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Mobext: Marketing Is A Context, Not A Channel


MobextWhile a new piece of mobile tech seems nifty, will it irritate consumers?

It’s a deceptively simple question and one that Warren Zenna often has to ask himself. As EVP and managing director of Mobext US, the mobile arm of Havas Media Group, Zenna and his team are constantly presented with a steady and constant stream of new mobile-related bells and whistles.

“Something might seem cool, but I need to see the applicability of that innovation with respect to my clients’ needs,” Zenna said. “Is this going to be good for the user? If something annoys me then, frankly, it’s probably going to annoy someone else.”

The agency’s job is to act as a sort of watchdog to keep new technologies from “getting out of control and becoming a nuisance for the consumer,” he said.

Shazam is one recent example of a company that passed what Zenna called the “smell test.”

After seeing tangible results for several Havas Group clients, including AXA, which ran a TV/second-screen campaign with Shazam that garnered 300,000 downloads of the French investment bank‘s mobile app, Mobext inked a global agreement with Shazam in June through which the agency will get priority access to the music discovery platform’s road map, as well as product training around best practices.

But this is about more than the ability to get better attribution around TV syncing – it’s about data, said Marco Rigon, global head of Mobext.

The agency will also be working with Shazam to share and exchange data for global retargeting and profiling purposes.

“Who is tagging the spot? What kind of music does that person like? We’re getting a lot of insights here,” Rigon said. “It’s all about the data that we can get out of the interaction with TV – that’s what’s really valuable for us.”

Headquartered in Paris, Mobext has a presence in 35 countries, with a growing influence in US and Latin America. Roughly 80% of Mobext’s work is for existing Havas clients in-house, although Zenna and Rigon hope to develop the agency into more of a standalone brand that handles its own RFPs so that roughly 50% of its business is ultimately derived from its own direct client base.

Mobext had done work for Coca-Cola, Volkswagen, Domino’s Pizza, Evian, Carlsberg, Adidas, Danon, Sears, Hyundai, Volvo and McDonald’s.


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MarcoRigonMobextAdExchanger sat down with Zenna and Rigon to talk vendor fatigue, emoji and why mobile isn’t really a channel anymore.

AdExchanger: How does Mobext approach mobile?

MARCO RIGON: First, there is a wrong way to tackle mobile, and that is simply seeing it as just another media channel to add into the media mix you already have. This isn’t about adding another banner or interstitial into your messaging, it’s about rethinking your way of doing business.

We approach mobile with a 360-degree perspective – to engage and reengage customers with the correct message and create lifetime value. It’s about much more than a simple app download, which alone doesn’t make sense for any brand today.

WARREN ZENNA: We also consider what has become a profound question for the industry – is mobile still a channel unto itself anymore, or is it just digital? We’re affected by the legacy ways in which digital marketing has taken place since the day the computer was brought into the mainstream, and now we’re trying to fight against the old habits we created working in that model.

There will probably be a time not far from now when we don’t say “mobile,” we just say “marketing.”

Does that mean distinct mobile agencies won’t be necessary in the future?

WZ: I don’t want to talk myself out of a gig. There will always be a need for some digital specialization. We’ll always need search specialists, for example, because there are nuances there. In the same way, we’ll always need mobile expertise. But, hopefully, people will stop thinking of mobile as a channel and start to view it more as a context.

How do you keep track the multitude of mobile vendors out there?

WZ: It’s overwhelming. I probably get a call from a vendor three or four times a day and I can’t possibly meet them all. But our account groups expect us to be ahead of the curve. It’s a tough thing. We have to be somewhat of a sieve to make sure we’re exposing our front office people to things that have passed our smell test.

What are you sniffing for?

WZ: We look for innovations that are useful. If you can make a page bounce up and down, for example, I guess that’s kind of neat, but how are my clients going to use that and will it be good for the user?

We also look at their level in the marketplace. If a startup doesn’t have the support that’s necessary to handle scale, I’m concerned. We’re not in the business of trying to incubate new platforms.

WarrenZennaMobextIs there an example of a technology that doesn’t pass your smell test?

WZ: Augmented reality – it has applicability, but it’s also kind of widgety. Looking at something like Oculus, AR within a virtual reality platform could be cool in the future as an immersive experience and a brand builder. But just having an app that sort of augments things around you when you hold up your phone – I don’t see how that’s sustainable.

Frankly, clients are looking for more basic things right now, like attribution. Did something I invest in have the desired result? Those are the dots our clients are trying to connect first.

Quick reaction on emoji: stupid or cool?

MR: There are advertising opportunities around messaging platforms, but we feel it’s going to be more related to things like payments. That said, mobile is quite often about not being serious. It’s about doing silly things. That is also an important part of advertising, too.

Mobext – do you consider yourself more tech service provider or creative service provider?

WZ: Strategic service provider. We’re not in tech. If we were in tech, I think we’d lose and creative isn’t our core thing. Havas Worldwide is a creative agency. We’re trying to help solve marketing problems using data, audience targeting and insights. We’re strategists.

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