Minority Founded And Publicly Traded Direct Digital Holdings Appoints First Chief Growth Officer

Direct Digital Holdings, a Houston-based ad-tech group that went public in February on the U.S. Stock Exchange, hired its first chief growth officer.

On Monday, the company announced the appointment of Maria Vilchez Lowrey to CGO, after recently reporting that Q2 2022 earnings grew 90% to $21.3 million, compared with the same quarter in 2021. Net income grew 58% compared with a year ago, to $2.6 million. 

“We are continuing to expand our reach and market share in the underserved middle market for our buy-side platform, Huddled Masses, and Orange142,” said Mark Walker, CEO and co-founder of Direct Digital. “For our sell-side platform, Colossus SSP, we will continue to grow our business through the addition of more Fortune 500 clients and agencies that are looking to reach the multicultural and general market publishers.” 

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He said the company’s goal is to grow organically, and expects adding Vilchez Lowrey, with her wealth of experience, expertise and proven track record in channel and business development, will accelerate growth.

“As a new public company that provides both programmatic buy- and sell-side solutions for an array of advertisers, I look forward to increasing brand awareness for Direct Digital Holdings and its successful portfolio of operating companies,” Vilchez Lowrey said.

In this newly created role, Vilchez Lowrey reports to Walker. She initially met him while working at Reliant as a project manager in 2007. The goal, at the time, was to launch large enterprise-wide projects focused on strategic partnerships and mass-media brand advertising campaigns.

Now, at Direct Digital Vilchez Lowrey will take responsibility for leading business and channel development, and integrating the management of brand related activities across Direct Digital’s portfolio of brands.

Two subsidiaries -- Huddled Masses, and Orange142 -- specialize in delivering data-optimized programmatic solutions for middle-market businesses in sectors that range from energy and healthcare, to travel and financial services.

Vilchez Lowrey has a long history working in the energy sector. She joins Direct Digital from Just Energy, where she served as senior vice president of direct sales and partnerships, diversifying the company’s direct sales channels by launching its first national retail partnership with a major retailer.

Previously, she served in various management positions across sales leadership, business development, operations, and project management at NRG Energy, primarily responsible for building go-to-market sales channels and developing strategic partnerships with well-known brands. She also worked in the steel industry as global supply-chain transportation and procurement manager, serving large multinational consumer companies.

When asked how experience in procurement assists in advertising, Vilchez Lowrey said: “Advertising is typically one of the largest marketing spend categories for companies, so it is critical to be aligned with procurement and the client on forecasted spend and growth objectives to drive positive return-on-investment metrics across any given channel.”

Vilchez Lowrey calls energy a “universal commodity” that touches every home and business. The energy industry led her to work with iconic brands and create joint marketing partnerships across retail, telecommunications, real estate and home services.

“Being on the client side offered me a front row seat to understand what advertisers care about most, including the importance of having customer experience at the forefront of any omni-channel experience,” she said.

As a Latina mother of two, her bedtime ritual consists of reading Dr. Seuss books, because of the clever rhythm and play on words.

“I always find themes that relate back to my professional life with Oh, the Places You’ll Go! as an inspirational reminder for children and adults to take that leap of faith to try new things and go fearlessly after new challenges, which is something I have had to continue to do in order to grow professionally across the energy sector and now transitioning into advertising,” Vilchez Lowrey said.

She is proud to join Direct Digital’s leadership team, adding that as a minority-owned company, management is committed to creating diversity in programmatic advertising.

Direct Digital, founded as a black-owned business, supports minority-owned publishers. The group's Colossus SSP also supports multicultural, minority-owned media properties to provide inclusive inventory and a one-stop-shop approach that attracted clients like Bayer, T-Mobile, HP, NBA, and others.

The best business advice she received throughout her career came from Karen Jones, now CMO at Ryder System.

She said it “helped me at a pivotal time after a promotion to understand the importance of managing my time efficiently to work smarter at a higher level.”

She said Jones pointed her to adding fixed weekly strategic planning into schedules, and reassured her that career success does not need to come at the expense of putting family life second.

“The higher you go in any career and the more responsibility you get, the more important it is to be as strategic as possible in managing both your energy and your time wisely, so you can live a healthier lifestyle and prevent burnout,” Vilchez Lowrey said.

Vilchez Lowrey also serves as a board member for Homemade Hope, and as an advisory council member for Houston Arts Alliance and Dress for Success Houston.

“I volunteered almost five years ago with Homemade Hope for a Thanksgiving event and was touched by the impact the holiday events had on the children staying at a local transitional living shelter,” she said. “I joined the board to help fundraise for these important underserved communities and bring awareness to the weekly after-school programs that provide hands-on cooking classes and celebrations in homeless and transitional living shelters where children experience the joy of healthy family meals and stability of developing traditions centered around food.”

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