“You will never walk away from a conversation with Helen Lin without having learned something,” says Publicis Media Global CEO Steve King about his peripatetic Chief Digital Officer, adding that “Helen is ‘the glue’ that connects Publicis Groupe’s digital leaders around the world.”
That’s the one-two punch that is Helen Lin: a human connector par excellence — she describes herself as an “extreme collaborator”— but also a relentless innovator. These twin characteristics made her being named a 2018 Online Media All-Star all but inevitable. That, and her adroit managing of the digital portion of $42.8 billion media billings on behalf of 1,600 brands worldwide.
In fact, Publicis wryly explains in its submission statement that Lin was advanced from head of digital investment and global partnerships for Publicis Media agencies to her current title last July because her old job “did not capture her true remit, which she continues to demonstrate has no limits.”
Studded like gemstones throughout Lin’s career are innovations and firsts. In her five years as managing director of digital and magazine activation at Zenith, she integrated the Publicis media shop’s print and and digital activation teams, a first for the industry. Also at Zenith, she evolved the digital analytics practice into a full-service offering embedded in the agency’s strategy discipline. This brought analytics closer to client strategy and paved the way for yet another innovation, bringing programmatic in-house.
At the holding company level, Lin has established global viewability standards and rolled out Publicis Media’s Human Viewable CPM, designed to put pressure on the industry to improve third-party metrics and verification.
Fueling this endless invention is Lin’s restless curiosity about the culture she lives in and the industry she stars in. “I’m always thinking we’re on the verge of something huge societally,“ she explains. “The industry is challenged now. Data protection, content moderation: They are the fires of today, but so foundational for us to have the tomorrow that we want.”
Lin uses her twin superpowers to great effect at the industry level as well. Publicis Media joined forces with other holding companies to create the Advertising Protection Bureau (APB) to tackle brand safety (what Lin means by “content moderation”). APB recently developed a Brand Safety Floor and a Brand Suitability Framework, which are designed to help agencies, advertisers, publishers, platforms and verification vendors develop brand-by-brand digital buying guidelines that align ads with specific categories of content.
Lin was recently named the digital chair for the American Advertising Federation. And she is deeply involved in Publicis Media’s Diversity & Inclusion Board and helped create the company’s Women’s Business Resource Group.
People notice. Tara Walpert Levy, vice president, agency and media solutions at Google, says that “at a time when growth imperatives are more urgent than ever, Helen’s clients — and all of us as an industry — are lucky to have her at the helm, helping navigate across a complex ecosystem to create simple, meaningful, long-term solutions that will enable all of us to win at a game that has already changed.”
For Helen Lin, it’s even more basic than that. All she wants, she says, is “an elegant future. How can data help us live a better life?”