M&C Saatchi rebrands mobile arm as M&C Saatchi Performance

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James Hilton: chief executive of M&C Saatchi Performance

Digital buying unit M&C Saatchi Mobile is changing its name to M&C Saatchi Performance.

James Hilton: chief executive of M&C Saatchi Performance“We don’t just do mobile,” James Hilton, the chief executive, said, explaining how the agency’s remit has become broader in the age of “the hyper-connected consumer” who uses “a whole plethora of smart devices”.

He described performance as any piece of media that is “optimised and trackable”, so that a brand can target an audience and generate a response or action. “So long as we can measure it, track it, record it, alter it, optimise it, then we call it performance,” he said.

After founding the agency in 2006 as Inside Mobile, Hilton sold the business to M&C Saatchi group in 2010 and the shop now employs about 200 people, chiefly in the UK, Asia – including Singapore and Mumbai – and the Americas, including New York and Los Angeles.

Hilton said the mobile agency has had “great success” as smartphones have gone mainstream in the past decade, but “going forwards in 2018, being called mobile is somewhat of a challenge”.

Rebranding as M&C Saatchi Performance reflects the fact that “we’re moving from a device-specific to a device-agnostic proposition”, he explained. “It’s a very big call [to rename the agency] , because we have a lot of brand equity in M&C Saatchi Mobile. We have to do this for our future.”

Some industry observers claim that all media buying will become performance-driven, but Hilton dismissed the suggestion of renaming the agency M&C Saatchi Media.

“If you look at the biggest performance players in the world, they are Google and Facebook, but you can also run brands campaigns on them,” he said. “There are a lot of people running ‘reach and frequency’ campaigns and not optimising them.

“Going into the holistic media space [offering a full range of media services] isn’t where we want to go. We’ve turned down a lot of briefs that haven’t had a performance element.”

M&C Saatchi, which owns a minority stake in media agency Blue 449, said in its half-year results last week that media margins were “shrinking” across the industry but its mobile division “continues to excel”.

Performance media, including search, social and programmatic, has grown rapidly in the past decade, because marketers get a response through a sale, a “click-through” or another type of digital engagement – rather than just reach.

However, Enders Analysis and some other industry analysts have said the pendulum may have swung too far towards performance at the expense of brand-building and creativity.

M&C Saatchi told investors last week that creativity “cannot be automated”, but Hilton insisted that performance and creativity can sit easily together.

“Around the world for M&C Saatchi plc, brands are still dying for brilliant, creative ideas – computers don’t generate brilliant, creative ideas,” he said.

“It’s how you get to the audience with the right message at the right time, eliminating wastage and maximising performance [that also matters] .”

M&C Saatchi Mobile has more than doubled its turnover in two years to £35m, according to its last UK annual accounts, although that figure is likely to have risen further since.

Clients include Amazon, the BBC and Zoopla, according to its website.

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