This weeks “Five minutes with….” interview is with Andrew Walker, Co-founder and Director of Thin Martian, the digital creative agency located close to the very heart of ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in Cowper Street,EC2.
Although Andrew won the Bournemouth International Music Festival Classical Guitar competition aged 10, we felt there were some rather more pressing issues to focus upon!
Alicia Navarro, CEO of Skimlinks said recently “Hiring is so expensive
in San Francisco.It is one of the reasons we have kept our development
team in London…..”.We read that Moshi Monsters held their own
milkround at a London Bar! Is the search and recruitment of tech talent
becoming ever more difficult with the increasing media attention
focussed upon ‘Silicon Roundabout’?
Yes – if you work in the world of apps, social networks and start-ups, you need whole new set of skills from designers, programmers, account managers etc. That makes finding the best candidates a challenge and salary expectations are rising. The good news is that the tech boom is attracting a lot of very talented people to the area, so through networking you can normally find someone who knows someone.
Tell us about the origins of Thin Martian (the name?), how the company has developed,what you do and the vision for the future?
The name: Back in the 70’s there was a sci-fi show which started “The Invaders – a Quinn Martin Production”. We made flash cartoon version in 1998 called “The Unvader – a Thin Martian Production” to ape the original intro sequence and rhyme with ‘Quinn Martin’. The name stuck and we formed the company to make flash cartoons commercially. The rest is history.
Today we run marketing campaigns for clients using websites, social media apps and mobile apps and there’s 22 of us in the studio. We got into social media and data a few years ago, creating MusicMetric and Tweetminster – two of the first companies to be listed in Wired as Silicon Roundabout brands. Right now we’re growing a great mobile app team and launching new social media services.
The future? Mobile and social.
The Financial Times (July 14th) ran a piece ‘Second fund targets tech
groups in echo of the dotcom bubble‘. Although the story related to a new
US fund, Keating Capital, Is your vision of Thin Martian tempered at all
by concerns about the future or do you feel that the market has learnt
I’m sceptical about a second dotcom bubble. Connectivity through mobile and broadband means there is a huge market offering big returns, growing every day. I think the boom in VC funded tech start-ups has ended and we’re seeing some brands disappear because their business model didn’t pan out, there’s still a very active market for investment and acquisition. It’s hard to be pessimistic if you step back and consider the global digital economy is growing, Twitter and Facebook are huge, mobile is even bigger. It’s a great time to be making apps and getting Facebook ‘Likes’.
You are based in offices in Cowper Street. Do you feel that you have
created the workspace philosophy you were searching for at Thin Martian
or is this an ever changing evolutionary business due to the fast changing digital world you inhabit?
We wanted a big open space, table football, a couple of Xboxes and nice kitchen. Agency hours are long and stressy, so it’s got to have diversions and decent food. Everyone brings in stuff from home to decorate their desks – mine is covered in toy robots and the like (there goes my cred!) – I have proper work stuff too, obviously. We like getting clients to hot desk with us and generally try to mix up where people sit so that we spend more time talking to each other rather than using twitter or whatever. I’m not sure that’s a workspace philosophy, but it is a really nice place to work.
Your website www.thinmartian.com tells of your earlier incarnation as
a stand up comic…..any funny stories and does this give you an added
advantage when a client heckles during a pitch?
Funny stories…maybe, but I’d risk getting the blog shut down over most of them! Once you’ve been been bottled off the stage in an Edinburgh comedy club you tend not to get nervous with pitching, because no matter how bad a powerpoint presentation goes, no-one will actually try to cut you about five minutes into it. Actually most pitches are more like coffee mornings than formal affairs these days, which is a good thing – it’s about the work, not the protocols. I did bomb once because they didn’t appreciate my (apparently) humorous chit chat at organisation X but they didn’t heckle, they wrote me a rather snippy email afterwards, for which I thanked them for the feedback. Very civilised!
The FT (19th July) leading stories include ‘Facebook
ad prices soar as brands shift spending online’. Simon Mansell,Chief
executive of TBG Digital says “In my experience of digital advertising,
this is the biggest growth that we have seen since Google….The main
difference is that this is being fuelled by brand spend rather than
(direct)response spend. That is an inflection point for the whole digital
marketplace…”Do you agree?
Yes and no – brands are spending a lot more to advertise and market themselves in social networks. Brands that used to shift big FMCG numbers like Anchor Butter (remember the cows on TV butter ads?) are now experimenting with marketing entirely via Facebook. Brands are connecting directly with communities through these spaces, as that continues new ad products will emerge to exploit social networks and mobile phones and target our tastes and interests through analysing our online footprint. The old click-through-response banner ad model is playing catch-up – but I wouldn’t write it off just yet. Direct marketing still works, email offers and secondary ad placements on websites are still highly relevant when it comes to shifting products online.
Thank you Andrew.
To find out more about Thin Martian visit their website at www.thinmartian.com
Alternatively, to find out more about available office property in the Silicon Roundabout area contact Kushner at www.kushnerproperty.com