M&C Saatchi Mobile: Fragmentation Is Still A Challenge

EricMugnierM&C Saatchi Mobile may be a mobile agency, as its name clearly denotes, but it’s got more than mobile on the brain.

“We’re focused on leveraging our client data and adding first-party data to programmatic capabilities to target users with mobile at the center,” said Eric Mugnier, SVP for North America at M&C Saatchi Mobile. “The point is to target users whether they’re on their phone in a stadium, sitting in front of a computer or watching TV from their sofa with their phone in their hand.”

However, there’s still hype around programmatic – not about whether it’s effective but, rather, around the notion that “we’re there yet.”

“Everyone is talking about [programmatic] as if it’s already 100% here and very easy to do, but it’s just not,” Mugnier said.

M&C Saatchi Mobile’s services include media planning and buying, strategy, research and analytics, with a bit of creative support tossed in when clients request it.

Today, the agency’s headcount stands at around 130 people (up from 75 in 2013) spread across offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney and, most recently, Singapore. Mugnier heads up M&C Saatchi Mobile’s North America business.

AdExchanger caught up with Mugnier to talk IoT, mobile fraud and what types of data are most important to the agency’s work. (Answer: All of them.)

AdExchanger: How have you seen the mobile landscape evolve over the past decade?

ERIC MUGNIER: Well, 10 years ago the iPhone wasn’t even here yet. It was a very different business. There’s been quite a lot of fragmentation in the space since, and even though that’s changing, the ecosystem is still quite fragmented overall.

That said, programmatic is starting to work for more than just app downloads – it’s working for direct actions, for purchases. And that’s what matters for our clients.

What are some challenges around programmatic?

People often say that it’s easy to do, but it’s actually very difficult to scale. Publishers often say there is still a limited amount of uniformity in the data that you can access, for example, and in terms of cross-channel, there are very few players who can really do that – Facebook, Google among them.

Programmatic is powerful, but it’s not a real bridge between all the big players that can identify users across platforms with certainty. It’s still difficult to have the right answer from a targeting perspective.

What about the Internet of Things? That represents another point of fragmentation. Have clients been asking about it?

We haven’t taken advantage from an advertising perspective yet, but we are thinking quite a lot about connected devices. There’s smart technology that allows people to use their phone to turn their lights on and off, but then there is also the matter of the second screen and targeting people when they’re sitting in front of the TV.

For now, the [IoT] is a very US-centric trend. Around 30% of people in the US have some sort of smart technology in the home, while something like only 3% of people in the UK do.

But we do see the opportunity in these platforms. If we know that someone is interacting with something in their home, like an intelligent security system, for example, there could be a way to use that data for targeting purposes. But we don’t have clients looking to do campaigns like that just yet.

How are you approaching mobile fraud?

It’s easier to identify script and fraudulent activity online, but in the mobile space, there is still a lot of manual work we have to do. There are a lot of doubtful publishers in the world at the moment and some are taking advantage of the fragmentation in the mobile space. We’re very careful about looking for that.

For example, we can tell if there are a lot of clicks coming from one mobile ID or if the clicks are coming from a different country. It’s relatively easy to find that kind of fraud.

But it gets a lot more challenging when it comes to where ads are being placed. We have a team focused on that, including some full-time engineers and a virtual team across different markets. It needs to be a global effort. Their only job is to look at the different platforms, publishers, websites and mobile apps for ads that are not meeting the standards we require. We blacklist sites we don’t want, but they sometimes change their IDs.

We’re also trying our best to eliminate the number of networks in between the advertiser and the publisher in order to minimize the amount of people taking a percentage of the media spend along the way, which makes it less efficient for the advertiser.

What sort of data is most valuable to you and your brands?

Really, all data is important. The bigger question is around how we use it and the ability to follow and track the impressions we book and generate. We’re always looking to optimize what we do and adapt a media plan in real time.

Some clients have very strict privacy policies or are reluctant to share or maybe only want to share a limited amount of data, and that makes our life more challenging. But the more data we have access to – while, of course, adhering to the limits of privacy – the more efficient we can be for them.

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