Wunderman has come a long way along the transition from direct mail marketing to digital and data-driven marketing. How would you define its positioning today? And how is the agency faring in India, among all markets?
I’ll take the second one first.
We could certainly do a lot better in India. It is not an easy market for us. We are measuring right now, on the use of technology, and digital in general. I must say, and don’t take me the wrong way – there is enormous difficulty in India, to use technology for marketing purposes.
We all know the talent of people in technology and engineering staff and all that. But it has proven challenging for us – and I don’t mean just us as a company but many others of our type who are placing marketing technology first.
We are talking about the harvesting of insights coming from data and technology; data from twitter or facebook or data that companies like Adobe are giving us, and use that for campaigns using sophisticated messaging. They yield higher results because they are customised, they are targeted. We have a lot of work to do in India in order to communicate to our clients and future clients, that if they have the objective to use technology, and data in general and insights in their communication, then we are the player for that.
It has proven to be difficult. May be it is partly to do with legacy or history, and partly to do with the way we do business in India. We have large global clients like Nokia, Microsoft and Ford, and we have started deploying our global platforms in India, so that’s fine. But when we try and go after the very large Indian clients, it has proven to be difficult. I would say the same thing about China, but less so in China because it has changed quite a bit there – the market opened up for not only multinational clients but also for large domestic companies. We could do significantly better in India if we could find the right type of clients that would value technology.
I know there is a lot of talk (talk, talk) about technology in India but there hasn’t been any change of substantial nature that would help us grow faster. Broadcast TV is still on and promotion, activation and retail are still on, but the passage to technology, and technology used for marketing purposes, is lagging. That’s basically our sweet spot – so if I cannot use our sweet spot, then I got a problem.
Otherwise, Wunderman has been doing fabulously. We have tripled the company in the last 10 years. That’s on the back of money shifting drastically from broadcasting to couponing and sales activation and into digital and technology. We must remember that digital doesn’t exist without technology. There’s not much money in just display ads.
We have grown riding on the back of large technology clients for most part. Our top 10 clients account for almost 50 per cent of our revenue. Six out of the top 10 are technology clients. We have Nokia, Land Rover, Ford, Jaguar, Microsoft, Dell, T-Mobile, AT&T.... We are deeply embedded with 21st century-type communications with those clients. We rode into markets with those clients going global. That has been responsible for growth in addition to acquisitions that we have made and the reorganisation that we did last year. Our business is divided into divisions including Wunderman World Health, traditional CRM and e-CRM and mobile applications, data and analytics practice, and the digital acquisition engine. So you have those four divisions, engaged in acquiring customers through digital means, keeping them engaged using data and mobile apps, using that data to up sell, cross sell and so on.
We have 8,000 people around the world now, in 170 agencies across 65 markets, and doing very well.
Would the US still account as the largest market?
Yes, it still does.
If you look at the recent numbers, the fast growing markets such as India, China and Brazil, and even some of the smaller markets like Vietnam, Philippines, they account now for about a fifth of our revenue. That is excellent, because they are growing in strong double digits. The idea of entering some of those markets eight years ago has worked very well for us. Now it is very difficult to enter those markets; we have entered some of those markets through acquisitions and grown.
That (share of revenue from fast growth markets) should grow to 30 per cent in the next seven years, coming partly from US and partly from Europe.
The competition is very different today, from the days when data (or database) driven marketing was clearly defined as the DM agency’s agenda...
Many of the data companies, whether it is Axiom or Epsilon, or technology companies like Accenture or IBM, or even Deloitte, or service providers like Sapient, or ad agencies – they are coming into our territory. Fortunately, we have been in business for quite a while, so we are able to defend that territory. It will take them a while to get to the level of technical ability that we have acquired.
But yes, you are correct. They see it as a fruitful area and they are entering it, which is good – it means that the sector is developing. The more the people in it, the faster the business grows.
Good companies will survive.
Besides competition, we see even media (and media agencies) engaged in analytics to study the purchase cycle. How has all this changed the level of collaboration for Wunderman?
Yes, there are more and more connections coming from the media side.
Every client wants to grow, particularly in developing markets. For that, there is no secret - they have to acquire new customers. And new customers are being acquired not necessarily by using legacy data, but by using valuable and interesting consumer experience. Media, whether it is search or broadcast, is a partner of choice for us. And then we get into the retention of those customers using data, apps, and moving into a lifetime system, working out how much money you invest year on year to retain those people and upgrade them.
Increasingly, we find that our connection is with our media partner and our research partner. What we have is a lot of behavioural and transactional data, besides soft and fast data that we are taking off the surface of the internet. What we get from our media partner is media consumption data, what we get from Kantar is the panel survey data. So when you put all those together, you have a more complete view of the customer.
If you have one source of data, it is like watching TV in black and white. If you have several sources of data, it is TV in 3D.
The combination of all sources of data is big data. The aggregation of data from various sources is very important and we are constantly focused on doing that.
Has that changed the way you work internally, across WPP units?
If you talk to Martin Sorrell, he will use the term ‘Horizontality’. We need to forcefully connect with partners - and we have tonnes of potential partners within WPP. If you look at some of the large WPP accounts, 36 of them have a WPP account director on it – like Ford, Pfizer, Colgate, Dell and HSBC. There’s one person in charge of connecting all the resources within WPP for the benefit of the client. I don’t see any other large communication network outside WPP doing that - and doing that systematically with clear lines of responsibility and authority for collaborating genuinely well for the benefit of the client.
Many times, it is what is really wanted by the client. The way we work has changed.
How has what Wunderman stands for as an offering changed?
It would vary by country. There are markets where we are clearly the inheritor of the direct marketing tradition, like some in Europe we penetrated 50 years ago, and in North America. And there are markets where we are not at all known for that but are known for data. Our position in a market is a reflection of the type of work we do and the type of clients we keep, in addition to the large global clients, which are a large portion of our revenue.
So every market is unique, but for me, Wunderman’s positioning is about ‘accountable creativity’. Accountability comes from data and analysing it, and creativity is needed because you cannot connect with the customer if you are not remotely interesting.
You mentioned about other players getting into our domain. It’s not that easy. You have to have a large and experienced tradition of constructing communication pieces – what people today call content. You cannot improvise yourself to be a content provider or a story teller. You have to have the people in place; you have to have the systems, the tradition.
In what stage of the customer lifecycle is there maximum play today, for agencies in your space? And is the portfolio of clients changing?
I saw a client chart recently. It had the various stages that the consumer goes through, from knowledge of the product to understanding, gathering of information and purchase and post-purchase experience. Traditionally, you would line up communication for each stage and fix the channels you used, be it Television or in-store activation, coupons to bring them back to the store, or loyalty to keep them. You had a very defined path, then. I think that is blurring. Technology for instance is used across the purchase cycle, like in the case of the mobile phone. A company like Wunderman is able to use technology, and even mediums like TV (we do a lot of direct response TV), to be a part and parcel in each of those stages. Technology allows you to do everything today across all those stages. It’s gotten faster, and is in real time. It’s not broken down into stages now.
In the beginning, we were known as a large business-centric, business-to-business player.
Recently, we have acquired a lot of retail clients like Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Best Buy and many others because those brands are using technology. Many FMCG companies have now started embracing technology, and that is adding to our growth.