A Q&A with MC Saatchi Mobile's James Hilton -- The Jay Sears Mobile Leader Series

By Archived Rubicon Project Archives
Cover image for  article: A Q&A with MC Saatchi Mobile's James Hilton -- The Jay Sears Mobile Leader Series

Today we continue a series of Q&As with mobile advertising leaders leading up to the Rubicon Project conference on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 from 9am to 1pm at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The packed agenda includes two panels: “Ad Agencies, Mobile and the Automation Opportunity” featuring leading mobile first agencies and “Mobile First DSPs -- Why? And Why Now?”

If you plan to be at Mobile World Congress and would like to attend the Wednesday conference, please send an indication of your interest here or contact sears@rubiconproject.com.

Today we continue our mobile leader series with James Hilton, Global CEO of M&C Saatchi Mobile.

Your Name: James Hilton

Your Company: M&C Saatchi Mobile

Your Title: Global CEO

What Flavor Ice Cream Best Describes Your Management Style:

Mint – refreshing!

SEARS: In mobile today, how much of each $1.00 spent on mobile media by one of your advertisers is spent on automated or programmatic channels?


Programmatic offers unique opportunities to our clients and as an agency we are embracing programmatic (PGM) into the core of the business. Mobile PGM buying is still in its infancy compared to online but there are so many opportunities available today even though the ecosystem is not yet perfect. Over the years I envisage PGM will become more and more important as the results achieved today have been very positive. I do foresee this necessarily cannibalizing other channel spends as spends are substantially growing across the board.

SEARS: For mobile, what was this number in 2011?


SEARS: For mobile, what will this number be in 2015?


SEARS: App vs. mobile web. The app world is fueled by cost-per-install advertising dollars from the most popular apps such as King.com’s Candy Crush, yes or no?

HILTON: No – we work with a diverse range of global brands who don’t even have an app. Whilst we do represent some of the worlds largest gaming companies where CPI is seen as a bench mark we also work with our clients to look far closer at their installs to ensure we are attracting the right installs with the highest yield.

SEARS: The mobile web world suffers from an inability to track users and is waiting for better targeting and more brand dollars to arrive in mobile, yes or no?

HILTON: No – whilst targeting and tracking are complex it is available today. We represent numerous global brands who are capitalizing on this opportunity.

SEARS: It seems like many of the leading agency trading desks have been slow to embrace mobile. After they solidified their work in display, most trading desks focused on building their video capabilities. What will be the catalysts for trading desks – and their operating agencies at the biggest holding companies – to place more focus on mobile?

HILTON: I believe the catalyst has been the huge surge in consumer engagement to mobile devices and all reputable agencies have already started taking mobile seriously.

SEARS: With many mobile-first agencies and mobile-first tech platforms, this period seems similar to when there were many independent search engine marketing and early digital agencies that were eventually purchased by the holding companies. Do you agree?

HILTON: Yes – I launched our business in 2006 and we were partially acquired by the world’s largest independent agency M&C Saatchi in 2010. The reasoning for this is I believe there are no client upsides to an independent mobile agency. We work extensively across the entire M&C Saatchi Network and I couldn’t imagine life without this support. We have a network of close to 2000 people in 25 locations around the world which makes our local knowledge impeccable and the ability to execute through the line an easy reality.

SEARS: Are the big carriers still relevant in mobile? Everything now happens “off deck,” SMS and call revenue is declining, yet carriers sit on a treasure trove of data. What are the biggest threats and opportunities for carriers and which ones around the globe are the most progressive?

HILTON: Yes. They have a vast amount of data which they are gearing up to unleash to marketers. This is clearly their main value as they have data no one else can source. Also whilst they are seeing declines in some areas they are also witnessing growth in others.

SEARS: The future of user ID and cross device targeting. What do your advertisers use today for user targeting? Which companies (or types of companies) are in the best position to facilitate user ID and cross device targeting?

HILTON: There are so many vendors out there but clearly the likes of Google are Facebook are presently best placed for this as this is where the eyeballs are going.


· Overall managed budget (media spend / automated media only) for [ your trading desk, your agency or spent by advertisers via your technology platform] expected 2014 GLOBAL:

o HILTON: We are stock market listed and cannot release such information – we have publically stated we will be crossing the $100m mark in 2014 and till releasing our results cannot comment on 2013.

· How many employees globally [headcount number]?


Worldwide 103

Europe 54

The United States 36

Asia 7

Other 6

SEARS: What are M&C Saatchi Mobile’s three biggest initiatives for 2014?


1. Programmatic

2. Wearable tech

3. Pushing the boundaries for trackable mobile media solutions


Apple vs. Google.

iOS vs. Android.

Closed vs. Open.

“The 1%”[Apple] vs. the “Middle Market” [Google].

How do you and your clients think about this dichotomy and how does it impact your advertisers? And how do global markets with a preponderance of feature phones even fit into this mix?

HILTON: Each brand has different objectives and as a group we have dozens of researchers / planners who assist our clients for such questions. No two brands are the same and what works for some often does not work for others.

SEARS: All of you work for global companies. What global markets are the leaders and laggards in mobile programmatic?

HILTON: The very nature of PGM is that it can be executed globally; if the exchanges have the inventory in any desired country (which they invariably do) we can be live in a very short space of time. We view PGM as a global opportunity and not one by territory.

Tell us a bit more about you:

SEARS: If you could travel for pleasure anywhere in the world, to a place you have never been, where would you go?

HILTON: Antarctic – my job brings the delights of traveling the world over, whilst on flights there is often a nature documentary about life in the Antarctic and it fascinates me greatly.

SEARS: When is the last time you went out for a three martini lunch?

HILTON: Christmas – this is a great time to sit with clients and toast the success of the year that has just been and raise a glass to the coming year’s success.

Thanks James!

Jay Sears is Senior Vice President, Marketplace Development for the Rubicon Project. Sears works with leadership and business unit heads across the company to expand Rubicon Project's potential market. Sears also served as General Manager, REVV Buyer, where he was responsible for global relations withJay Searsthe buy side including ad holding companies, ad agencies, agency trading desks and demand side platforms headquartered in North America. Jay can be reached at jsears@rubiconproject.com.

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