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Chris Cunningham co-founded adtivity by appssavvy, an activity advertising technology company and serves as CEO.
The vision of activity advertising has established Chris as a recognized thought leader. He frequently speaks at industry conferences and forums, including ad:tech, IAB, iMedia and 4A’s events, and comments on the latest developments in the social space live on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, or in leading publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and USA Today. For insight into Chris’ unique perspective, read The New York Times’ Corner Office.
MO: Could you please break down what activity advertising encompasses and possibly provide a few examples?
Chris: While the Internet has changed with the advent of social and mobile media, advertising hasn’t. The same old strategy of placing ads in silly boxes across the top and down the sides has remained and become less and less effective and more and more disruptive to the content and, ultimately, the user experience. Through the adtivity by appssavvy platform, we’ve created a better way to drive the advertising space forward by understanding, first, what people are doing. We call these activities and they range from completing a level within a game, taking a poll or quiz or commenting on a story, to name a few. We’ve recognized the best time and place to deliver an ad is after someone completes an activity, as they’re engaged and not in the middle of something. Adtivity by appssavvy is creating, managing and commercializing what people do to create new ad inventory that never existed before and it works. We’re seeing an impact of 5X traditional display ads.
MO: Why do you think has appssavvy been voted as one of the best places to work by Advertising Age and 3 years running by Crain’s New York Business? Did you start with a clear vision for the appssavvy work environment and company culture or was it something that has evolved naturally?
Chris: We‘ve always been pioneers in making advertising better and we’re extremely passionate about it. That is a big challenge and makes every day very exciting for the team. Equally important are the values of adtivity by appssavvy, including build trust through transparency; amaze people with dedication; gain an inch or yard everyday; if change is needed, make it happen; and laugh, have fun, enjoy every moment.
These are not just Company Values, they are the values Chris and Co-founder and President Michael Burke, have lived and breathed since day one back in late 2007 when they decided to ream together and launch the company.
MO: Can talk a bit about the development behind the adtivity by appssavvy platform? What kind of challenges did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
Chris: Our focus on people’s activities led to the delivery of many of the largest and most successful social and mobile ad campaigns. These efforts and learnings led to the development of the adtivity by appssavvy platform. In late 2010, we set the new course to take activity advertising to a whole new level.
With our background in digital advertising sales and marketing, our first challenge was the need to build-out and grow the engineering team. Of course, attracting developers, engineers and product development professionals is difficult, but our vision of rethinking and reshaping the online media landscape, not to mention our reputation as innovators in the digital advertising space, played pivotal roles in reaching success. To demonstrate how quickly our team came together, an alpha version of adtivity by Q2 of 2011.
MO: Why do you feel that appssavvy has the ability to change advertising for the better?
Chris: The innovation of adtivity is tackling a tremendous problem. It is no secret that banners and other display ad formats often fail to engage consumers, as evident by the notoriously dismal clickthrough rates. We’re turning the display space – one that makes up 40 percent of the total online advertising pie – on its head by unlocking and creating new, scalable advertising opportunities reaching people as they perform activities. We’re leading the display space through advertising that performs and is easy to execute. Our vision is that the future of advertising is focused on what people are doing, not where they’re doing it. This is not only unique, but is changing advertising for the better.
MO: What are 2 trends in your industry that you’re excited about?
Chris: I’m most excited about the industry’s attention to quality advertising and thinking about the users – the people. Advertising has always been about pages and content, but we’re seeing that shift towards people and what they are doing. Additionally, data and it’s ability to ensure the right ad is shown to the right person is incredible exciting. We believe that while the current data sets against audiences is valuable, but will be come more valuable when advertisers are able to reach an audience when they are most receptive to the message. Our solution to this is by knowing what someone is doing, their activity.
MO: Have you had any mentors during the course of your career?
Chris: Two for me standout: Shervin Pishevar, managing director at Menlo Ventures and Tony Conrad, CEO and co-founder of about.me and founding venture partner at True Ventures.
Shervin’s profound ability to see what’s around the corner and how that impacts product innovation and ideas has been a tremendous help to me and our efforts. Also, his mentorship in the early stages in starting the company and being a founder has been invaluable.
Tony, a member of our board of directors, and his understanding of people, also, being an entrepreneur, and focus on clients, whether publishers or advertisers and agencies, not to mention investors and our board, has made a huge difference. His business acumen and mentorship as to the responsibilities of being a CEO are second to none.