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With New Leadership In Place, Verve’s Message: ‘Mobile Without Location Is Just Digital Advertising’

With last week’s hiring of ad vet Kevin Arrix as CRO, Verve aims to show marketers that this is the real mobile moment.

Verve's Kevin Arrix
Verve’s Kevin Arrix

Verve Mobile’s hiring of digital ad sales veteran Kevin Arrix as chief revenue officer represented the filling of the last major hole in the company’s leadership team, which has been carefully remade by CEO Nada Stirratt over the past few months. As Arrix, who previously worked with Stirratt during their respective leadership tenures at Viacom MTV Networks, continues his march into mobile advertising, we asked him to look back at his past four years at mobile rewards and entertainment platform Viggle and how that might influence his focus as CRO.

Arrix was joined in the conversation by Verve CMO Julie Bernard, who also weighed in on Verve’s rebuilding and whether the current controversy of ad blocking is something the company and its clients are concerned about.

GeoMarketing: It would be easy to assume that your history working with Nada Stirratt at Viacom was a big factor in your decision to come to Verve. What else drew you to the company?

Kevin Arrix: Not only is Nada a great leader, but the personnel that she’s assembled so far, plus the space Verve is in, and the direction that they’re going, all made it a pretty clear choice. I haven’t jumped around to too many opportunities over the last 15 years. When I do, I like to make them count. And this one, again, I think it’s on the right side of the conversation buyers and sellers are having.

You’ve been part of those conversations at SFX and Viggle. Is there

Working at Viggle did a few things. One, when I got there it was couple months before the product actually launched. I had the opportunity, which I’ve done over the course of my career, of building a team, from seller operations and everything alongside that.

Now, Verve’s in a different place. It’s been around for a few years and there’s a lot of very talented folks here. It’s less about building it from the ground up and more about how do we add a few dimensions to what currently exists. To get us to the next level of revenue and opportunity.

Viggle was a great “sleeves rolled up” introduction for me into the mobile space. Some of the things I loved about Viggle are the fact that it was mobile, it was social, it was data-centric, individual-specific. I’ve got a good background now following the last four years with Viggle. And it should only sort of allow me to wrap up that much more quickly here at Verve.

When you started at Viggle, mobile advertising was emerging from its nascent stage. How do you see the opportunities and challenges generally associated with mobile right now?

One thing that I think is pretty clear when you talk about mobile advertising: If you went back 10, maybe 12 years ago, you always saw those consumer consumption charts of what are consumers doing in their average day. They’re watching TV, they’re reading, they’re online, and there was always that delta of time spent online versus online advertising. Obviously, that gap has closed significantly over the last decade. I think mobile is in that same spot right now. When you look at what are consumers doing with their time, the time spent on mobile is massive.

I think that the advertising dollars that are generated against that specific medium, don’t match the actual time spent. That to me is the biggest opportunity, and I think this is individual property and networks both. I think everyone’s trying to figure out what is that proper way to communicate to a consumer through their mobile device, which is more personal than anything else that they have.

From the conversations that I’ve had with Nada and the team just in the short time that I’ve been here, I think they’ve got a really good handle on how to properly leverage data, plus creative, plus lots of other information and put the right message in front of the right person.

Verve's Nada Stirratt
Verve’s Nada Stirratt

In terms of putting the right message in front of the right person and the data that goes into that, is this a difficult time to take on the CRO role with issues like ad blocking causing some concern throughout the industry?

My initial take is [that ad blocking is] is a big topic for the advertising and marketing industry, no doubt about it. Is it top of the list for Verve right now? Maybe less so, because I think app space is slightly different than the web space when it comes to ad blocking.

It’s certainly something that we all need to be very up to speed on and we need to understand, if and when it does become a major factor in the app world, how we’re going to handle it. I don’t think it’s at the top of my list, in terms of what are we going to focus on, what are we going to put our efforts against.

Julie Bernard:  The good news for us is that the ad blocking conversation doesn’t really apply to the in-app experience. With the vast majority of mobile traffic and engagement occurring in-app as opposed to mobile web, we’re currently in a position where it doesn’t really effects us in how deliver values here, Whether it’s through the self-service mobile program app or through a managed service scenario.

We’re comfortable with our particular place in this conversation. As an industry, we should be having these types of conversations. There’s a lot of rhetoric around brands and their agencies representing them, wanting to be customer centric. We have an obligation if we say that to bring life into it and not just have it be a bunch of buzz words that we’re all customer first. When we say we want to deliver relevant, meaningful, valuable messaging in content, we actually have to do that.

The only reason someone would start to block your ads is if you’re not delivering against that industry brand promise of customer relevance, and customer “centricity.” We think it’s a healthy conversation for our industry to be having and I think it will generate more invention and innovation in this space across the whole paradigm from audience selection, targeting, and the analytics on the back end.

We’re excited to be a part of that conversation and I think we’ll see a lot more evolution on this topic in the next 6 to 12 months.

Verve's Julie Bernard
Verve’s Julie Bernard

Julie, Verve has done a lot of rebuilding since Nada was named CEO in April. With the hiring of Kevin now, and yourself in June, what stage would you say the company is at in terms of its remaking?

JB: There is a lot of excitement with Kevin joining our team around the fact that it does allow us to complete the assembly of our leadership team. What’s an exciting sight to see is pretty healthy media investments from our clients going into Q4. It shows me that clients and advertisers have a great deal of confidence in the effectiveness of mobile and mobile location marketing as a part of their role mix.

Tom Kenny, our founder and chief innovation officer, has a great quote that sums it all up: “The reality is mobile without location is really just digital advertising.”

That really has resonated with a lot of people. I think we’re starting to see that our clients get that the general idea of mobile advertising is great, “mobile-first” is great, but mobile with location is where the magic happens.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

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