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Inside Verb, a year-old hybrid experiential shop and consultancy

'Riches are in niches' say Shannon Simpson Jones and Yadira Harrison on this episode of the Ad Lib podcast

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L to r: Simpson Jones and Harrison
L to r: Simpson Jones and Harrison Credit: Alfred Maskeroni

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The word "verb" is used to describe an action. The agency Verb, launched in January, is a hybrid shop that puts the word to work. It claims to have a new approach to the space it occupies. An agency with traditional chops, Verb also boasts consultancy offerings for both brands and other agencies — all with a specialty in experiential marketing.

"We're here to help you," says co-founder Yadira Harrison on the latest episode of the Ad Lib podcast. "That's why we got into this business: to make marketing and keep marketing better across the board."

Harrison founded Verb with Shannon Simpson Jones, who she met when both were VPs of the Civic Entertainment Group, where they worked on clients like Airbnb and WeWork. Simpson Jones brings with her more than 15 years of agency experience from just about every point on the spectrum. Harrison spent a decade at Macy's picking up brand-side expertise as well as digital and experiential fluency.

From Refinery29's 29Rooms to Giant Spoon and HBO's massive "Westworld" activation at SXSW this year, experiential is having a moment. So much so that the New York Times wrote a playful piece questioning whether there is ultimately any there there.

"This is the ongoing debate between us two, between other people we talk to," says Harrison. "Usually I'm on the side of 'it's getting played out.' Then it's, 'Hey did you see this thing?'"

Verb today counts as clients Lyft, Sundance TV, Amazon and Nielsen, among others. We discuss the challenges and opportunities in the experiential space, including the gap between brand expectations and reality (usually budget). We talk about brand purpose and their theory that "riches are in niches."

"We hate when we go into meetings and ask, 'what's your target?' and they say, 'Men and women, 18-54'," says Simpson Jones. Both point to Nike as a brand that not only understands who their audience is, but aren't afraid to lean into it by taking a position on something.

Simpson Jones and Harrison, both women of color, also weigh in on diversity and inclusion and why it's important to take a step back and look at who is in the room with you.

"We spent most of our careers in the general market space," says Simpson Jones. Only now that the two of them are heading their own agency are they finding themselves in the spotlight -- and being called upon to address diversity specifically. "It's been interesting. People start to put you in a little bit of a box."

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