digiday:TARGET Presents: Rob Gorrie, Windsurfer, Entrepreneur, Next-Gen CEO.
By Wendy McHale, Publisher
Rob Gorrie is a windsurfer. It's a sport that requires enthusiasts to acquire their balance and core stability by having a good understanding of sailing theory. From the shore, while it looks graceful and almost easy, windsurfing speeds can reach as high as 50 knots. For those more comfortable on highways than on high waves, this translates into about 60 MPH.
It's no surprise that Rob enjoys being in the great outdoors. His company, ADCENTRICITY is digitizing it. As CEO, Rob and company are sailing through the often turbulent waters of Madison Avenue these days with the wind at their backs. ADCENTRICITY is balancing and stabilizing the digital out of home (DOOH) business as never before, so that buyers can schedule DOOH into their media programs with the grace and ease of one phone call.
I got a chance to catch up with Mr. Gorrie on shore recently, where we talked about challenges and excitement that come from making waves in this incredibly high-speed growth business.
Wendy: How's it going?
Rob: It goes very well, thank you!
Wendy: Before we chat about ADCENTRICITY and industry trends, tell me a little bit about your background? Where did you go to school? What kind of degree do you have?
Rob: I attended the University of Western Ontario for a major in economics and a minor in computer programming. I usually try to keep it quiet that I used to crank out code for a living though.
Wendy: LOL! You describe yourself as an entrepreneur by trade. ADCENTRICITY is not the first company you've launched. Tell me about your other ventures.
Rob: Well first of all I'm from a family of a few entrepreneurs. My father and uncle both own or have owned companies. My father's company, Gorrie Marketing www.gorrie.com is actually over 125 years old in the retail, point-of-purchase, display and environmental design and retail industry (e.g. all global displays for RIM). I grew up learning about the effectiveness of in-store advertising and marketing, which has given me a great base for the business I find myself in today. I never really went to work for the family company, however, as I was a little too independent and wanted to prove myself.
Wendy: Right, a true entrepreneur.
Rob: My first company, theciti.com, was a digital agency that was focused on business objective response programs that leveraged any and all digital touch points to execute against a brand need. Sprint, LG, Toshiba and Unilever are all past clients in varying capacities.
Rob: After that I created Brand Perspective, which was a "Software as a Solution" (SaaS) company focused on monetizing retail training and incentive programs at retail. Basically, it helped manufacturers like LG understand the best training and incentive programs and how to use them together to get the most return out of their non-owned sales forces in places like Best Buy. From what I hear, these systems are still in use even years later.
Wendy: Great idea.
Rob: So ADCENTRICITY is my third company. I wrote the business plan about 4 years ago but the market wasn't ready so I waited until March 2007 to start the company.
Wendy: Why wasn't the market ready?
Rob: Part of launching good companies, beyond having the "idea" and bringing together a great team, is understanding when a market is ready for that idea. Great companies can die young if they launch too early or too late.
Rob: At the time, there weren't quite enough networks or belief at the agency level in full scale DOOH and there wasn't enough density to make it a national play that really mattered and would have the needed impact. At the same time, buyers just weren't ready to buy in the space. That was 2004/2005. Fast forward to 2006 when I revisited the arena and I saw that 2007 would be when folks would really start evaluating it and also knew of many new networks about to launch so decided to make the leap!
Wendy: You were recently interviewed by Forbes.com about 21st century networking. How do you make social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn work for you?
Rob: I find the social networking sites incredibly valuable. They allow you to interact with a much larger group of people than you ordinarily be able to. I've had several heads of agency folk who have reached out and connected with me, starting the dialogue with them and resulting in meetings and many quotes and a longer standing relationship with them and their people.
Wendy: That's great!
Rob: When it comes to our social marketing for ADCENTRICITY, it's more about being a part of the conversation and not being the conversation. Some people want to hear what we have to say, but to keep them interested and involved with our company and our messages we have to talk about things that matter to them or things they're involved in and continually strive to improve our message and services or we get filtered out.
Wendy: Right, it can't just be about promoting the company 24/7.
Rob: > Right. Social marketing and networking are really about connectedness and access to information, events and concepts that matter, or are relevant to that individual. Digital technology just hyper-escalates how much you can consume and how fast you can filter it. As a consumer or client, you have the ability to chose who and what you want to relate to in any of the channels which means, as a provider, that you have to continually improve what you're saying to keep their interest.
Wendy: Yes, most of us have very short attention spans these days.
Rob: Right but best part is it's two way conversation, so those who decide I may have something to say and read about it, can also tell me I'm full of it when they want to and we get to learn from that and improve our own message. I have to admit, I've had to tone down my Twitter and Facebook commentary after comments from my network.
Wendy: According to recent stats, DOOH is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. Is this just because brand marketers and advertisers just need a new, less cluttered place to advertise their goods and services?
Rob: Not at all. If it was just a new shiny toy, you wouldn't see the growth that we're seeing in the market. We literally tripled our sales activity just 3 months after what happened last September and it has not let up since.
Wendy: Wow, that's really bucking the trends these days with marketers' budgets shrinking. What do you think are the factors driving the growth?
Rob: > First of all DOOH has the ability to hyper-target audiences better than 90% of the media out there. And there are relative cost-efficiencies for reach and audience versus other medium here available. Case studies are starting to show the real ROI and the numbers are staggering in a lot of cases, prompting fast action or quick return clients.
Wendy: Okay, but DOOH is not easy to buy because there are so many options available like geo-targeting. You mentioned that ADCENTRICITY can make a media buyer's job easier. Is this where the "One plan, one buy, one bill." philosophy comes into play?
Rob: It's definitely a component of it. We're not here to compete with the agencies nor are we here to "do their jobs" for them. We're here to add value to the whole process and not simply exist as a technology waiting for buyers while giving them the best insight, research, media and solution for the best result for their client.
Wendy: Okay, tell me about the platform. Were you involved in the creation of the technology that drives it?
Rob: Yes. Jeff Atley, our VP Marketing and I were involved in the core methodology and infrastructure design. Our platform has been built to accommodate the 6 major points of pain that people face in the DOOH business in both buying and executing; Planning (understanding what you're buying by audience and potential results), Buying (One buy versus 80), Creative (normalizing and reducing what is really required to streamline efforts), Distribution (One company to engage to send your creative assets too and ensure it's launched), Reporting (Single rolled up source of affidavits) and Billing (1 bill for AP). All told, we reduce 3 weeks with of work to 30 minutes so that folks can concentrate on the bigger picture and execute more smoothly for their clients
Wendy: Agencies must love it.
Rob: Well, we've figured out that a buy on just 12 networks makes another 159 things a planning/buying team has to do. We can do the same in 17. Now add on more networks and try doing that 20 times a week and you see the problem. Our platform has all of this workflow built in to try and minimize the pain they have to go through, provide the best plan possible and make folks money...the agencies aren't here to be charity cases either.
Wendy: So I assume that with every plan and buy there is more and more valuable learnings to share with clients.
Rob: Absolutely. Part of the fun of what we've built is we get to look through the whole business and industry. We get to look through all of our networks, all of our custom data and all of our research and past results. It gives us some great insight on what should be considered above what a plan may say.
Wendy: Right, creative thinking is the difference between an okay plan and one that delivers over and above the stated objectives.
Rob: Exactly and when you add in the experience we've got with many industries or environments and many plans get expanded, bringing more money into the industry. It puts us in a unique position that gives our agency partners more ammo to help sell the medium up to the clients, which has been tough for them to date.
Wendy: Yes, it's always tough to sell in a new medium especially in tough economic times when marketers tend to stick with the tried and true. It's that old saying in the agency business, "No one ever got fired for buying TV."
Rob: Right. So there's a ton of evangelism still needed which is why the creation of OVAB (OOH Video Advertising Bureau) was so important. If we can work closely with those that want to fight for the business, it usually yields some great results for all involved.
Wendy: You've worked in digital media a long time and as we all know, the one constant is change. Right now, marketers have a dizzying array of choices. Aside from digital OOH, what is your opinion about the viability of advertising on mobile devices, Twitter and social networks? Do you advise your clients on the viability of these?
Rob: Yes and more specifically how all of these platforms can work together. Stephen Randall from Locamoda originally keyed me to a term which I now use as a credo; The New Media Triad. This is a completely connected set of mediums that involves Internet (including social), Mobile and Digital OOH media that all speak to each other.
Wendy: How does that happen?
Rob: Well, what you do on your phone affects a Facebook site which then updates an ad in our network which is targeted to the exact demographic you are looking to reach. We've never had connectedness like this available in such a ubiquitous manner or so targeted! These mediums really work - to ludicrous levels - when they are harnessed effectively.
Rob: Yes and these types of programs will become very popular in the next few years, especially as smart phones become more main stream. We want to help our partners get there faster and safer. It's really a "crawl, walk, run" approach to business that allows agencies and brands to dip their toes in by using turn-key mobile, Internet or social programs that are built to support very specific functions that benefit retailers and brands.
Wendy: It seems almost too good to be true, how is the ad community responding?
Rob: What's great is that we also have the technical resources at hand to execute and educate as part of our team so we bring capabilities to agencies and brands they never used to have across these spaces, which opens up much more complex programs.
Wendy: Yes, but as everyone knows selling across mediums is time consuming and frustrating.
Rob: You're right, the agency business is still very siloed in most cases and so knowledge from the mobile or social teams may not travel to the OOH team during planning. As you said, it's a dizzying array of choices and if we can help by making that portion painless as well, we most definitely will.
Wendy: Okay, let's talk specifically about ADCENTRICITY. Why is it different than a typical ad network?
Rob: We consider ourselves retail experts, media experts, digital marketing experts, brand experts, online advertising experts, social experts and, most importantly, Digital OOH experts, across many industries. That coupled with a fantastic technology platform that minimizes the pain points associated with buying and planning DOOH.
Rob: And, beyond just looking at the core media, we do our best to support our clients with every piece of knowledge and experience we have about what works for different industries and brands and apply it to the plans we build for agencies. We also integrate those concepts and our experience into getting them the best plan that will perform the most effectively.
Wendy: You mentioned that the company is seeing amazing growth in its sales activity. What do you attribute this to? What factors contribute to the company's success?
Rob: We are all go-getters at ADCENTRICITY with a very young-at-heart and high energy culture. I describe our corporate culture as professional, scrappy and fun. It makes for a really fun work atmosphere with a lot of laughs.
Wendy: Wow, having fun at work, what a concept!
Rob: Beyond our fun side though, we are a nimble and smart group and everyone really brings deep domain expertise from retail, media, outdoor, digital marketing, agency, branding, mobile, online advertising, social media and, most importantly, Digital OOH. We get a goal in our head and we go after it until we succeed.
Wendy: At the Digiday Networks conference, you mentioned that social and mobile integration works at retail. Could you explain this further and give an example of an advertiser using this strategy?
Rob: Within the retail environment, consumers are making purchasing decisions and can be more easily influenced because it is the point of purchasing intent. People are looking to drive sales and activity and you need to first find and then motivate people when they are active and not passive when they're on the couch.
Rob: Offerings like mobile couponing or store-based locators provide an inherent value in assisting the consumers through their purchasing cycles. Tie in the social networking aspect, i.e. what did their friends purchase since we know that word of mouth and recommendations are a part of the consumer's decision making process and you've put two very influential pieces of data in the hands of the consumer at the point of purchase.
Wendy: Okay, crystal ball time. What is the future of digital media and what cool media plays will we be seeing in the digital OOH space in the next 6-12 months?
Rob: As consumer behavior patterns and media consumption habits continue to change and more people continue to spend more time out of the home, DOOH will continue to thrive. DOOH delivers advertisers ROI and delivers highly effective hyper targeting by geography, demography, channel, customized venue mash-ups and a seemingly endless amount of flexibility in how to approach a DOOH campaign strategy.
In terms of new digital plays, we believe the digital OOH medium could also have a huge impact within the retail environment, known as shopper marketing- digital displays within retail environments will increase dramatically. By nature this will automatically put brands into a DOOH mind set in working to find out how brands can optimize this effort beyond the walls of the store and an immediate investment into DOOH content strategies which will bring the space to be a more prevalent consideration at the creative agency level.
Wendy: Rob, thanks so much for your time.
Rob: My pleasure, Wendy.