These Mobile Innovators Are Shaping the Future of Advertising

15 cutting-edge leaders in brand marketing, agencies and tech

The mobile marketing landscape has grown more heavily populated with important players, many of whom quietly operate behind the scenes while some of their more brand-centric industry peers enjoy a greater share of the limelight. Adweek beat the bushes in search of the best and brightest minds behind great mobile campaigns that are transforming the marketing world. They are:

Cameron Clayton
CEO and GM, The Weather Co., an IBM Business
Age: 40
Fast fact: 1 billion weekly mobile views

Few mobile players are doing more than Cameron Clayton to send relevant offers to smartphone users as they drive down the street and mosey along the sidewalk. Clayton and his team employ proprietary, data-rich systems WeatherFX and JourneyFX to help marketers like Toyota, Anheuser-Busch (Goose Island brand) and State Farm find consumers when and where they need products and services based on 20 different weather variables and the places they visit. Weather’s digital users typically check their local forecast two to five times a day, while 80 percent opt in to share their location. So if there’s a blizzard coming and a new homeowner just left his or her local Home Depot …

The technology “allows us to reach consumers before the bad weather reaches them,” notes Ed Gold, advertising director at State Farm.

Clayton’s data gets used to serve ads via Weather’s popular app, and across the general mobile landscape. Here’s what’s next on his agenda: combining WeatherFX and JourneyFX with IBM Watson to create the ultimate ad-targeting machine. Sound ambitious? Colleagues say that Clayton has a way of making complicated projects doable.

“Effective leaders are able to clearly articulate a vision, point people in the right direction and inspire them to do their best as they strive to reach those goals,” says Domenic Venuto, gm of the consumer division at The Weather Co. “Cameron does all of these things seemingly effortlessly.”

Fidji Simo
Director of Product, Facebook
Age: 31
Fast fact: 1.74 billion mobile users

If Simo wrote a book, any modern marketer would be a fool not to read it. When she started at Facebook in 2011, her employer had no mobile advertising game to speak of. Now the digital media giant is bringing in a mind-boggling amount of mobile revenue every quarter, accruing $7.3 billion in Q4 of last year alone.
That kind of figure forever changed how Wall Street looked at investing in social startups. To wit, Snap Inc.—now planning its IPO on the exploding popularity of Snapchat—ought to personally shake Simo’s hand for laying the groundwork.

“From the moment she started at Facebook, Fidji’s brilliance was apparent to all who worked with her,” says Chris Cox, chief product officer at the Menlo Park, Calif.-based giant. “In the six years since, she’s led teams working on some of our most important challenges, helping connect people to advertisers and to publishers.”

Indeed, Simo has made the mobile newsfeed a moneymaking story that’s almost hard to believe. In Q4 2013, Facebook broke the $1 billion barrier in mobile sales for the first time. With the company’s mobile video ads operation exploding, can $10 billion every three months be very far off?

The bigger question might be: Does Simo have a literary agent lined up yet?

Adam Brotman
Evp, Global Retail Operations and Partner Digital Engagement, Starbucks
Age: 47
Fast fact: $21.3 billion in net revenue in 2016

Thanks to Brotman’s expertly orchestrated mobile ad campaigns, Starbucks has become a digital retail front-runner—27 percent of transactions happen via its smartphone app. What his team does after the ad might be most interesting. The app personalizes offers while notifying the consumer of the title and artist of the song being played inside a store. It ups the ante by building a Siri-like virtual assistant into the app. That feature, dubbed My Starbucks Barista, lets customers place an order by tapping a button and talking to a virtual barista. The bot then pings the order to a nearby store, where his or her drink is whipped up. Better than almost any other marketer, Brotman “understands the importance of the mobile micro-moment,” says consultant David Deal.

Harry Kargman
CEO, Kargo
Age: 42
Fast fact: 1.57 billion monthly ads served

Kargo, a bleeding-edge programmatic and direct ads provider, says it has the ability to reach every smartphone in the U.S. via an alliance of 80 premium publishers, giving it scale on par with Facebook and Google. What’s more, it has built 882 custom creative mobile campaigns that garner high rates of viewability and ad recall. CEO Harry Kargman’s team achieved double-digit sales growth from last year, landing 129 new accounts—its roster includes Tiffany, American Express, Toyota, Mondelez and Citibank. On the agency side, it works with IPG, Dentsu Aegis and Publicis shops.

Kargman is part startup story (he launched the company out of his New York apartment in 1999), part survivor story (on 9/11, his brand new offices in Lower Manhattan were affected). There were many pivots along the way before Kargman would become a torchbearer in the mobile space.

“Harry is an effective leader because he has an innate passion for the business and an insatiable drive for greatness,” says Kargo CMO Ed Romaine. “He works tirelessly to spread that energy around the organization and externally to our clients, partners and the industry.”

Dan Levi
CMO, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas
Age: 51
Fast fact: 200 campaigns combining OOH and mobile retargeting

When considering which media visionaries could be called out as the most innovative in mobile ad tech, executives in the out-of-home media space may not be the first to spring to mind. But over the last year, Levi has helped Clear Channel Outdoor Americas move beyond just signage to retargeting consumers who see its boards with mobile ads, as well as geofencing. Clear Channel notes that one retailer recently did such a campaign, and leveraging Levi’s measurement baby, called Radar, saw store visits multiply three times over. Boston Market, Toms and some 100 other brands have run similar efforts. Toms, in particular, found that a combination of signage, mobile ads and geofencing spiked ad recall by 300 percent.

To make all this possible, Levi has forged location-data deals with AT&T Data Patterns, Placed and PlaceIQ. He has teamed with Rubicon Project to strengthen audience insights. Due to Levi’s leadership, says Andrew Stevens, svp, research and insights at Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, “we’re starting to truly show the value of our medium.”

“It’s an innovative application of mobile technology that is moving the OOH industry forward,” adds Jill Nickerson, svp, director of OOH at Horizon Media.

Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan
CEO, Drawbridge
Age: 41
Fast fact: 650 percent growth in software customers

In late 2010, Sivaramakrishnan, then a scientist for Google’s AdMob, created technology that paired consumers with their smartphones and desktops—and Drawbridge, which has since revolutionized cross-device data targeting, was born. Six years on, she has partnered with the likes of Lyft, Oracle, Adobe, M&C Saatchi Mobile, Cardlytics, WeatherAlpha and Foursquare.

“Drawbridge has made it extremely easy for us to bring in our first-party data assets, allowing marketers to connect with these audiences no matter what device they are on and execute campaigns,” says Eric Friedman, Foursquare senior director of global sales and revenue operations. “They also allow us to provide marketers with insights that uniquely allow us to connect the digital and physical world, the holy grail of marketing.”

Sivaramakrishnan owns the code, too—although it wasn’t until last December that she secured the U.S. patent for the probabilistic software on which she founded her startup.

“She’s empowering other women to be in the space,” says Bhumika Dadbhawala, Drawbridge head of business development. “She’s saying, ‘Look, I did it. I think you have the ability to do the same.’”

AKQA

David Clarke
Group Creative Director

Jon Reiling
Group Creative Director

Peter Lund
Creative Director

Ages: 35, 35, 33
Fast fact: 93 percent client retention rate

This trifecta demonstrates how creatives are brainstorming to meet clients’ needs, whether it’s creating mobile VR for French liquor brand Martell, omnichannel work for Delta Air Lines, a mobile-first customer care strategy for Verizon or a super smart, geo-aware app for Universal Orlando.

“[They] love mobile—it’s an ever-evolving medium and the fastest way to get ideas and experiences directly into the hands of customers,” says Erik Rogstad, managing director at AKQA. Because of the constant, out-of-the-box thinking of the trio, Rogstad adds, “our creativity is at its strongest on mobile as it’s the perfect blend of product and marketing.”

This story first appeared in the Feb. 20, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.