David Parkinson | The Innovator 25

David Parkinson

The Innovator 25: David Parkinson

Head of digital, Africa, Middle East, India, Nissan


Influence & Engagement

"There is a fine line between innovator and troublemaker — my advice is to know which side of the company line to stand and when"
After starting out on the production line, Parkinson moved into IT at Nissan before rising up the ranks to his current role overseeing digital across Africa, the Middle East and India. Along the way, he has been intimately involved with some of the automaker's biggest marketing successes, including the Qashqai Europe launch — which fused social media and digital to compelling effect. Parkinson has demonstrated a knack for driving strong results at scale, such as the developing a centralised cross-functional social media team for Nissan across three different continents, and setting up a global listening platform that has translated into stronger insights for social management. And, it's probably worth noting that Parkinson must be one of the few 'social media experts' that has actually built cloud and internet solutions for a company of Nissan's size.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Planning & analytics.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
Lagging other industries.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Content & creativity.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?
Other marketing agency.

How do you define innovation?
Failing fast to provide successful change.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
The #LikeAGirl campaign really hit a sweet spot of product and emotion, as did the #ThisGirlCan campaign in the UK. In the Middle East I would also like to highlight the ‘Sapna – How 17,793 nails shaped the future for generations to come’ campaign for its CSR drive.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
AKQA, Nike, Adidas, Oreo, TBWA New York.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
The development of a pan European COE organisation for social when most people were struggling to get to grips with Facebook and also the launch of the Nissan Qashqai which I led and set a new benchmark in OOH.

Who is your mentor and why?
My Kindle and YouTube serves a good mentor where I read and listen to people I admire such as Simon Sinek, Scott Galloway and Malcolm Gladwell. My first real boss at Nissan, Roger Jeffries, also taught me a lot. Having started on the production line moving into a corporate environment without a formal degree in the early 90's was tough and he helped shape my first teachings into how to navigate corporate politics and get things done.

How do you get inspired?
I find inspiration everywhere - from books, to TV, to observing everyday life.    I think its by viewing the normal and the abnormal and how that shapes human behaviour leads to ideas and thoughts to help us drive forward new things.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
There is a fine line between innovator and troublemaker — my advice is to know which side of the company line to stand and when. If you're on the troublemaker side too often you won't be taken seriously and become very frustrated very quickly. If you're in the corporate mindset too long you will find it hard to reshape your thinking regularly. Do things that take you out of your comfort zone, and know when to take others out of theirs.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
The shower. For some reason my best ideas come from there. I read some interesting studies around its to do with the one place you completely relax and switch off and its that switching off that leads to new thoughts.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
I like the time from 4 - 8 - its when I am most productive and work flows better. I try to ensure my day is structured so the most important things I do fall into that timeslot.