How I did it: Dafina Keys


Senior Group Account Director Dafina Keys tells us how a diverse background in publishing and production now helps her to manage campaigns for one of the UK’s biggest health and wellbeing companies.


What career did you decide to pursue after leaving university?

I had always kept an open mind about the career I wanted, but I knew it would involve my strong mathematical and commercial background. That’s how I found myself, after graduating (far back in another century!), going to an interview for a marketing executive at what I thought was a local publisher in Hammersmith. It turned out to be not so much a local publisher as a global publishing business – called De Agostini. I got the job.

Tell us about De Agostini

At that time, the company specialised in collectables, or partworks as they were more commonly known. You know, those annoying things advertised on TV with part one at 99p and thereafter at an increased price. Partworks were in the ascendancy, and the firm was enjoying global success. The business was growing and offered enormous opportunity for the young team that we all were back then.

What was your day job?

Across my tenure at De Agostini, I was fortunate enough to gain broad experience in many marketing and commercial functions across European, Australasian and American markets. The scope, responsibility and opportunities varied from day to day. For example, I managed TV commercial productions with lots of different talent – from Brian Clough for World Cup ’90 to live tarantulas for the magazine Bug. I also helped set up the business in Tokyo and trained the Japanese team in the nuances of partworks.

I helped to set up and run a marketing services department, negotiate licences, scope bespoke financial modelling tools and travel the globe – much like a UN peace envoy – as we rolled out a matrix management model, to launch proven UK products internationally.

How long did you work at De Agostini?

I spent most of 20 years working there, with brief sojourns at a distribution company, video production and computer magazine publisher, before moving to consumer magazine publishing. My time at De Agostini gave me so much experience, which led me into my next role as publisher at Motor Sport magazine. Well, experience combined with my love of motor racing!

Now you’re at River! What has your role as Senior Group Account Director led you to achieve?

At River, which I joined in 2012, I have developed the Holland & Barrett account to include a greater diversity of content, drive customer acquisition and retention through new distribution channels and create content for extended territories. While the objective is to deliver value for our clients and content that drives intent, basket spend and frequency, we are constantly evolving our approach and methods to meet the client’s needs.

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