We thought it would be fun and informative for you to get to know the people at Redbox over the course of the coming months. For our first interview – we thought we’d pick the person with the most experience (i.e. the oldest person!) That’s James Salins, our CEO, who joined Redbox in Jan 2019.
Hi James - we’ve heard that you’ve been in advertising for a long time – give us a feel for how and why you started a career in advertising?
It’s been years – I’d give you an exact date but then you’d be able to work out how old I am! I was a barman in Hong Kong recently after graduating but had dreams of getting into either the movie industry or advertising. On my way back from HK, I had a stopover in Dubai which turned into a 2-year stay. My first job was as a ‘suit’ – a junior account person in a big agency in Dubai which looked after some great accounts like Toyota Lexus / Ikea / Seiko / Ace Hardware. A real baptism of fire presenting creative work to senior clients. It seemed vaguely reminiscent of ‘Madmen’ but in the middle of the desert. (I drank like a trooper – it was the 90’s after all.) My 2nd year in Dubai was working at Disney, promoting their newly formed office and bringing out both new and old titles on Home Entertainment. Highlights included bringing over both Lion King and Snow White & the Seven dwarfs’ characters from Disneyland Paris to do shows in huge malls and national parks around UAE to promote the products. I got roped into MC the whole thing as I had a large gob, youthful confidence, and importantly no-one else to delegate it to.
Oh, so when did you come back to the UK?
I came back shortly afterwards. Even though I’d loved Disney – I realised working in Movie marketing didn’t suit me as it was very structured, and you couldn’t do your own thing often enough without HQ sniffing around. Maybe another studio may have suited me more. I fell into ad sales (do you ever get into ad sales by design?) I joined Boomerang selling postcards and posters out of a large shed in Hampshire, before moving to the posher location of the Manor House as we grew quickly. I think I sold enough postcards and posters to fell a small forest during my enjoyable time there.
What about Digital advertising, when did you get involved with that?
Moved purely digital about 11 years ago to be precise. I became a bit of a gaming advertising geek. Leading a team in Europe at a gaming company called IGA, selling advertising directly into the PS3 on titles from EA, Activision & Sega. Suddenly my eyes were open to selling a global audience directly into their living room or bedroom to media agencies desperate to make their brands look cool. Gaming audiences quickly grew on Facebook and Mobile which was now where the scale was to be had. I then joined Supersonic, leading Europe commercially first on our Facebook games offering and then onto Mobile Gaming which scaled exponentially during my time there as we became a leading player in the adtech mobile gaming space. After 3 years we merged with IronSource and world domination beckoned as mobile gaming gobbled up more & more leisure time and the business model of performance advertising became seriously scientific. Crazy times!
How did you hear about Redbox mobile and why did you join?
I’d known Rory (Founder) and Fraser (Head of Sales) for a while and had always been a fan of adtech companies rather than pureplay agencies with no real tech advantage. I liked the hybrid nature of Redbox and the Apple Search Ads platform they’d built (Redbox Platform). I could see that Apple Search ads was rapidly becoming a major UA channel and that any app vertical could benefit from a layer of tech that simplified and automated a lot of the processes. I joined nearly 2 years ago with the brief to help build a great team and accelerate growth. I liked the vision of creating a company which could deliver a best in class product with a lean team. It’s been really fun building the expanding team at Redbox. Despite 2020 being a year of uncertainty and one where we’ve all been living on zoom calls at home – Redbox has grown strongly and built strong foundations on both the dev team and commercial team side.
Thanks for giving us a potted history of your career. What are you doing at the moment?
Right at this moment? My 2 teenage boys are on half term and my wife has had to go to New Zealand at short notice. That leaves me doing the cooking and general dad duties before and after my day job ends. I’ve been dragging them both on walks and bike rides, so they don’t live just on a diet of Call of Duty & Netflix. We are all piling into the kitchen later to make a mountain of Chicken Fajitas & guacamole followed by Key Lime Pie. Living life to the max.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to get into the mobile and specifically the mobile app advertising ecosystem?
I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to do when I left University. I think given the current climate with Covid and the tough job market, young people have to stand out much more now to get noticed. Research a company you’re interested in properly, their competitors, their clients and be prepared to approach companies directly. I gave my first employee a job at IGA because she was brave enough to call me, sent me her dissertation on gaming advertising and told me I should employ her. A person with multiple languages often rises to the top of the CV pile as businesses typically have a global client base, French & Spanish super useful but increasingly Russian & Mandarin. Being comfortable with data and interpreting it is also a key skill we look for in performance advertising. Above all, be passionate, that will always shine through.
Thanks James. We’ll let you get back to making your Chicken Fajitas!