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 or contact

Today we continue our mobile leader series with Andrew French, VP Client Services at Somo, a mobile-first agency.

Your Name: Andrew French

Your Company: Somo

Your Title: VP Client Services

What Flavor Ice Cream Best Describes Your Management Style?

Tutti Frutti

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?

FRENCH: We directly spend $0.05 - $0.10 on programmatic. Our partners’ most likely work with additional programmatic buying partners making our total effective between $0.10 and $0.20.

The appetite for programmatic is high, there is a gap however between expectation of what is available on web vs. reality of what is available on mobile.

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


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

FRENCH: $0.25 - $0.35

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

FRENCH: Yes, social gaming dominates in-app spend.

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?

FRENCH: No. You can be quite sophisticated with mobile web and certainly target the right sites and environments and audiences. Brand dollars lag behind because of a lack of knowledge in the media holding groups that control the brand dollars.

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?

FRENCH: From my understanding, most trading desks moved into video before mobile. TV is just a channel for delivering video content. TV budgets are typically the largest and as they come under pressure TV buyers are moving to protect them by investing in desktop video. Same format bought against reach and frequency metrics.

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?

FRENCH: You typically go through a generalist, specialist, generalist agency trend. Easy to go to your main generalist agency to get started on mobile. As you learn more and want to do more it is likely you will speak to a specialist to deliver best in-class activity. Then the market consolidates through acquisition and off we go again.

Catalysts are tough but the main ones for the above trend are:

1. Education of clients

2. Tech to enable things to happen

3. Mobile at the heart of the big idea

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?

FRENCH: The data is amazing, but very biased as typically excludes WI-FI. Behavior and environment is very different on WI-FI and so they only give half the picture.

As a pipe the carriers will always serve a purpose, as a data provider they will have large value in the market. Hard to see where they fit in the advertising landscape beyond this. Wouldn’t bet against them though, huge resources and are more than aware of need for change.

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?

FRENCH: Our clients use a range of tracking providers such as Ad-X, Has Offers or our own product, Lithient. Using a combination of device IDs, device recognition, cookies, etc. you can build up a rich profile of a user. These tools will, to some extent work cross device but not universally.

The solution for cross device is likely to come from a Google, Facebook or maybe an independent like Ad Truth. Companies such as Drawbridge and Tapad have a place to play but are skewed in their position by their network services.

SEARS: What are the top three “data points” either missing or of dubious quality in mobile media?


1. real source of in-app advertising (remove arbitrage)

2. user data (who are we reaching)

3. post impression data (what is the value of advertising)

SEARS: Tell us about Somo.

FRENCH: We work with companies across the globe from the NFL, DeBeers, Audi, Social Point, New York Times and BP to solve a range of problems in their business. This could be to acquire profitable users, create luxury in-store experiences, produce an AR application or re-market to lapsed customers. The most important thing is that we use the latest technology, innovation and marketing techniques to deliver best in-class solutions to help business grow efficiently and profitably.


· Overall managed budget (media spend / automated media only) for expected 2014 GLOBAL:

o FRENCH: Undisclosed

· Percentage increase, managed budget (media spend) 2013 vs. expected 2014 [Global only #]:

o FRENCH: 100% +

· How many employees globally?


§ Worldwide 180

§ Europe 150

§ The United States 25

§ Asia 5

SEARS: What are Somo’s three biggest initiatives for 2014?


1. To dominate the mobile sector by delivering creative and innovative products and campaigns.

2. Continue to build world leading enterprise products for solving industry issues.

3. Global efficiency and process.


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?

FRENCH: Advertise on the platforms where your customers are.

SEARS: To drive adoption of direct deal automation (programmatic premium) and use of the programmatic channel, what are the major impediments to overcome? Rank these in numerical order:


_1 Operational or workforce issues inside the holding companies or operating agencies

_3_ Premium (direct deal) inventory availability via programmatic

_2 _ Lack of proper ad technology

_4_ Alignment of agency compensation models

These are my views on the industry issues. As a specialist we have the people and workforce, just need the industry to catch up and create momentum.

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

FRENCH: US are leaders in mobile, lacking well behind is APAC.

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?

FRENCH: Whistler

SEARS: If you were trapped alone on a desert island and needed to choose one ad holding company CEO to accompany you ( other than your own holding company CEO), which CEO would you pick and why?

FRENCH: Is this a joke? Can’t I have Jennifer Lawrence?

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

FRENCH: Never, not a fan of the Martini. Does a three Jaeger bomb count? Last Tuesday.

Thanks Andrew!

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

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