David Verklin has spent nearly his entire career on the leading edge of advertising. Now that he's CEO of Canoe Ventures, that's never been more true. Cable industry leaders in 2008 turned to Verklin, long known as an energetic innovator, when they were looking to build the interactive and addressable advertising platform that they expect will change their business.
“David has more charisma than anyone on the face of the earth,” says Charlie Rutman, senior advisor at MPG North America and Verklin's former right-hand man at Aegis Media Americas, the communications group Verklin headed for 10 years prior to coming to Canoe. “People like to do business with people they like, and David is a very likable guy.”
“David thinks outside of the box and he's not afraid to try new ventures,” says Joe Abruzzese, president of advertising sales for Discovery Communications. “He's always looking for a better way to change our business. He's the right person to help it evolve in this direction.”
Abruzzese, well known for his own sales skills, says Verklin is one of the best in the business, which will come in handy when it comes time to sell Canoe's benefits to advertisers: “The great salesmen of the world are the guys who make everyone successful.”
Verklin brings 30 years of advertising experience to Canoe. Prior to joining the New York-based organization, Verklin headed Carat North America—part of Aegis Media Americas and its parent, the British-owned agency Aegis Group—for a decade. Verklin built the agency's billings to $300 million annually and innovated the way Carat did business by putting its creative and media-buying functions under one structure.
Verklin was recruited to Carat in 1998 from San Francisco's Hal Riney & Partners, which he joined in 1987 as corporate media director. He was promoted to executive VP and managing director at Hal Riney in 1993. During Verklin's tenure, Hal Riney doubled its size. He launched his career in advertising in 1977 as an assistant media planner at New York's Young & Rubicam after graduating from the University of Virginia.
As Verklin joins the 2009 class of the B&C Hall of Fame, he is required to expand his thinking at Canoe far past advertising, incorporating evolving business models for both television and interactivity. The platform—which is being developed by multi-system cable operators Bright House, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable—will cover 60% of U.S. TV households and 90% of cable households when it launches in early 2010. Canoe is working to develop software that will allow set-top boxes on disparate cable systems to interact, and to deliver interactive applications and addressable advertising solutions to consumers.
Canoe is first gearing up to launch a lead-generation application that will allow viewers to request more information after seeing an advertisement. After that, Canoe plans on launching voting and polling applications. “That could change our culture,” Verklin says. “If you can instantly get five million people to participate in a poll, that could change the nature of the television experience.”
The third application Canoe expects to roll out is a commerce application that will allow viewers to make purchases during commercials. “You'll be watching a commercial and then all of a sudden a slate will pop up asking, 'Are you interested in buying this product?' You'll enter a credit card number and a pin code, and that product will be charged to your credit card and winging its way to you in 72 hours,” Verklin says. “It will revolutionize the infomercial business. That's two years away.”
Canoe is also developing technology that will allow cable networks to automatically insert advertisements into the video-on-demand stream. And because of Canoe's breadth and depth, it will have the ability to more accurately measure households' TV viewing patterns in more markets than ever, according to Verklin.
“Think about the data possibilities,” he says. “Nielsen does not have electronic measurement in markets 24 through 207, where people are still using diaries. The first thing that set-top data can do is give us accurate viewing in every market in the U.S.”
In general, Verklin views advertising as a 360-degree proposition: “It's a lot of components tightly fitted together to make a cohesive whole. You surround the consumer with media to cover all of his or her interests. It's really about circling people with media instead of bludgeoning them to death with spots.”
Just a few years ago, that proposition involved mostly television, but also included radio, outdoor, magazines and newspapers. Today, it's everything from Websites to blogs to social media applications to the check-out line at the grocery store and the sign behind home plate at the baseball game. In 2007, Verklin wrote a book to explain all of this: Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here, which some colleges now use in their curricula.
In his limited spare time, philanthropy is important to Verklin. He's on the boards of the New York Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Power of Peace, the Ad Council and the American Advertising Federation. He's also a director-at-large for the American Association of Advertising Agencies. In 2008, he was honored by the UJA Federation's Global Leadership for all of his charitable endeavors.
“He's been very visible in the industry,” Abruzzese says. “I think the guys who give back in the industry are the guys who win accounts. The most important thing that a salesman has with a client is trust.”
In the coming years, Verklin believes Canoe will be at the center of the next great change in the media industry: “I think Canoe will really change the way America watches and uses television.”—Paige Albiniak