Breaking down the Complex: A one-on-one with EVP Moksha Fitzgibbons
As EVP of Complex Media, Moksha Fitzgibbons pushes hard to attain massive year-over-year growth. But it's not all champagne and roses for the executive; he works long hours, sometimes not even making it home in time to tuck the kids into bed. Still, his sacrifices seem to be paying off.
Q. To start, how did you first hear of Advertising Week, and how important are conferences and conventions like this one to staying connected to the industry pulse point?
A. As a kid straight out of college, the first publisher I worked for engrained in me the importance of reading “the trades,” attending conferences and so on. Back then it was all magazines, and while I still love the print pubs, I mostly visit sites that cover the space as they tend to be more up-to-date and comprehensive.
Q. You graduated as a PoliSci major. What led you into working sales and publishing post-graduation?
A. I was a soon-to-graduate college student, struggling to “find my way,” when one of my step-uncles gave me some great advice: He told me that if I wanted to make $100,000 within two years of graduating, I needed to go into sales. He was a magazine guy and sold me on pursuing an entry-level job at one of my favorite publications. So I applied to Rolling Stone, The Source, Vibe, Blaze and a few others. I landed a job assisting the publisher at The Source – basically fetching his coffee and laundry. But I begged him for accounts every day until he finally broke down and gave me a shot. And I’ve been selling ever since.
Q. As someone who has spent a great deal of time directing publications and firms that are geared toward young males, what is one thing budding marketers should know about that demographic that might not be immediately apparent?
A. How affluent many of them are, especially some in the 25-29 demo. This group of guys is at a critical juncture in their careers and lives, where they make six figures but have no real responsibilities since they are not yet starting families. They spend a huge chunk of their money on things that make them feel good – cars, clothes, tech, music. I call it the “me-me-me” stage of life, or “living the dream.”
Q. Tell us, what is an average day in the life of the EVP for Complex Media?
A. Well, I’m still the first guy in the office every day, so no one must want my job! I typically get in around seven and start with internal updates from my direct reports (sales and marketing leaders). I try to do three or four sales calls a day. I really think it’s important to be in front of our current and potential clients. I get about 300-400 emails a day and delete them as fast as I can (I loathe email). When I’m in the office, I attend more internal meetings and have calls with my west coast team from 5 p.m.to 7 or 8 p.m. Though I like to leave by 7 p.m. if I can, to see my kids before they go to bed—thankfully I live 30 blocks from the office.
Q. At the recent Native Advertising Summit held in Atlanta in June 2013, you have been quoted as saying, “Every 9 days we send our editors into Champs stores to update the story.” What kind of insights are your editors coming away with after these visits, and how important is this hands-on approach to your overall successes?
A. I should clarify that it’s members of our branded content team – the folks who create the stories we hope to go viral – that visit the stores. This kind of hands-on approach is absolutely crucial. It gives us the key consumer insights we need to mold and craft the branded content in a manner that resonates with users online. The goal is to help brands achieve their goals of engagement, sharing, reach and, ultimately, sell-through. In the case of Champs, we are helping the brand sell sneakers and apparel, so it's really important for writers in the branded content group to experience the retail environment and see firsthand what consumers are gravitating to.
Q. Last year, you led a 300 percent year-over-year growth for Complex. What do you think the biggest contributing factors were for this increase?
A. First, Complex is an amazing brand with little to no direct competition. We basically own the millennial young men’s space around the lifestyle pillars the care about – style, music, art and entertainment. Second, I have the best team ever, led by Rachel Shapiro (who oversees Creative Services) and Edgar Hernandez (who heads up Sales). The team can sometimes be found in the office on Fridays at 10 p.m. not because they have to but because they love what they do—and you just can’t buy that.
Q. What is your growth goal for this year?
A. We’re a private company so I can’t comment. But we’re having a great year – and surpassing even our highest projections. In particular, our native/branded content sales have really taken off, as has video and mobile.
Q. Are there any new tech developments that you plan to capitalize on to help you get there?
A. We are always working on innovating new products. We recently launched two.
NTRSCTN is a bit like trending topics on Twitter meets Flipboard. It’s a great-looking site that gives users real-time updates of stories that are trending in all the lifestyle verticals they care about, including Music, Fashion, Sneakers, Sports and Gaming. While it surfaces the content that’s getting the most buzz, it’s highly curated so it eliminates a lot of the noise that’s often generated on social platforms. The Complex Digital Cover Stories bring long-form storytelling to the next level through an immersive, interactive and rich media experience.
Q. Moksha (can I call you Mok?) I have noticed that there is surprisingly little information about you online, save for your professional bio and LinkedIn account. There is no @mokshafitzgibbons Twitter handle, and your Instagram account appears to have no photos associated with it. Is this something that you have done on purpose, or are you just not a social media guy?
A. For you? Sure. And it’s actually a funny story; I used to have public-facing social media accounts but a few years back I was on a conference call and a media buyer started commenting on my wife’s looks. It kind of freaked me out! So now all of my social accounts, with the exception of LinkedIn, are under a nom de guerre.
Q. OK, last question; what are you most looking forward to seeing/participating in at this year's Advertising Week conference?
A. Of course I’m extremely excited about Complex’s panel, “The Rise of the Bespoke Male – A Deeper Understanding of the Millennial Male” (Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. at Hard Rock Café). We have great panelists from Pepsi, Champs, Visa, Common Ground and more. And we’ll be sharing insights from a third party survey we just conducted. Also, the sales guy in me is hoping I can push in on a few people who have proved hard to reach.
This article is part of Allvoices' coverage of Advertising Week, the world's largest and most important advertising gathering. This series is supported by Advertising Week.
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