“We’re in a world now where imagery is the world language. It’s all about the power of the image, the power of storytelling.”

 

Dawn Airey has a warm smile, a trustworthy handshake and a presence that puts new acquaintances at ease.

The former Senior Vice President of Yahoo!’s EMEA business, Airey is the kind of woman who is, like a seasoned photojournalist, infinitely curious, and, like a renowned art director, extremely visionary.

And she has a quick wit, bantering in the September sun with Getty Images Co-founder Jonathan Klein as if they have been friends for years. In actuality, the two only have known each other less than six months, but their bond is special, their relationship unique: As announced today, Airey will soon take leadership as Getty Images’ CEO, a position Klein has held since founding the company with Mark Getty in 1995 (Klein will become chairman).

They are thrilled for each other.

“Dawn’s expertise is extensive and diverse,” Klein said. “Dawn understands the importance of visual content and has pioneered and led content businesses her entire career. At its core, this is what Getty images is all about: engaging people through the immense power of imagery.”

Airey agrees.

“What attracted me to Getty Images was simply the medium,” she said. “We’re in a world now where imagery is the world language. It’s all about the power of the image, the power of storytelling.”

Airey knows this power well. In fact, it has been a driving force throughout her life and career. Upon graduating from Cambridge University in the 1980s and joining the London-based ITV, the UK native learned that what she was most interested in – and talented at – was enabling some of the most creative people get their stories broadcast.

Award-winning Getty Images Special Correspondent John Moore photographs Getty Images Co-Founder and Chairman Jonathan Klein together with Getty Images CEO Dawn Airey. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
Award-winning Getty Images Special Correspondent John Moore photographs Getty Images Co-Founder and Chairman Jonathan Klein together with Getty Images CEO Dawn Airey. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

“In my early days in the world of television, because of my curiosity about storytelling, combined with my innate interest in monetizing compelling content, I became a scheduler — deciding what times shows would air to maximize not only audience share but also revenue,” Airey said. “And I became quite good at that.”

Airey quickly moved through the ranks of ITV and was soon noticed by then-upstart Channel 5. She joined the team that would launch the network, becoming its Chairwoman and Chief Executive.

“What I really loved about Channel 5 was that it was back to that nexus of doing something different with creatives. When you’re launching a new channel, there’s no point to doing what everyone else is doing. You’ve got to do something different. And we had a fraction of our competitors’ money – so we had to work out not only how we could be different, but how we could be better, raise the game. The wonderful thing was that anything was possible … and against all odds, we built something exceptional.”

Equally, she sees a bright future ahead for Getty Images.

“Getty Images is a company which has done extraordinary things already, but the digital world has given us so much more opportunity to commercialize what we have and to be far more consumer focused than we have been,” Airey said. “20 years ago, Getty Images started a new industry, and is still the market leader. The idea that I could be part of the next phase of the journey, I have to say, I’m hugely honored.”

The company’s culture also attracted her, she said, as Getty Images is known for having a particular ethos, based on seven Leadership Principles that Klein developed many years ago: trustworthiness and transparency; having an obligation to care for one another; bringing solutions when confronted with challenges; being bold and not settling for mediocrity; leading by example; breaking down silos and moving as one unit after decisions have been made. These principles have given Getty Images a warmth that sets it apart from other companies in the content/media/tech space, and even spurred an Instagram hashtag, #myGettyoffice, which employees use to show their Getty Images pride.

“For me it all starts with people,” Airey said. “Among everybody I’ve met at Getty Images, there has been a consistency – the openness, the can-do nature, the ambition for the company, the real passion for the business – it’s infectious. To come here was an irresistible proposition, so I didn’t resist.”

Learn more about Dawn Airey and her vision for Getty Images. Watch the video: