Five-minute interview: Tom Eslinger, digital creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide

Tom Eslinger is responsible for growing the creative side of the Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide digital business, bringing in new talent, building new capabilities and forging global alliances with best-in-breed creative partners. He is a multiple Cannes Lion winner, D&AD and MMA award-winner, as part of the campaign teams for Burton Snobile, Rubbish Films and UN Voices. He was born in the USA. He was a lecturer in New Zealand before joining Saatchi & Saatchi in 1998. Promoted to the Saatchi’s global creative board in 2002, he is now based in London office.

  • Tom Eslinger was recommended for the five-minute interview by Alexandre Mars, Phonevalley.
  • mobiThinking’s ponders: Are we facing a mobile skills shortage? What should be done about it?
  • Q1. What is the one thing that gets you most excited about mobile?
    Being able to deliver our ideas and our client’s brands right into a person’s hand in a specific place and communicate with them instantly – that still knocks me out!

    Q2. What are your favorite (and least favorite) mobile Websites? What can the rest of us learn from these?
    I’ve always had a soft spot for any search engine and “see, I knew I was right” sites, so I’m a regular visitor to mobile sites like Google and (especially at pub quiz night…).
    Without naming names, my least favorite sites are those that are constructed straight off the back of a PC Website, i.e. with little or no consideration for the visitor or the device they are using and with little or no ability to filter the content. This is shameful. It reminds me of the early Web, when print ads would have buttons placed on them and, hey presto, there’s your Website.
    What we need to learn is that the skills to create great experiences for the mobile environment are precious – as an industry generally, we need to train and skill-up in mobile.

    Q3. Who is the new kid on the block – the mobile site/business to watch for the future?
    I like funky little companies with cool ideas, lots of guts and a “we can do that!” attitude, such as Acrossair and Mobilizy (see the video below for Mobilizy’s augmented reality travel guide).

    Q4. What (vertical) sector would you say is furthest ahead in mobile Web/mobile marketing? What can the rest of us learn from this sector?
    Entertainment, in all of its shapes and forms, is certainly the most interesting sector and it’s also a big hit with consumers. I lump music, movies and games together here. A key watershed for the entertainment sector will come when the first movie studio makes a real breakthrough, marketing a film aggressively via mobile.
    Smartphones such as iPhones have flattened the playing field between PC and mobile. They’ve made it simple to drag around the fun stuff, without sacrificing the cell-phone ability to connect and share with friends. As an iPhone user, iTunes is my main source for mobile entertainment content – it’s fast, easy and well curated.
    The thing to learn from entertainment is that combining high engagement and involvement with portability in snack-size portions moves a lot of apps, games and tunes. The thing that puts you out ahead is making stuff that connects with people’s passions, end of story.

    Q5. What’s the most exciting/inspirational part of the world for mobile? What can the rest of us learn from there?
    I think that Asia, particularly Japan and Korea, is still ahead of the curve. However, rich-media-capable phones, ubiquitous broadband and location-specific services (combined with killer ideas) are now spreading to other parts of the world. The lesson is: be attentive to your market and the trends and listen to/watch what people are actually doing with their mobile devices. These are the basics and can be applied to any market.

    Q6. What technology or initiative is most likely to revolutionize mobile Web/marketing? What sites/brands use this to maximum effect?
    I think that Google and Apple will have a shoot out over the next couple of years and this should ramp up development from both companies. There are lots of smart people developing ideas and tools for both platforms and the competition will generate lean products and big ideas.
    To use this to maximum effect, I’m encouraging clients and our teams to staff up with people who understand and are excited by mobile. Then we need to find some cool creative partners and production companies to work with, and get initiatives and ideas in front of clients. The key is: work fast, prototype faster and watch what everyone else is doing!

    Q7. If you could wave your magic wand and change one thing what would it be?
    That all brands would immediately begin diverting even a tiny proportion of their marketing budget to mobile initiatives. My current strategy is presenting mobile ideas to clients as part of their outdoor campaign – this raises some eye brows, but hopefully also raises a few media dollars to get the mobile piece made.
    Mobile needs to become part of the experience that we build across all media. It should be the activation point for our ideas – not just SMS and MMS – actively engaging with outdoor work and the immediate environment. This can be anything from photographing billboard posters with a camera phone, as in the UN Voices campaign, using a handset to scan barcodes and request info on vehicles in a car dealership as you walk past after hours. All consumers are carrying a hot computer around in their jacket pockets – we need remember that you can’t only connect with people when they’re sitting at their laptop. See the UN Voices video below, an award-winning campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi and The Hyperfactory.

    Q8. What’s the biggest mistake in mobile Web/marketing?
    Thinking that your audience has the same mindset, whether they are using their mobile or on the PC Web.

    Q9. What is the most useful resource site and/or must-read book for mobile marketers?
    My daily trawl consists of BBH Labs,, Hypebeast, GeekSugar, Gizmodo, PSFK and Technorati, and the groovers I follow on Twitter (@tomeslinger).

    Q10. Which mobile-marketing guru would you like to do our five-minute interview next?
    Not to be plugging more Publicis Groupe companies, but Peter Sells from BBH is smart, funny and gets mobile (he also has cool slideshows…).

    Which mobi guru would you like see interviewed next? Comment below or email editor (at)

    Previous mobiThinking five-minute interviews:

  • Barney Loehnis, OgilvyOne, Asia Pacific
  • Edward Kershaw, Nielsen Online
  • Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy
  • Juston Payne, Wiley
  • Tomi Ahonen (consultant, author)
  • Alexandre Mars, Phonevalley
  • Rob Lawson, Limbo
  • And don’t miss:

  • Are we facing a mobile skills shortage? What’s to be done?
  • The insiders’ guides to mobile Web marketing: USA, Germany, UK, India, Australia, Spain, South Africa, Brazil
  • How top football/soccer clubs engage fans with mobile
  • Ad networks mobile metrics reports: how they stack up
  • mobiThinking guide to mobile ad networks (2010)
  • Conferences & awards for mobile marketers, with offers
  • The Top Ten mobiThinkers 2009 – each profiled in full
  • mobiThinking’s page of essential links
  • Leave a Reply

    Exclusive tips, how-tos, news and comment

    Receive monthly updates on the world of mobile dev.

    Other Products

    Market leading device intelligence for the web, app and MNO ecosystems
    DeviceAtlas - Device Intelligence

    Real-time identification of fraudulent and misrepresented traffic
    DeviceAssure - Device Verification

    A free tool for developers, designers and marketers to test website performance
    mobiReady - Evaluate your websites’ mobile readiness

    © 2024 DeviceAtlas Limited. All rights reserved.

    This is a website of DeviceAtlas Limited, a private company limited by shares, incorporated and registered in the Republic of Ireland with registered number 398040 and registered office at 6th Floor, 2 Grand Canal Square, Dublin 2, Ireland