PebblePost, the inventor of Programmatic Direct Mail®, has announced the addition of veteran media salesperson Rich Flynn as VP Sales, Automotive. “Rich is a master at understanding the customer and their business,” says Chief Growth Officer Geoff Dodge. “His depth of knowledge of the auto vertical — having worked with Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, to name a few — is invaluable as he builds our go-to-market strategy for these marketers hungry for innovation.”
Flynn, who gained extensive experience in the automotive space through previous positions at AOL and Sports Illustrated, sees Programmatic Direct Mail® addressing a need for the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) vertical. “There are 1.1 million customers in market every single day,” says Flynn, “and if you don’t have a clear message, you can lose those folks.”
That clarity can be hard to achieve in a crowded media landscape. “It sometimes feels like everybody is shouting and there’s white noise everywhere,” Flynn says. “I like the simplicity of Programmatic Direct Mail®; I like the portability of it. I’m a reminder guy. I like being able to put something on the counter to remind me to do something. That’s the first thing that intrigued me about this opportunity.”
In addition, says Flynn, “I like the way PebblePost combines simplicity for the end user with its technical chops on the back end. To be able to put something tangible in somebody’s hands — quality marketing collateral that the manufacturer has a say in creating so their brand gets represented the way they want — and to be able to do that within 24 to 48 hours while that customer is still in market, still considering their purchase, is huge. This could be a game-changer for the automotive vertical.”
To learn more about Rich Flynn and his fresh perspective on the automotive vertical, read the Q&A here.
Getting to Know: Rich Flynn, VP Sales, Automotive at PebblePost
Tell us more about your background and how you arrived at PebblePost.
I’ve spent more than 20 years in the auto ad business — print, events, broadcast and digital. I learned the business at major print properties like People and Sports Illustrated in both sales and management. My time at AOL added skills in the performance area — bottom-funnel retail sales tied to ROI metrics. The car business is a massive ecosystem that is complicated and requires a focused, coordinated approach. At the same time, the business is starving for innovation. I want to combine my past experience in branding and performance with the freshness of Programmatic Direct Mail® to help the OEMs move metal, to clear the lots for new launches and become a staple in their “always on” plans. Finally, I want to share what I’ve learned with others and I want to have fun doing it. PebblePost seemed like the ideal fit.
Rumor has it you once landed a major account by working on a garbage truck. Is that true?
Geoff [Dodge, PebblePost’s Chief Growth Officer] loves telling that story. [Laughs] Years ago, I was working at Fortune magazine in Chicago and Waste Management was a big client. There was a sort of Pillsbury bakeoff between us and Forbes and Business Week for that account. Long story short, I went to Aurora, Illinois — home of “Wayne’s World” — and spent a morning and an afternoon riding on a garbage truck. I learned about what they did, and I used that in my presentation and actually won all of the business.
Was it worth it?
Absolutely. I think we got 12 spreads in the magazine, so yeah, it was worth it. I had to throw away the clothes I wore that day, but I was able to buy some new ones.
What else did you learn from that experience?
I’m glad you asked, because although it’s a funny story, it wasn’t just a stunt. That day on the garbage truck taught me a lot about the importance of focusing on the customer experience at a very basic level. I had always looked at things from the top down — how does the corporation want to speak to the customer? That experience on the truck helped me train my brain to reverse-engineer the process and look at it from the customer’s point of view. What do they need? What do they want to be told about that company? Now I focus more on identifying the solution and then figuring out the steps needed to get there.
Do those lessons apply just as well in the automotive vertical?
Definitely. There’s so much that these automobile corporations can say to the consumer, from the environment to safety to performance — ride and handling. Then you factor in the necessary legal disclaimers and so on and it’s easy for the message to get caught up in committee where everybody’s got an opinion. Pretty soon you’ve checked so many boxes about what you want to say at the corporate level that you’ve lost track of what the consumer actually wants to hear. Meanwhile, there are 1.1 million customers in market every single day, and if you don’t have a clear message you can lose those folks. It’s scary how easily that can happen in the current media environment where it sometimes feels like everybody is shouting and there’s white noise everywhere.
Is Programmatic Direct Mail® an effective way to cut through the clutter?
For sure. To be able to put something tangible in somebody’s hands — quality marketing collateral that the manufacturer has a say in creating so their brand gets represented the way they want — and to be able to do that within 24 to 48 hours while that customer is still in market, still considering their purchase, is huge. I like the simplicity of it; I like the portability of it. I’m a reminder guy. I like being able to put something on the counter to remind me to do something. That’s the first thing that intrigued me about this opportunity. This could be a game-changer for the automotive vertical.
What other challenges do you see in this vertical?
Traditional channels are not as big or effective as they used to be. You’ve got all the cord cutting going on. Digital continues to be a challenge from a local standpoint for scale. One of the unique things about the car business is that you’ve got your OEM, the manufacturers whose primary job is to create the excitement and the demand for new cars and trucks, and then you have the dealers, who are independent businessmen whose job it is to sell those cars and trucks. That interdependence is a fascinating dynamic and a delicate ecosystem. You can create a lot of noise locally on the dealer side and turn off the consumers, and you can also create a lot of noise on the factory side and turn off consumers. It’s about finding that sweet spot where the consumer gets the information that they want in the moment. Unlike toothpaste or bread, a car is a highly considered purchase. The average lifespan of a new car these days is approaching 10 years. Meanwhile, the time people spend in market has gone from about 90 days pre-internet to 28 days today. So, you have less time to sell a product that’s lasting longer than ever.
What about the impact of other factors such as ride sharing?
There’s definitely a generational component there. My youngest, Andrew, didn’t get his driver’s license until he was 18 years old. The day I turned 16 I dragged my mom to get my license. Back then a car meant freedom. But for this generation, a smartphone means freedom. They don’t think twice about dialing up a ride. It’s a completely different mindset. With the older camp, it’s all about personalization because the average commute time continues to increase as cities get more and more congested. With the cars that have come out in the past 20 years, the interiors have changed dramatically. It’s all about Wi-Fi hot spots and full entertainment systems. You can even change the colors of the dash and all this other stuff. So, you’ve got two camps. It’s a very interesting pinch point right now for the industry.
Will Programmatic Direct Mail® allow the vertical to solve problems it couldn’t solve before?
No question. Here’s an example. I’ve spent the majority of my time working on custom content programs and big upper-funnel deals and, at the same time, also a lot of time at the bottom of the funnel with retargeting and data programs. But there was very little attention to the middle — the consideration part of the purchase funnel. That’s a big white space. That period of time when you’re considering a purchase or a nameplate or a brand, that’s a huge opportunity in the car business. PebblePost can really help with that.
When did you know that PebblePost was the place you wanted to be?
The clincher was when I talked to my mom. Even after I was at AOL for 10 years she would still scratch her head and say, “Now, what is it that you do there?” But with PebblePost, she got it right away. That was one of the biggest indicators to me that this was something worth taking a closer look at.