Mobile-first onward: James Connelly on why LA is important to Fetch’s future

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Today, mobile agency Fetch, part of the Dentsu Aegis Network, officially celebrates the opening of their Los Angeles office. Announced last month, the office is being run by managing partner Rurairi McCuckin, formerly head of account strategy at Criteo, will oversee the agency’s client roster that includes Hulu and Apple Music.

The agency has been successful in the US, with around 60 to 65 per cent of revenues coming from the market, and the new office will be in the burgeoning area of Playa Vista, west of Los Angeles. As has been their rallying position since inception, the agency sees tremendous opportunity in LA’s mobile market.

“LA is quite interesting, because there seems to be a mobile-first entertainment economy popping up there. Lots of money being invested into LA, especially in that Playa Vista area,”  said James Connelly, co-founder and CEO of Fetch, at the Postback event in Seattle.”We thought, ‘Well, we need to be there. We need to support our clients. There’s going to be more demand for what we do.’ We are on this evolution from being a mobile-only company to a mobile-first company.”

From being solely about mobile to having it take more of a front seat is a change that Connelly has seen in his time and, surprisingly, the traditional advertising world is the thread that weaves through the company’s future.

“Instead of changing what we do, we’ve been evolving, because our day-to-day current business is growing 40 per cent year on year on top line and bottom line. We are still doing really well as a mobile company, but we want to be able to help our mobile-first customers think in a more mobile-first way,” said Connelly. “We can go to our mobile-first customers and say, “Wow, you are doing a really good job with mobile. Actually, can you really build a brand or can you really scale your proposition through mobile-only? Probably not.’ We look at our phones 144 times a day, but not all of those 144 moments are commercial opportunities. You can’t get an advertising message within that real estate. The traditional advertising world, has about 3,000 commercial message opportunities a day. We are looking at maybe 100 versus 3,000. Businesses like Apple Music, like Hulu, like Uber, they need to be thinking about after digital advertising or mobile marketing, which everybody here (at Postback) is talking about – how do we drive music growth and music growth, but through traditional formats? That’s the journey we are on.”

Though the eyes of Fetch are on the traditional, Connelly feels strongly that the current system and process of buying and engaging with traditional advertising should be the polar opposite of “traditional.”

“If you look at it in the traditional way, it’s archaic,” noted Connelly. “We thought if we approach traditional media in a traditional way, it just doesn’t really work for our mobile-first clients. We’ve been working over the last year on finding how to trade differently and not have to go through the whole upfront cycle. We’ve been looking at a data-first approach, so we are targeting individuals through traditional media, which is difficult to do – but not impossible – as opposed to a data-last approach, where an agency will do lots of inside planning: book a campaign, run a campaign, and then do a report at the end saying, ‘This is what we think happened.’ Whereas we are trying to say, ‘We are going to look at this on a daily basis, optimize it on a daily basis, and tell you every week how your campaigns are performing’.”

This approach may rub some traditionalists the wrong way, but Connelly is sticking to his guns, eschewing the long-held way of selling on ratings and more ‘traditional’ metrics, especially as it relates to the 30-second spot, long the bastion of the advertising gravy train.

“I just think it’s bonkers that’s what people revert to now. When, in fact, we know that today, individuals, their attention span lasts around 6 seconds,” said Connelly. “Why play them a 30-second ad? It just really doesn’t make sense. There’s things like that that have to change. Doing short form content. Stuff that people want to see. On the right platforms.”

Though the 30-second ad may not necessarily have a fan in Connelly, he does acknowledge that longer-form, decent content and experiences still carry weight and can be highly effective.

“You’ve got 6 seconds to ask the consumer if they want to learn more. Then, you want them to have as long a dwell time as possible,” said Connelly. “You want to create an experience. Instead of sending someone through to a fixed video, it might be an interactive website, or even an app, whatever it might be, where they can experience, they can share.”

For Fetch, it’s all about mobile first – and seven years has unearthed tremendous insight. In the next seven years, though, Connelly posits that the digital marketing will “be everything” and that the next evolution could prove to be interesting.

“From a Fetch perspective, I would imagine that we would have completely evolved. We probably won’t even be talking about mobile. Even now, our interpretation of the mobile-first agency is to be the agency that understands the mobile consumer better than any other. I think in 7 years’ time, it will be we figure out through data how consumers live their life and how to market towards them. I think we are going to be a more traditionalist, I hate to say it,” admitted Connelly.

At the moment, though, Connelly has a clear path and vision for what’s right in front of him and Fetch.

“Our job isn’t to change the industry. Our job is to create value for our customers. I believe that value for our customers is going to be coming from disrupting the way that traditional media is bought to deliver new customers for them. That’s what we’ll start with.”

This article was first published in The Drum on 7th March 2016 and was written by Doug Zanger.