Verve’s New CEO: ‘Location Is The Sweet Spot Of Mobile Advertising’

Acxiom vet Nada Stirratt is looking to spread the good word about location-based advertising in her new role as CEO of Verve Mobile, announced Monday.

“The last few years have been about Angry Birds and app downloads, but now the market is finally talking about reaching consumers in particular locations,” said Stirratt, who comes to Verve after more than three years as CRO at Acxiom, where she helped guide last year’s LiveRamp acquisition.

Verve hasn’t deviated from the core hypothesis the company was founded on in 2005, said Stirratt, who takes the reins from former CEO Tom MacIsaac.

“People are going to continue to buy things at a location – more than 90% of our commerce is conducted in brick-and-mortar stores,” she said. “That’s the premise we were built on, and we don’t see it changing. Verve has been evangelizing around this for the last 10 years, but it’s now that the message is really starting to resonate.”

Verve has 150 employees spread across three offices in Carlsbad, California; Bethesda, Maryland; and New York City, where it has its headquarters. Clients include Kohl’s, Nordstrom, P&G, Macy’s, Best Buy, H&M, Mercedes-Benz, AT&T, Diageo, Kraft, Hallmark, Well Fargo and Target. The company, which has raised $36.9 million since 2008 and has been profitable since the fourth quarter of 2013, is set to do more than $75 million in revenue in 2015.

Stirratt talked with AdExchanger on Day 1 of her new post.

AdExchanger: What’s at the top of your to-do list?

NADA STIRRATT: Number one is to get educated about all of the details and nuances of Verve’s product suite. I also want to consider our expansion plans in terms of categories, both where we already do work and where else we want to go.

But the biggest thing is to amplify Verve in the marketplace. Until now, mobile advertising has been all about app downloads. We’ve been doing location-based mobile advertising for 10 years, and it’s only really this year that the market recognized that location is the sweet spot of mobile advertising.

Speaking of category expansion, who are you looking for, client-wise?

We already do retail, CPG and auto really well, but travel would be interesting, as would telco. We’ve seen early success in tests sponsored by state tourism boards, and there’s a lot of money to be had there. And in terms of telco, it’s become much more of a retail-focused experience for consumers these days.

Another thing I’d like to do is get more aggressive about our agency partnerships. We already do business with agencies, but there’s room for us to have deeper, more strategic relationships beyond working with an agency for a particular marketer.

We’ll also be investing aggressively in global expansion into markets like China. I’m incredibly passionate about China.

How will your Acxiom skill set factor into what you’re hoping to achieve at Verve?

What Acxiom does so well is help marketers understand the importance of first-party data usage in a privacy-compliant way. I learned a lot about the ethical use of data.

My experience will also come into play in many ways because I have a lot of premium relationships for hyper-local inventory. And the premium advertisers we do business with at Verve are the ones I’m also familiar with from my AOL, MTV and MySpace days.

Where is Verve now, and where do you want it to be in a year?

Right now, we’re growing by double digits, and we’re profitable. That’s really important from a mid-stage startup perspective. In terms of where we’ll be, we’re making investments in global expansion. We’re going to tighten existing agency relationships and create more strategic ones.

How does Verve stack up against juggernauts like Facebook and Google that are sucking all the air out of the room?

From a numbers perspective, both are enormous. I get that, and I admire what they’ve built. But we also have a story to tell. Perhaps the first-party location data we collect will lead to different, possibly better responses than online intent data. There are going to be nuances between Google and Facebook that we could fill for the marketer.

We’re in the second inning of what will be the future of all marketing. There will be scale plays, quality plays, data plays, tech plays, creative plays – there are so many ways the market can evolve. And that means there is certainly room for other providers and partners.

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