Five Questions with David Jones, Founder of You & Mr. Jones

The Former Global CEO of Havas Talks About Contacts, Funding, and Experience

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David Jones
David Jones Credit: PR

A familiar face returns to Cannes next week, when former Havas global CEO David Jones will be back on the Croisette – this time to promote his new venture, You & Mr. Jones.

The company launched last week with $350 million of funding, just under 10% of which has already been spent. The New York-based venture owns a majority stake in crowdsourcing platform Mofilm, as well as being the biggest investor in Pixlee (which trawls social media for pictures of users with brands and secures rights to them), and a small investor in digital news brand, Mashable.

Mr. Jones said, "We closed funding last Friday. The money was in the bank on Monday. We wrote checks on Tuesday, and launched on Thursday. It was a big week."

Through Mofilm, You & Mr. Jones already claims a presence in 10 cities around the world, and a relationship with marketers including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Chevrolet, Diageo, Guinness, Nestlé, Pepsi, PlayStation, Reckitt Benckiser, American Express, and AT&T.

Jean-Marc Antoni, former CFO at Havas, is a founding partner and CFO of the new venture, and Mofilm founder Jeffrey Merrihue is also on the board. Altogether they are launching with around 12 core staff, including more board members, although Mr. Jones declines to say who they all are. A head of brand tech ventures, based in San Francisco, is due to be announced soon.

Ad Age: Why the name?

Mr. Jones: Tech companies can be a bit cold; I wanted a name to counterbalance that. The 'You' is the client, talent or shareholder, and it comes first. The '&' is written large in the logo because of our fundamental belief in open collaboration. And the 'Mr. Jones' is a nod to me, but it's banal enough to be more of a brand name than my name.

Ad Age: What is your investment strategy for the rest of your $350 million?

Mr. Jones: About 90% of the money will go in majority stakes in established businesses, and 10% as early stage investments. Many of the best companies don't want to sell out to giant conglomerates where they are a rounding error on a rounding error, but they want the opportunity to move to the next level on scale.

We are looking at six key verticals, and I reserve the right to add a couple more, bearing in mind how fast the world is changing: user and machine generated content; brand creative and content strategy; social media marketing; programmatic buying; multichannel networks; and data analytics. Will we buy a traditional agency? I would never say never, but it's as close to improbable as you will ever find.

Ad Age: How will you bring all these disparate companies together to create You & Mr. Jones?

Mr. Jones: I have a team in place to do that. It's not complicated. We can deliver end-to-end for any brand, or help them to build in-house capabilities. At Havas there were 500 different companies around the world, put together through acquisitions, and a thousand different cultures, philosophies and points of view. I'm building something much simpler than that, with people who see the world the same way – we are all entrepreneurs and disruptors.

I'm not saying we are fully formed, and we certainly don't have all the answers, but we have contacts, operational expertise, and funds. Everybody understands that a new model is needed, and we think we have the talent and the money to figure it out at a global level.

Ad Age: Where is the gap in the market for You & Mr. Jones?

Mr. Jones: Living inside the revolution, we sometimes don't realize how dramatic it is. When I started out, you only got to create if you were in a creative department and a brand paid for it. Pretty much everyone on the planet now has a device that can create, produce and distribute high quality content. We can build brands better, faster and cheaper. Mofilm can deliver five broadcast quality videos for $125,000 – it's a fraction of the cost of going to the "professional" world.

The world today has big company groups who are fantastic at brands, but not as good at tech, or tech companies who are either not interested in brands or not experts at it. The majority of global brands need help from someone who gets both.

Ad Age: Are you looking forward to being back in Cannes after a year off?

Mr. Jones: When I was at Havas, it was always mayhem. Everyone thinks you're on holiday, but it's actually the hardest working week of the year. This year I've got a lot of meetings set up with terrific businesses and talent, and I'll be at the Mofilm events, but I'm looking forward to enjoying it a bit more.

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