'In client relationships, the idea of an agency will vanish' - Q&A with Rob Pierre, chief executive of Jellyfish

Jellyfish chief executive Rob Pierre

In a month in which digital marketing services business Jellyfish completed the acquisition of Latitude and was named as Performance Agency of The Year at The Drum Search Awards, its chief executive Rob Pierre answered some questions on his views of the current digital marketing ecosystem and his own ambitions for the company that are still to be met.

What is the goal behind the M&A growth plan - what is the desire for Jellyfish to grow and become?

When it comes to acquisitions, there’s a very specific profile that we look for in companies. Our main objectives are to establish ourselves as quickly as possible in a new territory or to bolster the capabilities within our business. Most recently, our acquisition of Latitude gave us our first presence in the north of England and expanded our existing presence in Dubai. Last year, our acquisition of The ASO Co enabled us to add App Store Optimisation to our client offering.

Ideally, we’d like to keep a ratio of 80 / 20 (organically grown / acquisition). This will allow us to maintain our culture, which in turn helps with the integration of new entities.

What are the most significant trends and changes taking place in digital?

In client relationships, the idea of an agency will vanish. There will be a spectrum from fully managing to fully in-housing and you must be able to operate anywhere on the spectrum.

To achieve the goal of a 360 degree, global, digital proposition you have to have a joined-up approach blending data, creative and media-buying. You need a culture that is collaborative. With a single provider, it’s fluid and organic. It allows you to provide the right message, in the right place at the right time.

With regards to search more specifically, we believe data could enhance our understanding beyond just the context of the keyword. Things like behavioural history, personas and interests will inform the bid strategy, ad copy and landing environment.

What should clients/marketers be more aware of in digital and search?

Marketers need to be more aware of the harvesting and ownership of data. The processing power of the cloud allows marketers to make sense of the data being collected.

There are huge opportunities for automation through machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. Historically tasks had to be predictable and repeatable to be automated but now with AI, the opportunities for automation are vast.

Digital assistants and internet-enabled devices will continue to become more useful, changing the way search is currently used. More brands will be able to activate their first-party data to help them make informed marketing decisions.

In terms of search, the ways in which we engage with devices is changing. For example, conversational search is rising and is very different to text search. At Jellyfish we’re automating the theming of contextually similar search terms using Google’s NLP API.

What are the main mistakes or misconceptions being made by clients still when it comes to search?

Search is often bucketed into the transaction stage of the funnel but in fact, it also contributes to driving awareness. The belief is that programmatic or above-the-line create the awareness and that search comes in at the performance end.

How do you keep on top of the changes that take place (usually without ceremony) by Google and others?

As a tier one Google partner, we get early access to the alpha and beta rollouts of the latest technologies. This allows us to develop our capabilities and gives us, and our clients, the inside edge on emerging features.

Our in-house experts train 6000 people per year through our Jellyfish Training division. As a result, it’s unlikely that something will be live for long without us being aware of it.

We also run a proprietary series of events called ‘A View On’. Recent sessions have focused on search, programmatic and performance. Research for these ensures we are on top of the very latest trends.

What does Bing have going for it that it deserves more credit for?

Recently Bing has been piloting products that are unique to them - Linkedin targeting and msan (their programmatic product via the search platform) are some examples. It shows a desire to innovate.

By the end of this decade what do you hope Jellyfish will have achieved that it is still to do?

Our goal is to be recognised as a legitimate global partner for any brand’s digital requirements.

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