In 2015, Essence launched a certification program led by the mobile practice as part of an effort to spread mobile knowledge to other teams in the agency. Essence says mobile-related aptitude increased across the board by around 59%, based on before and after quiz results.
Of the 15 mobile-specific people who previously reported to Sigel in North America, four will join the new group, as will the agency’s four-person investment practice – eight people in all.
Of the 11 remaining personnel, three will be absorbed into Essence’s biddable practice, one will join the ad ops team and seven (those who came on board as part of Essence’s acquisition of mobile agency Point Reach in 2013) will concentrate on planning and continue to report to Sigel.
As part of the new practice, Sigel will also oversee five people in London (two with a mobile background and three with investment experience), with plans to make two additional hires in the near-term.
“We’re thinking about partnerships and the future of digital channels together because the team that owns the relationships is the one that’s best suited to say, ‘Let’s start leaning into this,’” Sigel said.
Although his team will control the purse strings around innovation, Sigel said he will take pains to ensure it doesn’t become a bottleneck; proactively seeking out, testing and investing in innovative tech without getting bogged down by countless meetings with salespeople or individual RFPs.
“A salesperson’s job is to take as many meetings as possible with whoever they can find at an agency regardless of any gatekeeper you put in place,” Sigel said. “Rather than trying to control the chaos, we’re going to try and channel it to our advantage.”
The industry at large also seems to be trying to embrace that notion. Over the last year or so, Sigel said he’s noticed more and more titles and job descriptions that include the words “mobile,” “innovation” and “emerging technology.”
A quick search through LinkedIn bears this out with more than 4,000 results. There are “Directors of mobile strategy and innovation;” “VPs of innovation and mobile strategy;” “executive directors of digital media & emerging technology;” “mobile marketing product & innovation managers” and many other variations on that theme.
But it’s about self-preservation as much as it’s reflective of the ubiquity of mobile and its growing maturity as a market.
“If you’d asked me a year and a half ago, I would have been disappointed with our mobile output, and as a digital agency, we had to course correct, especially with mobile becoming the dominant platform we’re running,” Sigel said. “It’s also true that clients are starting to grow up and ask for a more robust digital offering beyond the download, and as that happens, we’re going to start to see a lot of performance-focused mobile-only agencies start to hurt.”