Peter Loehr, the former head of CAA in China, and seasoned music executive John Possman have been tapped by digital avatar company Genies to lead its expansion into Asia.
The company’s proprietary avatar technology allows users to express ideas, thoughts and feelings in a different way from text, audio and video. Within the app and participating platforms, talent and brands can search through an extensive library of clothing and animations for their avatars using keywords, emotional categories and topical action packs that are refreshed every week.
“Genies is the technology that artists like Rihanna, Cardi B or Jennifer Lopez use when they can’t physically be in two places at once,” Loehr, who will be Genies’ Asia manager, told Variety. “Avatars are a cool way of communicating, and an exciting new way of marketing things.”
Previously an independent China-based film producer, Loehr was MD of Creative Artists Agency in China from 2005 to 2012, growing the business from the ground up to represent more than 70 artists in mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea, including stars Huang Bo, Daniel Wu, Xu Zheng and John Woo. He then went on to head Legendary East, the unit of Legendary Entertainment that marketed the company’s Hollywood slate in China and co-produced “The Great Wall.”
Based in Tokyo, Possman has a more-than-30-year career that includes co-founding advisory firm DFR Asia. He has also served as a board member for Zomba/Jive Records Japan and V2 Japan, vice president of EMI Music, senior GM of the Virgin label in Japan, and director of international marketing at Sony Music Entertainment.
Genies was founded in 2015 by Akash Nigam and Evan Rosenbaum, and is based in Venice, Calif. To date, it has raised $40 million from venture capital firms and angel investors including former Legendary head Thomas Tull and Jim Breyer, the investment industry legend who was an early backer of Facebook and IDG China.
Genies recently announced the integration of its avatars on social media and chat platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. The launch of its new media agency is accompanied by international expansion, and compatibility with popular Asian social platforms Weibo, WeChat, Line and Kakao.
“We’ve had our eyes set on Asia for a while as we’ve seen rising demand in the market,” said Genies CEO Nigam.
“We’ve all seen a shift in the way we communicate in the past few years,” Loehr added. “I wanted to be part of a company that’s at the forefront the next phase of human interactions. I’ve kept a close eye on all their celebrity deals and brand partnerships such as Gucci and am excited about bringing Asian brands and talent into the mix.”
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