Mark Irvine

How does anyone document the amazing force for good that was Mark Irvine in a way that captures all that he was and all that he did for everyone?

Mark would often call me his unpaid PR team, but what he didn’t realize is that he “paid” for it with his warmth, kindness and wit. 

When I was asked to write this…I was stuck. It was so easy to talk about how amazing Mark was when he was standing right there…but now all the words feel like shadows to the bright light he represented to me and so many who knew and loved him.  

Fair warning…I wrote a lot. So if you want the bullet points, here’s my best attempt:

  • A mentor: Mark understood the world and how to win within its parameters better than anyone. He invested so much time in helping others hone public speaking chops, as well as how we interact with people. 
  • A friend: One of the greatest gifts Mark could ever give was his friendship. Knowing that he was a safe space to laugh, indulge in the fruits of one’s labors, rage over the injustices of the world…only to laugh about them later, and cheer on the other’s triumphs was worth more than gold.
  • An award winning marketer: Mark has been winning awards for his work since 2015. Check out his bio on Search Lab for the full list.  
  • An ally: Mark always made time to empower those around him and intentionally stepped aside to ensure marginalized speakers/professionals could shine.
  • A teacher: Mark taught so many people PPC and was an international instructor and blogger. 

Mark was a husband to his best friend and partner Bobby Maine. A son to Virginia Hall and Curt Brimblecom. Brother to Jeff, David, and Nicole Irvine. Uncle to Trinity Irvine. He was also a friend, teacher, and inspiration to hundreds if not thousands of people touched by his work and his wit. 

Mark and the love of his life and husband, Bobby Maine.

I was very lucky to get to know Mark while working at the same ad tech company. He was the one responsible for training all the new hires, and I was the annoying Hermione complex.

I remember sitting in one of the trainings, and he looked at me with one of those trademark “Mark smiles” and said, “You’re going to know this – do you want to actually listen to me tell you things you know already?” 

Punching unicorns – one of the few pictures we took together that sums up our friendship better than anything else could.

That was the beginning of our very special friendship.

We might have been the same age and had comparable work/life experiences, but I always looked at Mark like a big brother. Mark knew how I functioned and I knew how he functioned. We both cared deeply about the other’s happiness, yet we very rarely voiced it to each other.

Both of us have/had a bit of a shy streak. We might have exchanged five hugs in all the years we knew each other, and I would give anything to be able to hug him right now. To tell him how much his friendship meant to me. How much he improved my life. 

Mark humoring me given his love of plushy sharks.

When I think about Mark, it’s hard not to think about industry events and work travel, because that’s where so much of our time was spent. But there were other moments too, and to paint the full picture of Mark Irvine, it’s useful to look at his bodies of work (of which there are many), what he meant to the digital marketing industry, and selfishly, what he meant to me. 

I also want to acknowledge how much it means to me that I was asked to write this. There were many who knew and loved Mark, and I did my best to factor in their takes on what was shared. That said, if Mark meant something special to you and you feel like there’s something missing from this piece, please reach out/comment. We’ll do what we can to add in those missing pieces.   

Mark’s achievements

Mark was a data magician. He was able to find the story in any data set, and was able to make any industry interesting. Between breaking down the data on industry benchmarks, quality score analysis, and account structure analysis, Mark’s impact on the marketing world is deep and profound. 

Part of what made Mark so incredibly special is that he was equally at home in the world of sports (he did quite a bit of data analysis for sports teams and absolutely geeked out over hockey), reality TV (one of Mark’s biggest dreams was to get on “Big Brother” and we all knew that if he got on, he’d go far) and “traditional nerdy stuff” (Mark was absolutely a gamer). This ability to be at home in multiple passion projects is part of what made him so gifted in crafting data sets. 

Fun fact: Mark LOVED penguins.

When you think of Mark’s marketing story – most folks think about the brilliant speaker, blogger and team leader. I got to work directly with Mark at an ad tech company that granted both of us a lot of data, but also the opportunity to forge really meaningful relationships with Google and Microsoft. 

Mark was the golden child in partnership conversations with ad platforms. His brilliant mind and keen sense of how to motivate people at a human level were second to none.

When an ad platform wanted to understand if a thing was viable – Mark was brought in to test it. If a thing needed to be monetized, Mark was the one to work through how it could be rolled out and scaled.

He won the Microsoft Advertising Influencer of the Year in 2019 and has been on the PPC Hero Top 25 Influencer list since 2015 (claiming the #1 spot in 2019 and will always be my PPC King). He was also on the recent Top 50 list that TrueClicks and partners rolled out. 

Mark spoke on the international speaking circuit and was loved for his wit and wisdom in equal measure. He had an uncanny knack for getting even the most stoic audience to laugh at themselves as well as openly acknowledge how much they were learning.

I often would joke with him that I could tell if he was in a good mood or not based on how he delivered his trademark opening: “talking about his favorite subject – like all other marketers…himself!” 

Mark rocking out a brilliant point and the room begging for encore questions.

Whether he was talking about local, analytics, ad creative, budgets, shopping, or the building blocks of PPC, Mark knew how to command a room and ensure everyone walked away feeling smarter and empowered to act. 

Mark enjoying a very well-deserved cocktail after winning Microsoft Influencer of the Year.

Part of why I loved Mark is that he firmly advocated for the deserving to get pampered (something he knew I struggled with). Many folks who worked with Mark got to enjoy really special experiences he wouldn’t let himself experience because of his leadership tag.   

The misfit toys: Greg Hermann, Mark Irvine, Zina Kayylai, Navah Hopkins and Chris Pierce.

Mark’s final years were spent building and scaling a successful PPC offering for Search Lab. He went from the Paid Lead to VP of Paid Search. He oversaw a team of seven and helped Search Lab win several awards for PPC excellence. 

Search Lab Exec team.

What Mark meant to the industry 

There are hundreds (if not thousands)of professionals who owe their industry knowledge and leadership skills to Mark Irvine.

  • Several current Google, Microsoft and Facebook employees started off as Mark Irvine’s students.
  • Brand leaders at major consumer brands cut their teeth on PPC under Mark Irvine’s guidance.
  • Investors consulted Mark before making investment decisions on ad tech or the viability of a market. 
Mark being his informative self at SMX.

When the news broke of Mark’s passing there was an immediate gut punch felt across the digital marketing spectrum. I’ve pulled some comments from posts I’ve seen and will link to them so you can read all the comments. 

Here are the links to some of the social posts I’ve come across + mine:

Note, out of respect for privacy, I haven’t linked to Mark’s family posts. That said, please keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this extremely difficult time. If they share that they’re willing to have their posts included, we can update the post. 

What Mark meant to me

Back in 2016 I presented at my first Pubcon Vegas (my first big talk). It was at the end of the day and my co-speaker was muttering comments about how she shouldn’t have to present with some new girl. I was feeling kind of deflated, but Mark was in the audience cheering me on. He stayed to walk back with me and let me know I did well (while also good heartedly making fun of how much extra time I spent after the session answering questions). 

It was at that moment I knew that I had a true friend in Mark Irvine. Up until that point we were work colleagues and, due entirely to my personality, occasional rivals. Yet when I was alone, and needed someone in my corner, Mark was there.

Mark would always be there. 

There really was nothing like having Mark Irvine in your corner.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how good of an ally Mark was. He made a point to show up for women and offer opportunities for growth that he could have very easily kept for himself. He would claim “but then I’d have to do it” (if you knew Mark, you can hear that voice playfully egging on the person to just do the thing). At least 20 women (including myself) got to explore thought leadership thanks to Mark. 

Fast forward to 2018. We both had established ourselves as powerhouses in our own rights, and we were invited to SMX Munich. I remember Mark making fun of me for making the rookie mistake of staying at the conference hotel instead of staying in the city.

This was a pattern with us. I’d stay at the cheaper/less exciting spot, and Mark would laugh at me going out of my way to save money for a company. He likely was right (especially given my track record of shady locations and getting locked out – all of which he was there to help me out of). 

During that Munich trip we talked a lot about what we both wanted and why we wanted it. I remember staying up till 2 a.m. drinking Pilsners with him at his hotel. I don’t remember what we talked about, just that it was one of the happiest conversations I’ve ever had.

We also walked around the Olympic stadium discussing how we were balancing work travel (which was fun), with being good lovelies. Bobby was never far from Mark’s mind or heart when he traveled and being a safe space for each other to talk through whether we were being kind to our partners was a true treasure.

Mark, Purna Virji, Joe Martinez, and I giggling our way across Munich while also sharing insights on PPC.

I think what made that trip so memorable was it felt like I had finally become worthy enough to sit with Mark as an equal. To laugh at the world with him. There was so much sadness and stress, and he had this uncanny ability to just shut out the negative and laugh. A big mechanic of our friendship was knowing what was going on and giggling to ourselves about how “X” was actually a red herring, or that “Y” was setting up for ABC. 

Mark would often tell me to “do less” and at the time it felt like a silly thing to focus on. Yet it came from a place of love.

Mark’s default personality was to do so much for everyone and to let others take advantage of his giving personality. Thinking back on the years we worked together (and even after we both went on to do other things), almost every decision he made was to ensure others could enjoy a great time/get the limelight. 

He encouraged me to own my power in every way, and I know I’m a better professional and person because I knew him. 

After the pandemic when we both had moved on from the ad tech company that brought us together we would make a point to catch up at conferences. Mark started sitting up front with me, and I’d sit in the back with him. We’d gossip about what was going on in PPC, in life, and whether the session was actually good. He absolutely brought out the snark in me.

I’ll miss my conference buddy. I’ll miss my safe snark space. I’ll miss the sense of home Mark represented when we traveled abroad (and the meals we’d treat each other to because they legitimately were work expenses). 

I’ll miss you, Mark, but I know you have an eternity of pumpkin spice lattes and Big Brother: Heaven Edditon to enjoy. Thank you for investing your care in me and for all the good you did for everyone touched by your amazing perspective.  

Thank you for helping me “do less”. 

Mark’s socials if you want to connect with his work:

A GoFundMe has been set up to help pay for Mark’s official celebration of life. If you’d like to contribute to the event costs, please do so here. Any remaining funds will be donated in Mark’s name to his beloved penguins at the New England Aquarium.