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October 18, 2013

Apple Loses Product Placement Guru and E-Commerce Star

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Only days after hiring a new senior vice president of retail and online stores, Apple has lost two executives to eBay and Jawbone. Former e-commerce executive RJ Pittman will be leaving his role at Apple to join eBay as their new chief product officer, according to reports from All Things D and USA Today. The timing of his departure and the hiring of Angela Ahrendts is purely coincidental, say inside sources.

Suzanne Lindbergh, Apple’s former “Hollywood Liaison,” has also left the company for Jawbone, makers of Bluetooth headsets and external speakers. Lindbergh spent over 20 years with Apple, most notably as the person in charge of getting facetime for Apple products in popular movies and television shows.

According to reports, Pittman will be joining eBay in a newly created role as the head of their marketplace business. He’ll head up development at eBay as well as try to improve the existing shopping experience on the site. Pittman has plenty of experience in e-commerce, having helped Apple set up their call centers. He also claims responsibility for Apple’s Personal Pickup program, the service which allows customers to buy Apple products online and pick them up at their local Apple store.

“I think it’s pretty clear today eBay dominates the marketplace category,”he  said in an interview with All Things D.

“I’m excited to come in and reinvent the way people buy and sell. I loved what I was doing at Apple; it’s a great company … but eBay is on a completely different level by an order of magnitude when it comes to e-commerce.”

eBay shares Pittman’s enthusiasm for his new role. In an interview with USA Today,e Bay president Devin Wenig said his company is trying to both improve their online marketplace as well as to expand into Brazil, India and Russia.

"We're getting a world-class leader for the next phase," said Wenig in an interview with USA Today. "This feels like the right step to expand our mobile lead and produce new end-to-end product experiences for buyers and sellers."

While at Apple, Pittman reported directly to their vice president of worldwide online stores, but sources say the recent addition of Ahrendts at Apple had nothing to do with his decision to switch companies.

AppleInsider broke the news of Lindbergh’s departure, claiming this change will “weaken” Apple’s ties to Hollywood. After joining the marketing team in 1988, she changed roles to “worldwide director of buzz marketing” in 1994, nearly four years before Steve Jobs returned to the company.

According to website Brand Channel, Apple products appeared in 42.5 percent of all number one films in 2011 and in one-third of all number one films between 2001 and 2011. It is estimated that Apple’s product placement value could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, yet the company generally keeps mum on the issue.

During the Apple v Samsung patent trial last year, executives mentioned that they have a person in charge of putting these products in front of the camera in clever ways. Lindbergh is now expected to join Jawbone as the head of a new “entertainment-focused division,” though Jawbone has yet to comment on this news.