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Rocking the streaming music space with Quarry—and ad formats that move users from intent to action

Peggy Anne Salz

Our host Peggy Anne Salz from MobileGroove catches up with Walter Geer III, a frequent Mobile Growth Summit speaker and a creative visionary well-known for transforming advertising through innovative ad creatives, to talk about Quarry, the first music streaming platform dedicated to independent artists and the top talent from around the entire world. Walter lifts the lid on his smart strategy to drive app growth and advocacy and discusses the steps all app marketers can take to move audiences from intent to action.Peggy: Hello and welcome to "Mobile Growth," the podcast series where frontline growth marketing experts share their insights and experiences so you can become a better mobile marketer. That's what it's all about and I'm your host Peggy Anne Salz from Mobile Groove where I help my clients grow their revenues and audience reach through content marketing. And on my watch, this series will introduce you to the people who know how to drive growth either because they have an app themselves or because they're helping others or because they just have a lot of experience, which is what brings me to my guest today. He's Walter Geer, co-founder of Quarry and, well, we've known each other for a while because you have a long track record in innovative advertising, mobile advertising, but now you've got a really cool innovative venture as well. So, tell me about Quarry first.


Walter: Yeah, thank you so much. I'm so happy to be back on the call with you again and your podcast. So, it's interesting. So, for quite some time now, I've been actually working on a side project with my brother and a couple good friends of mine who worked at Viacom and MySpace with me. And what was really interesting is we stopped to think and say, "Wow, if you're looking at the entire music space because clearly music streaming has become such a giant and a place to be, there's no real dedicated space for independent artists." So, what we decided to do is, what if we actually created something similar to a Spotify but just for independent music and for independent artists? And that is essentially what Quarry is, right? We are the first, which is surprising, the first music streaming platform dedicated to independent artists and the top talent from around the entire world.


Peggy: I mean, this is "Mobile Growth," so obviously, you yourself are going to be looking at mobile growth. Are you planning a mobile app and mobile user acquisition and the whole thing? I mean, how are you going to bring this to the masses?


Walter: Yeah. So, our app did launch a few months ago and it's been really, really interesting. Right now, we've really been focusing on just getting the talent. So, in order to be in the app, artists need to actually submit their music, right? So, we've been getting quite a few amounts of submissions every single day, which is surprising, with simply by only doing posts on Instagram. So, we do one post on Instagram, we're actually going out and actually targeting artists. And then by way of that, we've essentially been growing...I think we're up to around 500 artists in the app now over the past few months, and growing at a pretty good pace. So, it's been fun. I can't complain about it at all. I mean, we're giving back to the artist because they don't really have a true platform dedicated for them. So, you look at Spotify and Pandora, those are great music streaming platforms, and by no means are we have a direct competitor to them, but those folks are...no one's going to those platforms to listen to John or James from around the corner. They're going to those platforms to listen to major mainstream artists. And when you look at music content in the world, .2% actually of music content in the world is major signed artists and 90.7% is independent artists, so they have nowhere to really be found and we're that platform for them.


Peggy: But I'm going to pursue this for just a moment because it's great to talk about what we will talk about, which is about how to make impact through advertising, but you're also now a mobile app owner looking at mobile growth. I'm just curious, do you have anything to share about how you intend to move the needle on your app?


Walter: Yeah.


Peggy: I mean, maybe like what's working for you and what isn't? I mean, it's early days obviously, but maybe you have a strategy in mind you can share.


Walter: Yeah, most certainly. I think there are a few things that... there are a few pieces that we don't really kinda want to make public as of yet. However, surprisingly enough like using social influencers, right? And you know who our social influencers happened to be? Our own artists. Right? So, the very first thing we actually did in approaching this was we cut some commercials and whatnot, edited a few videos and some content, starts getting online to actually let artist see what we are doing. The first few calls, every artist, I gotta be honest with you, was extremely difficult because at the time we had no real platform, right? So, I was sitting here for 30, 40 minutes trying to pitch these amazing artists on why he should be on this platform and why he should give me his new content when we didn't really have everything finished. Fortunately, we had a few folks who really kind of believed in what we were doing, gave us the content, next thing you know we've been using our artists to actually voice us or get us out into the world.


So, the easiest thing we did, I'll tell you this, is every time we put a new artist into our app, we actually created some content for them, created a nice piece of artwork and whatnot, gave it to them, thank them for it, and then they went out and posted it to their followers. And a lot of our artists in the app have anywhere between 300 to 40,000 and 50,000 and 60,000 followers on Instagram. So, that's been a real help and benefit to us because clearly like we don't have to come out of our pocket right now, but we are in the process of looking at multiple different ways to actually market the app to actually get it out there because while we're focusing now primarily on the artists themselves, the next phase is actually trying to focus primarily on the listeners, right, which is why we're having some really good times with stations with some VCs right now to kind of think of the next opportunity and how we actually drive that user engagement and downloads.


Peggy: Well, I certainly want to see you succeed. I'm a hardcore...


Walter: Thank you.


Peggy: ...indie fan myself, Walt.


Walter: Thank you.


Peggy: So, I got a vested interest in this one. Make it work and then I don't have to just...Spotify isn't bad. I'm not going to dis Spotify, but it's not going to get it quite if it can't surface these indie artists. It's really, really tough to find them even with amazing search. So, that's your innovative venture. Let's get to innovative creatives, which is what you're known for. You've been speaking at Mobile Growth Summit events. You've been speaking elsewhere. This is a really hot topic for you because, of course, you played a role in the creation of the innovative creatives. What can you tell our listeners a little bit of maybe a background about what you've done yourself to innovate in that space?


Walter: Yeah. So, I guess I've been in this space for about 19 years now. I started out my career really as a front-end developer and designer. When I went to Viacom about eight or nine years ago is when things really changed a bit because for so long I focus on just coming up with these big grand ideas for advertisers and brands, and you see it happen today, right? A lot of these folks are, and excuse my language, but throwing shit at the wall and hoping it sticks by coming up with these grand ideas and you have brands like Target or P&G or Unilever and all these folks who drop a million dollars at the drop of a dime, but the bigger problem is that they want to know that this is going to work, right? How can you guarantee me success? So, everyone wants to innovate but it's difficult to take that leap without understanding, without having faith in the product and the solution is actually being brought to the table.


So, when I was there, I opened up a usability lab and through this lab, and I mean, it was one of the first that actually focused on advertising where we built out biometrics lab with MIT Labs. And what was amazing about that is I could actually understand the emotional state of a user or individual as they engaged with my products or my solutions for brands. I was able to do this by pulling things like heart rate, pupil dilation, arousal, which is sweat in the palms, eye tracking, facial expressions, whether they're leaning forward or back. And by doing this, I could tell things that were based off color, call to action, speed of animation, the whole nine yards. So, this is where kind of innovation for me started and now kind of it's brought me to this space where I've played a little bit in product strategy, I played heavily on creative side, I played heavily on the innovation side. And I really, over the past 10 years, tried to position myself in as many different types of areas as possible to really get a larger kind of understanding of the landscape, of the advertising landscape, and through a lot of this kind of innovation and usability testing, I have like seven or eight different patents on a lot of formats that are still being used today.


Peggy: Well, it's a great segue. I couldn't hope for a better one, Walt, because that's exactly it, I want to talk about the landscape. I also want to hone in on what works to get people from intent to action. That's a big one for app marketers. But right now we have to go to break, so listeners, don't go away. We'll be back very shortly with Walt Geer.


Male: If you haven't already, be sure to check out the "Mobile Growth" global event series where thousands of the world's top growth marketing experts come together to discover the latest in growth marketing innovation. We run events all around the world in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Montreal, and more. And our candid panel discussions feature industry leaders including Facebook, Google, Uber, EA, and loads of other top-tier publishers. So, attend our lineup of intimate workshops and gain the in-demand skills you need to stay on top of your growth marketing game. Expand your professional network and build meaningful relationships in a fun, friendly, publisher-first environment. When and where can you get in on the action? Well, just visit mobilegrowthsummit.com for a complete list of upcoming shows. And if you should decide to join us, and I hope that you will, then be sure to use our special promo code "MGSPODCAST30" for an additional 30% off your ticket order. Once again, that's "MGSPODCAST30" all caps, no spaces, for 30% off of your order. We hope to see you there. I certainly hope to see you there and please enjoy the rest of our episode.


Peggy: And we're back to the "Mobile Growth" podcast. And Walt, right before the break we were talking about that landscape of creative innovation. All the different ways that you can get a person from intent to action, how you can get an individual to make a purchase, or to do something based on advertising, of course, for at marketers listing in, that's the holy grail because it's all about getting someone to do something particularly if you're an advertising-supported app, this is what you're focused on. So, of all those formats, maybe even some that you've patented, can you give me some idea of what works in a situation where you want to activate and not just motivate an audience?


Walter: Yes, certainly. I like to go back to a few different steps that I think works, right? Number one is you have to get the consumer to see your ad. That's so important. We see 99% plus of publishers and folks in the space are doing it using the standard IB formats, right? And that's going to happen because of the mere fact that, look, it's a very easy way to create one format that can run in multiple areas, right? But the bigger problem with that is that, again, like people aren't looking at a 320x50, people aren't looking at a 300x250, right? When you go to your favorite apps, I'd like to ask people, "When is the last time you actually remember seeing an ad? Most people would say, "Oh, I remember I saw one today." But could you actually tell me that brand? Probably not. Right? And again, it's because of a thing called banner blindness, right? We have a tendency of when we know that an ad is in a particular place on our favorite apps and your apps you're on every single day, you're going to stop focusing on them, right?


So, it's about how do you actually create a format or a solution that garners a little more attention, that gets in front of someone, right? So, I think native advertising it's a great way, but when you start running ads like that, you need to make sure that they're highly relevant, right? And that's the second piece, right, is this relevant content that you're actually delivering to someone? And being relevant does not mean just...in mobile what a lot of people say is location data and a lot of people would say, "Well, location will tell you everything about an individual." It won't tell you everything because let's say every Wednesday night my daughter...my wife and I, we take her to gymnastics, my daughter, and then we go to Buffalo Wild Wings because we love Buffalo Wild Wings. But my wife is a vegan, so there's literally barely anything on the menu that she can eat. But if you start targeting her off of her location, you see that every single Wednesday night she's at Buffalo Wild Wings. That doesn't mean she loves chicken. She hates it. So, it's also about the type of content. So, understanding where I go is great, but it's also the type of content that I'm actually reading, right? So, all those really kind of coming together.


Then my third step is you have to create a clever way to get the consumer to interact with your ad, right? So, the information you give to a consumer within the ad is actually critical, right? But what's too much? What's too little? So, long form content for a studio might make sense given the consumer is already engaged in the ad and asks for it. If it's a product, what's the smartest way to allow someone to actually engage and interact with it in the real world without actually having to go to a store, right? Maybe that's AR, right? So, this is where brands need to be smart about key factors that will actually drive intent to purchase.


And then the last step is, look, you gotta just deliver a simple solution for the consumer to get the product as quickly as possible and with minimal steps. So, we live in a world where right now I can get on my mobile device, go to Amazon and with one click make a purchase. I can go to, gosh, the majority of places now and make those simple types of transactions, but when we start to look at advertising, no one does that. It surprises me that no one has simply figured out a very simple way to maybe even use an Apple Pay or Google within an ad to make a quick transaction. If you know the places I go, you know the content that I'm reading and you're able to deliver me a highly relevant advertiser and a product, I shouldn't have to actually tap to see what it is, expand it, and read more information, and then click, and then go to your site, and then go put my credit card information. I shouldn't have to do all that. If I like it, allow me to make a transaction with one or two steps and be about my business.


So, those I think are the four biggest things, right? It's, again, making sure the consumer sees your ad, that means you need to be a little inventive with the format and style, delivering relevant content, create a clever way to get consumers to interact with your ad and, of course, deliver simple solution for consumers to get to the process as quickly as possible.


Peggy: That last one really resonates because to your point when you were thinking, "Oh, I can do this on Amazon. I can do this in many places." that's exactly the point. You can do it many places. It is now the benchmark. It's the bar. It's what everyone has to...it's what you have to beat. And now that's become the norm it's even harder. And to your point, that's true, we can click on ads but we really can't take action. The ad takes us someplace where we get some more stuff, and then we can do something, and then we can take action, but we're forgetting it by then. You know, what is it, our goldfish attention span, right?


Walter: Oh yeah, it's true.


Peggy: We're not going to follow through on that very much. I mean, you work a lot with clients and you work in the industry. You mentioned AR potentially as a workaround. Voice is this pretty exciting as a workaround. Where do you see any potential to remove some of the friction or some of the clicks between the advertising and the action?


Walter: Yeah.


Peggy: Tough one. And I guess if you knew you'd be retired and...


Walter: True indeed. Look, voice, I think, opens up some amazing opportunities, right? Like I have five Alexas in my house and my three-year-old daughter who's almost four in a couple months will literally walk into our house and say, "Alexa, turn on kitchen. Alexa, turn on the TV. Alexa, turn off the lights." So, she's comfortable with doing this at three-and-a-half, at that age, right? It's kind of wild. And I think that when brands start to look at voice as a way to start engaging people, I think like that's the holy grail, right? It's like, that is the minimal steps, the no action is really necessary to be taken. But I think, I don't know that we're totally there yet. I think we get closer as we see more devices that we live with become connected.


So, I say that because, take for instance when I walk through my front door of my house the first thing I'll always say is "Alexa, turn on first floor," and it will turn on all my lights on the first floor or I'll say, "My kitchen," or whatever specific room. When I do that, Alexa should also know, "Oh, actually, one of your light bulbs in your bedroom is out and that's where you're going to go next," and then refer me to something and say, "Hey, one bulb in your bedroom is out. Currently, there's a sale for Philips Hue light bulbs for $10.99 for white bulb. Would you like me to buy one?" I should say, "Yes," and then I'll have it at my door the next day, right? So, it's Alexa being smart enough to actually understand what's working and what's not because everything...like those bulbs are connected already, so it should know that.


But Alexa should also know that when I walk into the house I shouldn't have to really say anything. So, it's becoming smarter. But beyond that, though, when I go back to that light bulb example, imagine now if brands could actually use that type of opportunity for themselves programmatically, right? So, now I'm actually saying, "Hey, I'm a light bulb company and I'm connected to light bulb and whatnot. I'm willing to bid X amount to reach this amount of people." Now, the amount of people that you have to reach now would...you could be so small...It could be like 100 people and your transaction rate would probably be so high because who wouldn't say, "Yes, thank you," I'll have it the next day? Because who really remembers or even likes to go into a store just to go buy a light bulb? Typically, no one. And you're doing it...


Peggy: Yeah. And to your point, the brands aren't that strong and it's space like that, so then the programmatic opportunity is huge because you're not saying, "I want to have a Philips light bulb," or any other, not plugging any brands here. No, you're just saying "the object." Yeah. And then the programmatic system bring it together. And the same for a user of an app in a certain need state. I want to book a taxi. Let's show this guy the Uber app. That sort of thing. There's a lot of possibilities there. Last wrap-up question, when you look ahead...and I ask you this, Walt, because you are just on the cutting edge, I have to say. You're watching everything.


Walter: Oh, thank you. You're so kind.


Peggy: Well, yeah, but I can call them as I see them. I've seen you at conferences. You have your finger on the pulse. What personally excites you most about either, one, the development in the industry or even about your professional and personal development? I mean, what is getting you up in the morning?


Walter: That's a good question. When I look at some of the ways that kind of technology is transforming this industry as a whole, I think that, again, and this is something I speak to all the time is, while data has become like this monster of a story, right, and this is something I've been preaching for like the last two-and-a-half years, almost three years, is like I still don't think that there is really enough creative influence and I still don't think the people are actually taking the real time to innovate with creative and partner with data scientists to actually create opportunities that matter. So for me, it's getting up and looking for those next type of opportunities. It's where can I actually bring a consumer close to a brand in a smarter, more effective way?


And what's unfortunate to me is that you go to a lot of these conferences and you see all these different people speak or you see people do press and all this stuff, and no one really talks a lot about what they're going to be doing, right? It's things that they've done in the past or whatnot. And I think that within our space, the only way we're going to really advance is if we all truly partner together, right? So, it means bringing your ideas to the table and not being afraid of someone else actually taking them or stealing them. Like, in my recent conference I spoke at, I went out and gave five big ideas to the entire audience, completely new creative ad formats. I don't care. It's about us partnering together and figuring out smarter ways to actually drive innovation here.


So, really, for me, it's getting up and thinking about the next opportunity. I'm always looking at different ways people are engaging, looking at different things that brands are doing, your Amazon and Apple and these folks. And I think that there's so much opportunity in the space of really just honing in on true creativity by creative and data and bringing those two players together in a more kind of way, in a better way, I would say.


Peggy: Well, I love your enthusiasm. I hope you do the same with Quarry. I'm really personally interested now.


Walter: Oh, thank you so much.


Peggy: I want that platform to work. In the meantime, how can our listeners stay up to date with you? What you're writing? What you're doing out there? Where you're speaking? You're always at our events but you're elsewhere. So, what's the best way?


Walter: Yeah, sure. I mean, you can most certainly look me up on LinkedIn, Walter T Geer III. My alias on Instagram and Twitter, etc. is always 3rd Geers, 3-R-D G-E-E-R-S. And go check out Quarry Music, spelled Q-U-A-R-R-Y, Quarry Music in the app store on Apple and let me know what you think.


Peggy: We absolutely will. I certainly will and our listeners will as well. And listeners, everyone, thanks for listening to this episode of the "Mobile Growth" podcast. A quick reminder to visit mobilegrowthsummit.com for a complete list of our upcoming events. And don't forget to use the very special promo code "MGPODCAST30" for 30% off of your order. So, we hope to see you there and we encourage you to check out this and all of the other episodes in our series posted on mobilegrowthsummit.com and on SoundCloud. So, take care and we'll see you soon.