Paul Howell
Sep 20, 2011

Omnicom's John Wren reflects on the network, the industry, and Asia

In a wide-ranging live interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific’s Atifa Silk, global CEO of the Omnicom Group John Wren offers his thoughts on the network’s outlook, its position in the ongoing battle for creative talent, and the importance of Asia in a faltering world economy

Omnicom's John Wren reflects on the network, the industry, and Asia

John Wren admits he finds it’s difficult to ever be truly “satisfied” with the success of the Omnicom network. But while it narrowly missed out on the inaugural ‘best holding company’ title at this year’s Cannes festival, he says the progress of its brand across the creative and media functions has been more than pleasing. “We’ve made tremendous progress (in last five years),” he told Spikes Asia 2011 today. “I couldn’t be happier.”

He says that progress has been based around two key principles: “creativity and the value of ideas”, which have in turn helped to form an overarching culture across the Omnicom network.

“Having great people is at the core of it; and having great ideas is at the core of it,” he said.

But like for almost any employer, getting those great people on board, and then keeping them in place, is always a challenge. That’s particularly the case for the creative industries at the moment, and has even further impact in this region. “Turnover in Asia is higher than in other parts of the world.”

Wren says that the Omnicom culture, and the separate cultural identities of each of its agencies, helps it to hold its own in the competitive employment markets for creative talent. “People want to belong to a company that stands for something,” he adds. “People want to work with people they can learn something from; and want to work with people they respect.

“In the war between culture and strategy, culture eats strategy’s breakfast,” he adds.

While he accepts that poaching is a natural arm of the talent war (and he repeated an offer for talented creatives to seek the network out), he says employers need to also add value to their staff. “We have an enormous responsibility to train and drive our people,” he said.  “The industry hurts itself by (agencies) poaching from each other, (and) driving up inflation without (accompanying) education.”

Wren asserted that that commitment to training and human development would continue in 2012 and beyond, regardless of how the world economy entered into the new year.

On that issue, he said the Omnicom leader said he was looking at the world economy with “cautious optimism,” noting that the current statistics and underlying strength of even faltering western markets “looked better than the headlines”.

Whatever the changes however, he said Asia’s importance in the overall market for creativity would continue to grow.  “Asian markets and emerging markets – that’s where the growth is and that’s where we’re directing our resources,” he said, agreeing that global clients were also increasingly looking for agency networks with strong Asia-based talent and capability.

“Strength in the region is increasingly a deciding factor in winning and retaining global business.”

This article is part of a collaboration with Campaign Asia-Pacific for our Spikes Asia 2011 coverage

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