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Advertising Leadership Series: Q-and-A with MMA CEO Greg Stuart

5 min read


SmartBrief, as part of its Advertising Week coverage, is interviewing top executives at the 4A’s, IAB, MMA and ANA.

In the second post of the series, Mobile Marketing Association CEO Greg Stuart discusses how he turned around the organization amid financial turmoil, why mobile is reshaping advertising and what industries stand to see the most disruption from emerging technologies.

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What is the current state of mobile marketing, and where do you see it heading from here?

There’s no question that mobile is relevant, important and matters. How to take advantage of that and exactly what to do remains perplexing for marketers.

I’ve done some modeling on what happens when one marketer figures out mobile before another marketer, and those models suggest that a big marketer who takes first-mover advantage could literally add $1 billion to $2 billion to their market cap as a result. I ask marketers today, “What plans do you have that doesn’t require high-risk capital investment will shift market cap $1 billion?”

I think three years from now we’re going to see a landscape that is going to get reset by major marketers in a number of categories. It’s a pretty aggressive point of view, but I think that’s what is happening.

Are there specific industries taking the lead on that?

Transportation is a big one. Look at what Uber is doing to the world. The concept of Uber is so much bigger than just the taxi industry. Retail will also be completely upended by mobile. I had the CMO of a major hotel chain tell me, “Greg, Internet changed the booking process. Mobile changes everything.”

I think those who figure out how to incorporate mobile into their manufacturing or production process – whether it be soap, Band-aids, consumer packaged goods, or anybody who sells a physical good – is going to be tremendously impacted by mobile. Any industry that is looking for a closer connection with their consumers, and I’d be hard pressed to think of one that isn’t, is going to see a real upending of their business. That’s true for industries ranging from insurance and health care to automotive.

How is mobile itself being redefined?

The iPhone is six years old, and it was the first of the smartphones when it came out in 2007. Now it has over 50% penetration of the smartphone market in the U.S. Eighty percent of people never leave home without their phones. There’s ubiquity all day long. In many regards, phones have just become an extension of our lives.

Now that’s changing again with wearables, which includes fitness bands, watches and even devices in our cars that go with us. We are so bullish on those kinds of technologies that we added Mary Chan, president of the Global Connected Consumer unit at General Motors, to the global board this year.

Mobile is at such different places around the world. What’s it like to lead a global mobile organization?

For one, I start my day early and end my day late. I’ve been working on Internet advertising since 1993, and the Internet really was a U.S. phenomenon. It was started by the Department of Defense and Yahoo, Microsoft and Google are all U.S. companies.

The interesting thing about mobile is that there are developments in mobile that are more advanced in other parts of the world than we are in the U.S. There have been times where various regions I think actually led mobile marketing development. Smartphones shifted it back to a U.S. orientation, but there was a point and time when Asia Pacific and Europe were far ahead of the U.S. in terms of mobile marketing.

One of the biggest questions I get from marketers is, “What is the MMA doing in Africa to develop mobile marketing?” In those cases, in the case of developing countries, they have no other opportunity to connect to consumers than except mobile.

There are about 1.5 billion computers in the world, relative to a 6-billion population, yet there are over 5 billion subscribers to mobile phones.

You held executive positions prior to joining MMA. In what way has leading the MMA challenged you?

I was hired four years ago when the MMA had managed, as many businesses do, to lose their way. They weren’t relevant, and they certainly weren’t looking into the future. They had the wrong composition of participants. Financially, they were in big trouble.

But we are now more than double where we were in terms of revenue. We have 800 corporate members around the world and the board now is comprised of some of the world’s biggest CMOs and CEOs of mobile-effective media companies and technology companies. When I got here, we had five events. We now have 15 events around the world. We have staff in 12 different countries. This is really a turnaround situation.

There’s a huge demand for community to come together to try to understand something that will completely transform business. Mobile is not just leading marketing transformation; it’s business transformation. And we are right now very clearly the leader that’s helping businesses figure out where that future is going.