Ross Wellby interview by Mobile Entertainment


Director of digital employment agency, Ross Wellby, reveals how brands are keen to adopt the technology and what key innovations have been witnessed.

Who are you working with at the moment?

We’ve been tracking senior managers and upwards for a healthy mix of startups and international firms. We support around 70 to 80 companies a year and a lot of them offer repeat business. It isn’t just recruiting either, we offer consultation to help them determine their goals.

What kind of advice do you offer them?

We’re particularly lucky to get involved with clients, particularly brands, who say they want to get involved in mobile but they’re nervous and don’t know a huge amount about it. We’ll usually provide a contextualised understanding of the landscape to explain where one company sits against another.

Whereabouts is the business coming from?

We’re born and bred in the UK, but just 25 per cent of the business takes place here and the rest takes place globally. In terms of global breakdown, 60 per cent of revenue comes from Europe and 20 per cent from North and South America and 20 per cent from Asia and Africa.

How has your business model changed over your nine years of operation?

Mobile content as a category has changed beyond all recognition since we started the company. It’s much broader now and a necessary part of the digital landscape as a whole, so we’ve made the move to specialise in digital across the board.

Mobile is just one channel that businesses use to reach consumers, so the need for sole mobile specialists is reduced and we tend to find that people want a digital specialist with a heavy level of mobile in there, so we fit the bill perfectly.

There’s a very thin line between a smartphone experience and an online experience, and development has got to the point of responsive design, which will support a business across phones, tablets and PCs.

The only difference is the way they’re making money from the platforms, with one batch of employees monetising mobile and the other monetising desktops. That’s where the separation is.

You don’t want an app or online experience to be vastly different, it’s all about unifying the customer journey. Businesses generally want content to look the same and feel the same.

And has that affected the types of hires you make?

Back in the day, people only wanted to appoint mobile specialists, but they’re now looking to thicken up their blood a little bit.

Recruiting for a mobile company may now mean appointments that aren’t quite to centre. For instance, a mobile marketing agency may want someone with a wider digital background rather than a sole mobile specialist.

Companies are broadening their horizons and we try to get our clients to see they can get more bang for their buck by hiring from a related industry rather than a direct competitor.

Are there any sectors in the industry that stand out in terms of mobile and digital hires?

Gambling is doing particularly well, as are sports, mobile payments and advertising platforms. There has also been a revival on games and social, while there’s also rising interest in M2M and m-health.

Brands are dominating much more than they used to. High street retailers in particular are doing things that are more dynamic and exciting than they were five years ago.

In fact, they tend to be the ones driving innovation by bringing mobile into the brand and doing creative things through it. There is an enthusiasm to keep more and more in house.

What are some of the key innovations you’ve seen from them?

Some of the more interesting stuff includes in-app purchasing, rich media video advertising and branded entertainment products, such as a brand creating a game for itself to engage consumers.

What exactly do brands usually look for in a new recruit?

A classic situation will be a high street retailer requesting a head of mobile monetisation and what they mean by that is someone that can come in and say this is how to get eyeballs, this is how to get consumers to engage with you via mobile.

However, there’s nothing product-based going on there. They’re still selling the same stuff and still engaging customers in the same way, just using a different channel to market. It’s the beginning of an ongoing process.

What advice would you give to companies entering mobile?

Companies need to realise hiring a head of mobile isn’t going to solve all of their problems, it’s just the start. Once the recruit is on-board, they then need to engage with various channels, everything can’t be done in house instantly. Appointing one person will still mean lots of external partners.

It’s all about producing the right experience whether it’s a piece of content or a service, but then there’s a lot of marketing and advertising that needs to be done around it to generate revenue. Having it on mobile isn’t enough, an economy and discovery of mobile needs to be established too.

What are common struggles that companies have in terms of mobile?

Brands and retailers tend to find recruiting in mobile hard because it’s such a dynamic market that moves really quickly, while they’re used to taking their time over recruitment.

They’re not used to the pace of mobile, which sees people offered jobs quite quickly after interviews, whereas brands historically like to ponder at length, so it’s a case of educating the market and getting them used to reacting quickly.

I also think it’s more difficult when you recruit someone for the first time, so selecting their first mobile employee means taking a leap of faith because they don’t know what a good one and a bad one looks like. We try and help with that process to reduce risk.

What areas are of particular interest to your clients?

There are now economic models in place that make the market a lot less complex. The most obvious interest is executing consumer monetisation cleverly, because the days of people spending £5 on a mobile phone game download are gone for the most part. The main focus is creating engaging mobile experiences that can rival products found on TV, consoles and so on.

Where do you think future innovations will come from?

Security. It’s arguably easier to secure iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone than Android, which is much more difficult. The first thing we used to do when buying a PC would be installing AVG or Norton, but mobile security is overlooked despite people doing banking and purchasing on their devices. I think that will be a massive issue next year – like I say, gambling and payments are growing.
IMR Executive is a silver partner of the ME Top 50 Mobile Innovators Project 2013.

IMRRoss Wellby interview by Mobile Entertainment