When Interpublic Group made the advertising industry's largest investment in emerging media to date, Chad Stoller was a natural fit to bring Silicon Valley's bleeding edge innovations to Madison Avenue.
As managing partner of the IPG Media Lab in New York, which launches Nov. 10, Stoller has two decades of experience standing at the increasingly busy intersection of agencies and technology.
A native New Yorker, Stoller, 40, approaches the lab's technologies—many with the potential to dramatically alter the consumer experience—with a cool pragmatism. Stoller says the lab's team is "most bullish" on near-field communication, which has been enabled on Android phones, and allows data exchange between devices through touch.
"We look at inefficient places, like movie theaters," he says, swiping a cell phone along a tag on a digital movie poster mounted in the lab. Instantly, show times appear on the phone. On a screen nearby, film scenes alternate between Bridesmaids and The Terminator, depending on whether a male or female is standing in front.
Sexist, yeah, but it's immediate audience customization. "We want all media to become more efficient. We want no eyeball left behind," Stoller says.
The man knows good innovation when he sees it. He provided angel funding to Foursquare, the location-based social network co-founded by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai. When Foursquare was a nights and weekends project for the pair, they worked at the coffee shop below Stoller's apartment, which was a regular haunt for him. Selvadurai, who knew Stoller for two years before Foursquare's launch, describes him as a "sounding board" for their ideas.
Stoller's focus on function led to Foursquare's mayorships, one of its most popular features. "He comes over and he says, 'Wouldn't it be cool if everyone here knew who I was? Wouldn't it be great if I were the mayor of this place?'" says Selvadurai. To celebrate Stoller's 40th birthday last December, Foursquare released the "Chadge"—one of its trademark badges, but available exclusively to Stoller.
For IPG, Stoller is more than a guru to tech entrepreneurs. Following his mother's footsteps into advertising (she spent her career in magazine ad sales), Stoller has developed his agency pedigree since 1992. He spent 14 years at Arnell Group, co-founding branding agency Surge Interactive in 1997.
He headed to Organic in 2006 as executive director of emerging platforms, and in 2008, he spent four brief months at startup Drop.io, an online content sharing service, before quickly circling back to Organic. Prior to joining the lab, Stoller was evp of digital strategy at BBDO for two years.
Quentin George, chief innovation officer at IPG Mediabrands, sees Stoller and the lab initiative as an ideal match. "He's a synthesized thinker who can connect new technologies with real world challenges," says George.
Stoller also seems to have a knack for clearing true management hurdles. This year, he helped coach the Greenwich Village Little League team to its first-ever district championship.