Ad Tech Execs Are Using 'Words With Friends' To Negotiate Deals

Jeff Hirsch, CEO of the digital media holding company CPXi, loves Zynga’s “Words With Friends.”

Hirsch is such a big fan of the game, he says he often uses it to build relationships with other executives within the ad tech community. CEOs, heads of digital sales, marketers, publishers, tech companies. You name it, Hirsch says he’s interacted with them through “Words With Friends.”

Occasionally the Scrabble-esque game leads to a new connection or an interesting discussion on industry trends, from the future of TV ad buying to everyone’s favourite buzzword, “programmatic.”

From time to time though, playing “Words With Friends” can lead to a new partnership, or can even lay the groundwork for a business deal.

“In today’s digital age what used to be going out for a martini or playing golf, well you can now do that where most of us live: on our mobile devices or desktops,” Hirsch says. “Plus you stay connected with everyone in a fun and interesting way.”

It seems that in some ad tech circles, Words With Friends is becoming the new three-martini lunch.

Words With Friends social gaming Jeff Hirsch, CPXiJeff Hirsch, CPXi, and Nick Johnson, SVP of digital media sales at NBC Universal, play each other on Words With Friends.

Hirsch recently went to lunch with one of his company’s big clients. He met with Angela Bostick, Emory University’s associate dean of marketing and communication for the Goizueta Business School. As the two were talking, Hirsch noticed a “Words With Friends” notification pop up on Bostick’s phone.

“Oh,” he said. “You play that?”

From there, the two quickly became “Words With Friends” buddies and have continued their conversation through the game’s messaging feature. That’s how most of the business-related interactions are taking place.

“I’m always surprised by how much work I get done that has turned into real exchanges about business and deals,” Kirk McDonald, president of PubMatic, a technology platform that helps publisher and brands figure out where to run ads online, says of “Words With Friends.”

“Interplay and messaging become an organic way of getting business done. All the demographic and psychographic elements match up evenly and they get expressed in the game,” McDonald adds.

Hirsch and others say one reason they’re so fond of the game is that it’s not meant for those who want to mindlessly swipe away for hours on end, like you might do with games like “Temple Run” or “Candy Crush.”

Hirsch says it’s more acceptable for executives to play a game like “Words With Friends” because it requires some intellect to play. It’s not about luck or chance, but instead requires some strategic moves and carefully crafted words.

Upstream Group CEO Doug Weaver says he has been playing “Words With Friends” for four years.

Weaver first got into the game because he’s an avid Scrabble fan. What began as a love for crossword puzzles and word games soon evolved into a tool to catch up with other executives and move forward on business plans and deals.

“It’s hard to imagine anybody actually negotiating or closing business in any recreational situation,” Weaver says. “But the chat function in the game has allowed me to back channel customers and get important answers and appointments.”

Weaver says he’s also a big fan of the trash talking element that the game allows for in the chat function, but of course, it’s all just a little friendly competition.

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