Five Minutes with Alex Ayling, Head of Digital Studios for BBC Worldwide

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As part of our "Five Minutes with..." Annual 2018 judges series, meet Alex Ayling.

Tell us what you do for a living?

I’m Head of Digital Studios for BBC Worldwide.

What does that involve?

Mostly making fun internet content (videos and more…) for fans of our global franchises including Doctor Who, Top Gear, BBC Earth as well as lovely pre-school animations Hey Duggee, Go Jetters and Sarah & Duck.

What do you love about your job?

It’s a privilege to work on brands that have such passionate, talented and creative fan bases – of course, that comes with its own challenges, but nothing beats being able to connect with people from all corners of the globe and give them a brilliant shared experience.

What do you hate about your job?

On balance I’d probably say it was trying to manage my email inbox. For a brief moment earlier this year I actually achieved Inbox Zero, but it didn’t last long…

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing that?

I honestly don’t know! TV was my first love, but I now also love the internet and its myriad creative possibilities – so whatever I did I’d probably still be at the intersection of those things. Although if professional pub quiz player were a job, that would be mighty tempting…

Do you work with an in-house creative team, an agency, or both?

I’ve got a small but brilliant multi-discipline team in-house who are platform experts and know our audiences back-to-front too. But I also love working with external creative agencies or production companies, as they give us a fresh perspective on how to engage audiences as well as a greater diversity of output and voices on our channels.

What do you look for in a creative agency?

An audience-first approach, strong conviction behind their ideas but also a willingness to be flexible and adaptable to change. And for them to be nice people!

What is the single thing that matters the most when working with a creative agency?

Taking the time to properly consider the specifics of our platforms and brands – and the different relationships that our audiences have with them. And especially not just recycling old pitches with our logo added to them.

You’re judging Digital this year, what are you looking for in submissions?

Something effective, designed specifically for the platform it was distributed on and with a key audience insight at its heart. It’s not enough to take creative from another medium and just slap it up on the internet now – people are savvy and they can smell out inauthenticity or outright laziness.

What is your all-time favourite piece of creative work/campaign?

Autotune The News by the Gregory Brothers on YouTube was the first online format that showed me the seismic shift we were about to experience. Better access to tools has led to the democratisation of content creation, which has meant new opportunities for all sorts of non-traditional content creators to get their voices heard. And the former gatekeepers of old now have to adapt to this new paradigm, or they’ll become irrelevant and inessential to the audience. I love being kept on my toes by the new guard.

What is your favourite website/app/tool?

I’m addicted to HQ Trivia right now. And I really do love a short-lived, super specific WhatsApp group. The new-ish Chrome extension for Pocket has led me to discover some great articles that I might otherwise not have stumbled across. My top 1 website of all time though is xkcd.com

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would love to have an eidetic memory – does that count as a superpower? Would be handy for the quizzes…


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