Hitwise, which provides data and insights to hundreds of marketers at companies like Best Buy and Mercedes Benz, on Monday plans to announce that Timur Yarnall, a former comScore executive and serial entrepreneur, has been appointed to the newly created position of CEO and president.
The company is part the Symphony Technology Group (STG), a strategic private equity firm. STG created Yarnall's position as part of a move toward product innovation, return to strong growth, and a strategic framework to establish a strong independent roadmap aimed at accelerating Hitwise’s growth in a variety of categories.
Yarnall left comScore about three months ago where he worked as senior vice president of advertising products after in 2014 the company acquired MdotLabs, his startup focused on bot detection and campaign security tools. He also co-founded Broadcast Interactive Media, a leading TV data services provider supporting local broadcasters such as Gannett, NBC, and CBS.
Yarnall stepped into his role at Hitwise about two weeks ago. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Search Marketing Daily: You’re a long-time entrepreneur, so why take the position of CEO at Hitwise?
Yarnall: I was contemplating starting from scratch again. When the Hitwise folks contacted me and got to know the team, and I spoke with the company’s key investor, it really was a combination of being blown away by the team and looking at the customer base of more than 600 brands and agencies globally. It seemed like an incredible opportunity to lead a legacy and a quality brand.
SMD: What is your first order of business?
Yarnall: On Tuesday we’re holding a customer advisory meeting in New York, so this will be the first chance for me to meet a good portion of our customers. Beyond that, I’m a product entrepreneur. I’m a little bit of a product wonk and I see many opportunities to expand on the tools we have and increase the data sets and data quality.
SMD: Aside from advertising products, what’s missing from the industry that you can introduce?
Yarnall: There’s so much change happening, from better tracking to determining what GDPR and privacy compliance mean. Folks are aware, but we need to determine what consent looks like. Then there’s a broader discussion around data quality, which LiveRamp has done a good job starting. Also, we know gender and age are important, but there has been an explosion of advanced audience segments we need to look into.
SMD: What’s the best piece of advice anyone gave you?
Yarnall: Wall Street, in many cases, has it backwards. The typical manta of maximizing shareholder value at all costs, delivering to your customers, and lastly think about your employees is absolutely backwards. One of my mentors at Stanford during graduate school, which has a very entrepreneurial culture, was very clear. Stanford Professor David Kelley told us Wall Street has it backward and that it should be employees first, because if they’re happy it will delight customers and eventually shareholders.
SMD: Is there an emerging technology you would like Hitwise to focus more on?
Yarnall: I’m very fascinated by what’s going on in the connected TV space. I’m a big fan of what Roku is doing because I think that’s obviously both an emerging walled garden and a new standard. We don’t have any grand plans to announce, but from a personal standpoint, I think connected TV is the hot topic for 2018. It’s the year it arrived from a revenue standpoint. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and I don’t think anyone has cracked the code just for in app measurement. People talk about it, but we live in a world where Facebook and Google are the only real companies that have cracked it.
SMD: As a forward thinker, do you see search surviving as "search," or will it become something else?
Yarnall: I think search will survive. I don’t think it will "survive" as is. It’s a debatable topic, because when you get into ecommerce search and how important Amazon has become as a search portal. When you get into video search and it ties into video brand safety and quality, you will see lots of innovation and attention on the topics. The core desktop search, I don’t see anyone challenging Google outside of China anytime soon.
SMD: I view search as more of a utility where artificial intelligence really provides the data to surface the results. Your thoughts?
Yarnall: I agree when you’re looking at something like OpenTable or another ecommerce company trying to find local content.