Dawn Paine launched Aurora, the creative agency for entertainment, gaming and tech, alongside her co-founder Valerie Bounds in the 2020 COVID lockdown.
In October 2021, the agency launched in Liverpool, where it is headquartered. It also has an office in Toronto, and works with brands like Lego Ventures, The Official Charts Company, and redwigwam.
Paine has a huge range of marketing experience, having been Universal Pictures’ VP Marketing and Nintendo’s UK Marketing Director from 2001 to 2012. She is also passionate about diversity and supporting female founders, as a long-serving member of Women in Advertising & Communications Leadership.
We found out the lessons she’s learnt…
Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?
Laughing – I believe if you can’t have fun and laugh everyday, what’s the point?
What’s been your luckiest break?
I’m not sure whether it was luck per se, but my big breakthrough for sure was becoming Marketing Director at Nintendo – the start of a 10-year love affair with the world’s most innovative and magical video games company.
What’s your best failure?
Probably the performance of the GameCube – it was a wonderful console but Nintendo at that point had little appeal to a more mainstream audience especially in the UK.
We had a blisteringly successful launch but sales struggled thereafter. It was a fantastic learning opportunity; we bottled all of those learnings and channelled them into creating a redefining five-year period in the UK gaming and entertainment landscape where, with the Wii and DS, we brought gaming out of the bedroom and into the lounge to be played by kids, parents and gamers alike. We even had grandparents gaming!
What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?
Since leaving corporate life, I’ve spent the last five or so years learning to transition from intrapreneur to entrepreneur – using this time for continuous learning, trial and error, nurturing relationships and learning how to build a high growth business – ably and wonderfully supported by my incredible Co-founder, Valerie Bounds.
Which book would you recommend others to read and why?
I could bang on about a whole host of business books which have been instrumental in my learning, but if it came down to one it would have to be ‘Wuthering Heights’.
Escape into the most beautifully written, visceral piece of literature ever crafted and delight in the gorgeous characters and gothic sensibility – I have always been a sucker for Heathcliff.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Utterly embrace being a smart, working class Liverpudlian female – and bring every aspect of that to work every day, using your voice to challenge the status quo.
And be an avid networker. That’s something I embraced quite late on in my career – re-frame the rather bland world to see networking instead as a series of interesting conversations.
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Satoru Iwata, who I worked under for almost eight years. Despite being the Global President of Nintendo, he took a deep fascination in marketing and spent a huge amount of time directly with his marketers.
We had ridiculous amounts of access to a person often described as akin to a Japanese Steve Jobs – he was an utter visionary, deeply philosophical and the epitome of humility. We had small meetings with him every eight weeks or so, where he was almost like our Professor.
He insisted his leadership teams read the reading lists he proposed every cycle of those meetings – ranging from ‘The Art of War’ to ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’. He fundamentally changed how I think, and taught all his Marketing Directors how to be disruptive business leaders. He sadly passed away a few years ago far too prematurely, and that still makes me sad today. A truly unique and irreplaceable human being.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
I’m a chess champion.
How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?
By normalising flexible and hybrid working internationally, enabling people to have the holistic life they want to live without the need for presenteeism and stupid commutes.
Aurora was born during COVID so we enable and encourage a hybrid model – right now we have staff working for us across the world in locations such as Toronto and Mexico City. We use every digital tool imaginable and every new client we have won has been won virtually!
What does success look like to you?
Being able to look back when I am old and retired and see that I was able to do things and create change that could not have happened without me.
And of course, right now, to build with Val a unique creative experience agency, headquartered in Liverpool but playing and winning on the global stage alongside the world’s biggest agencies.