and sometimes I struggle. I think it’s okay to admit that and I feel being honest might help to boost the representation of women in work generally. If our shoppers are diverse, we as an industry should seek to reflect that in our teams and across our organisational structure, if only to be self-serving and become more effective at what we do.

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