Akoo Arrives1 Sep, 2011 By: Thomas Haire Response
Niko Drakoulis and Billy Campbell combine TV, mobile, social and local retail into the TV business’ newest — and perhaps most potent — DR outlet.
Direct response marketing depends on the platform that you’re talking about,” says Niko Drakoulis, founding chairman and CEO of Akoo Intl. Inc., a global media and technology innovator whose TV network integrates mobile, social and local in 161 pavilions in malls across the country. “It’s also about the consumer’s state of mind. And of all the experiences I’ve had as both a marketer and a consumer, there could not be a better network location and experience to offer DR than Akoo. The consumer is in a mall; they’re there to shop. The intent to buy is already there. With coupon downloads and other DR vehicles, Akoo can turn that intent into ROI.”
Drakoulis founded Akoo in 2001, then as the latest innovation in a career that has featured many in the mobile and wireless arena. That vision has led to the company’s national flagship television network, rated by Nielsen as the largest audience (age 12 and up) of any digital out-of-home network in the Fourth Screen Network Audience Report (1Q 2011). The 161 Akoo Pavilions attract more than 64 million consumers monthly and are situated in the most highly trafficked areas of premier shopping malls.
Last year, the growth of the company as both a marketer and a marketing partner capitalizing on TV, mobile, social and local retail, prompted Drakoulis to reach out to William M. (Billy) Campbell III, a long-time television executive, who most recently served as president of Discovery Networks from 2002-07.
“I got a call to meet Niko and take a look at his network,” Campbell says. “I met him in Chicago to look at the systems, and — going in — in my heart, I thought I might be a great board member or advisor. I hadn’t explored the space much. But, within 5 to 10 minutes, I saw the endless possibilities. It was too enticing to pass up.”
Campbell — whose visionary status in programming TV networks is nearly unparalleled — joined the company in late 2010 as president, adding even more weight to Akoo’s growth. Combining his strengths with those of Drakoulis has helped the company expand by leaps and bounds and appears to promise only bigger opportunities ahead.
Technology and Programming Come Together
While Drakoulis founded Akoo in 2001, he says, “It’s never been a one-man show. Our team really helped transform this into a revolutionary platform.”
However, Drakoulis’ background outs him as what he calls a “serial entrepreneur.” He adds, “I’ve had five patents issued throughout my career. I’m an inventor, an innovator. I’ve raised more than $75 million in my 19-year career to found and lead innovative companies at the forefront of media and technology. It’s what I love — the mobile, entertainment, online technology space.”
His interest in creating what Akoo has become dates back to his early career choices. Drakoulis says. “My grandfather’s business was in the media — radio, broadcast TV and theater. I was surrounded by it, and I really loved it. There I was, at the age of 8, crawling around underneath the consoles in studios with engineers.”
He took that interest forward early in his adult life to build a successful consumer and business-to-business (B2B) network for Ameritech Mobile. “I became one of the top 15 dealers in the Midwest and was asked to join a dealer council board,” Drakoulis says. “It gave me real insight into competition and how the marketplace works for technology.”
That insight led to him selling his business in order to found a new company that developed commercialized RF wireless technology for home entertainment applications. “It was a streaming media, streaming music product — similar to today’s Pandora,” Drakoulis says. “We were a little bit early to market, but our wireless innovations bolstered the company’s valuation and I was able to sell and exit.”
That exit led to what became Akoo. “My expertise in mobile allowed a vision surrounding mobile, entertainment and media to crystallize,” Drakoulis contends. “That vision became Akoo.”
But, Drakoulis, as usual returns to his team to credit them for the company’s growth. “When you bring the right people in, create that support team, it allows you to constantly innovate. I always want the Akoo team to think ahead from an innovation perspective,” he says.
Campbell is clearly one of those “right people” for Akoo today. His 20-year career in media and TV programming includes stints with ABC, Warner Bros. Television (where he developed such hit series as “ER”), CBS Entertainment and Miramax Television. But his greatest successes came during a five-year run as president of Discovery Networks.