Verve Hires Mobile Ad Vet Mark Fruehan To Streamline Enterprise, SMB, Programmatic Focus

“We are going to put our work around Movement Science into the hands of participants from small and mid-size businesses on up,” Fruehan says. “In an important sense, we are now talking about the democratization of their marketplace.”

Verve has spent the last four years reinventing itself from its hyperlocal ad network beginnings that date back to 2005 and into a location-based programmatic marketplace with aims to capture both enterprise and SMB clients, as well as capture analytics from the world at large while attempting to serve messages with in-store proximity.

The ambitions of growing and maintaining a one-stop shop can be cumbersome, as varying parts focus in different directions. So to try to tie all of it together, New York-based Verve is bringing in Mark Fruehan to the newly created role of EVP Enterprise & Platforms.

Fruehan “will guide go-to-market strategy and scale demand for the company’s programmatic, enterprise, and indoor location solutions,” a company release says. Before joining Verve, Fruehan co-founded and led sales and business development for Botworx, a global enterprise chatbot platform.

He previously held executive posts at mobile ad companies Opera, AdMarvel, and Verisign in addition to serving as an advisor, board member, and investor to early stage ventures and established tech companies alike.

He will report to CEO Tom Kenney.

GeoMarketing: What interested you in joining Verve and taking on this new post?

Mark Fruehan: I’ve known [Verve CEO ]Tom Kenney since the beginning of Verve and since the start of it all. Back when I was part of the founding team at AdMarvel, we’d always work close together — in fact, Verve was one of the top monetization partners for our publishers. I’ve always kept in touch with Tom, and what Verve has been up to, and especially lately. We had the opportunity to meet up; we talked about what Verve is doing, and what he told me was very exciting. So, I came back to him with one big question — how I can contribute; how can I help take Verve to the next level?

As you take on the newly created role of EVP, Enterprise & Platforms, what’s your initial definition of the position and what are your initial priorities?

Verve is one of the leaders in this space, a leader in mobile advertising monetization targeted at location and in-the-moment advertising.

One of my first priorities is to take the platform, which they’ve now foregrounded as a software service as well as a managed services suite — the self-service component is called Verve Velocity — and build up this side of the business as a SaaS model. That’s where I start, day one. I mean, this is why I asked Tom how I could help — this is exciting to me, especially in that we can apply this platform to the world of programmatic, and it’s especially exciting because of where programmatic is taking the whole industry.

Also, we already have partners like Cox, and Valassis, and DexYP. So, if we’re talking priorities and next steps, let’s now go get all the mid-level marketers and the agencies that support them. I expect we have thousands of people and organizations who can absolutely use our technology to market to their customers, to boost their consumer engagement capabilities, and to improve their experience in the marketplace. Those are the types of partnership evaluations that I’m looking at, and we’re going to scale quickly as we identify their needs.

Are there any particular verticals you plan to concentrate on as you begin this role?

Anything tied to location. Local news, weather, and sports. Retail, of course, and we’re already deep in that mix. Hospitality. Auto. QSR. Anything tied to entertainment and hospitality and retail is very, very complementary to how we envision location-powered mobile marketing at this moment.

You’re also overseeing the reseller relationships that connect Verve to SMBs. What do you see as the initial focus in that area?

Again, it gets back to the platform, putting the best tools into the hands of every one of our partners, including Verve Velocity, obviously, but this is also about foregrounding our commitment to Movement Science as both a strategic and tactical advantage. For our partners, this technology is a very powerful thing, and, if I learned one thing over the years, it’s that powerful technology is a great equalizer. So, we are going to put our work around Movement Science into the hands of participants across the spectrum — from small and mid-size businesses on up. Because they should get to have tools that are just as powerful as the ones that are leveraged at the agencies. In an important sense, we are now talking about the democratization of their marketplace.

Part of the role calls for plotting a strategy around proximity marketing via Bluetooth-powered beacons and connected lighting fixtures. Do you primarily see these tools as ways to enhance loyalty marketing programs, or do you envision other use cases?

Remember, first, that we’ve seen an ebb and a flow in beacon technology. It came out with so much fanfare and then it slowed down a little bit. The whole hype cycle. Now, beacons are coming back into focus and everyone understands them better. We have innovative companies like AcuityBrands, for example, putting beacon technology into lighting fixtures. So, here, we just took down a huge hurdle for retailers on implementing, deploying, and maintaining beacons. If we make it that much easier for businesses to deploy, putting the technology into the infrastructure they need to acquire anyway, now we can start to unlock the potential that comes with real scale. And the potential isn’t limited to foot traffic and in-the-moment offers. We’re talking about really powerful data that beacons supply that fuels analytics and strategy making, and metrics, and all the things that we now understand to be central to the beacon ecosystem and the future of the device.

Do you see any role for Verve in terms of shaping the marketing landscape around bots and voice activated digital assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, Bixby?

All the voice providers, Siri, Alexa, Bixby … what we love is that this interface technology is on-device technology. It’s on the device in two ways, at least. You’ve got the publishers and app developers adding a voice component to their on-device apps — getting their services in front of users on their terms (voice, text, display, and video). In this sense, voice is an interface of the app — the app on the smartphone, on the tablet, on the device. And then you have the in-home hardware such as Echo and Alexa, HomePod, Google Home … all the interfaces we’re watching enter households in the moment.

As these newer interfaces get better, as people get more comfortable using them, here we are, right where we need to be to help our partners leverage this evolving on-device landscape. I mean, it’s not unfamiliar, right? Users on devices that travel around with them. Users with devices that link together, in some cases — smartphones and speakers and voice-based hubs. We are one of the players positioned right at the heart of these ideas, delivering a mobile-first platform with which we can take that location-based data, ingest it into a location intelligence service, and provide the insights it generates to our partners. So, we love voice. More voice, more on-device. Embracing this kind of technology is to everyone’s advantage.

Is there anything in your previous roles at Botworx and Opera that have informed your thinking about the state of mobile?

One word: trust. In this industry, trust is the banner you want to fly. As we move forward, as we go from opportunity to opportunity, this job is not just about educating and evangelizing — and I am an evangelist and I do believe that educating across verticals is crucial to what we do — but, look, you want to be the trusted party that partners know and that they rely upon first.

Whether it’s Opera, or it’s Verve, or whether it’s me — thinking about how I’ve build and crafted my business approach over time — the through-line is always about earning the trust of the people I talk to, and the people I’m going talk to next. Leaders in this industry, and up-and-comers too, they trust you when they know you’ve been around for long enough to develop some real marketplace wisdom, that you’ve taken your knocks and learned and gotten better each time — that you’ve earned your success by being good partners and treating people right and that you never stop driving for the last yard in the game. Trust means business. Trust keeps customers. Trust earns you the permission and the right to take the big next steps that help this industry evolve.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.