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20 Questions with Sarah Wood of Unruly

Q&A with Sarah Wood, City's newest Honorary Graduate.

by Kyla Jardine (Senior Communications Officer)

Sarah Wood is the co-founder and co-CEO of Unruly, the ad tech company that helps brands get their videos watched, tracked and shared online. Their most famous campaigns include Dove’s 'Real Beauty Sketches' - the most viewed online video ad of all time; Evian's Roller Babies and T-Mobile’s 'Life’s For Sharing'. In 2015, Sarah was named City AM’s 'Entrepreneur of the Year' and Debrett’s listed her as one of the 500 Most Influential People in Britain. She lives in her London with her husband and three children.

Did you ever imagine you’d end up running an ad tech company?
In a word? No.

What do you enjoy most about working at Unruly?
The feeling of being part of an awesome team, all working together to build a business that has a positive impact - on our people, the ad industry and wider business culture. I really enjoy connecting people and ideas from different walks of life whether that’s bringing the latest academic marketing research to industry practitioners or the next-generation of video makers to big brands and agencies.

What is your biggest professional achievement to date?
Setting up City Unrulyversity, the first pop-up university for entrepreneurs was huge. Also, selling Unruly to News Corp was a significant milestone and will help us accelerate our growth and innovation in the coming years.

What’s it like working in Tech City?
Great coffee, great people, not-so-great rent rises.

What are your predictions for social video marketing?
With the Summer Olympics and the UEFA European Football Championships, 2016 will be competitive for marketers, with brands hungry for a piece of the action! Vertical video will explode and we’ll see brands explore VR as a storytelling platform for creating new and immersive viewer experiences. And as ad blocking grows, we’ll see more brands investing in a more sustainable, consumer-friendly marketing strategy - social, not anti-social video ads!

What’s next for Unruly?
We’re seeing huge growth in revenues from UnrulyX, the first media exchange to trade on viewable video impressions bought via RTB, and we’ll continue to build our presence in Asia Pacific and the USA. We’ll be working with brands that are committed to creating and distributing ads that engage - not enrage - consumers.

What was the best piece of advice you’ve received?

"Advice is over-rated" from Scott Button, my co-CEO, and Nike's 'Just Do It'.

What advice would you give to a new graduate?

Just do it! Learning by doing is the best way to fast track your experience, make plenty of mistakes and find out what you enjoy.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
My children - they’re curious, positive, full of energy and optimism - and they manage to get up so early!

Which book changed your life?
When I was 16, my Auntie Ann gave me The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressel, a book which made a huge impression and taught me that working for the collective good is more rewarding than individual success.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Technology will not save us; empathy will save us. If you can put yourself in other people’s shoes, your world view will be transformed.

What piece of technology would you like to see made into a reality?
Driverless cars. It would mean less pollution, fewer crashes, no need for car ownership or driving tests!

Marmite…yay or nay?
Yay! On toast and in chocolate.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
At various points before the age of 16, I wanted to be a newspaper editor, a head teacher, the Prime Minister and the first female bishop.

What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
When I was 12 I got a job as an egg packer. I broke A LOT of eggs.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
It would be a picnic in Bluebell Wood with my mum, my husband and my kids. Prosecco and pork pies all round!

What’s your favourite app?
Trello for productivity, Uber for convenience and BorrowMyDoggy for finding furry friends in my neighbourhood!

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I’d like to see Elizabeth I in action, or Cleopatra if the time-travel budget was big enough.

What country or city would you like to visit and why?
I'd go to Iceland for hot springs and Japan for the blossom.

Last album you bought?
That would be way back - Spotify meets all my music needs! But I can tell you that the last gig I went to was Rodriguez at the Royal Albert Hall.

Read about Sarah receiving an honorary degree from City.

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