2018 Financial Mail AdFocus profile

While the entire world has done a 360-degree turnaround thanks to digital transformation and a constrained economy, the ad industry has yet to change its operating model—ironic considering that this also is the industry that should be driving change and innovation.

Yet there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for agencies who have been lamenting the sorry state of the economy and its consequences; however, only the resilient will get there. Kagiso Musi, MD at Wunderman, believes that the agencies who are brave enough to take the path less travelled will be rewarded in the end, for standing out in an industry which, as a whole, is nowhere close to being as nimble as it should be.

It is a tough climate, Musi admits. Not only are clients squeezing their agencies harder than ever; it’s also becoming a real challenge to retain good talent, add to which, there is already a dearth of the calibre of individuals the industry needs: knowledgeable, skilled, resilient, passionate, interested and engaged people who want to do great work.

What is required is change from an industry-wide perspective, because as long as things stay the same, the current situation of agencies feeling pressurised is likely to remain as is. This includes the conversation around transformation. “Our belief is that it should not be a ‘tick the box’ exercise but rather a deliberate effort to grow the industry in the right way for the betterment of the country as a whole. The problem is that the industry doesn’t know how to undertake the shape shifting necessary to effect the change that is needed,” says Musi.

Wunderman, on the other hand, is making its own steps in a positive direction. It’s a ‘back to basics’ approach that essentially places the consumer at the heart of everything it does. Somewhere along the line, agencies forgot about consumers. This consumer-centred approach means we are prioritising the way we think about the work we do. “It’s all about customer experience,” adds Marc Allwright, Wunderman COO.

“Competition beckons from consultancies as they enter the market,” says Musi, and she believes that the agency will stand out because of its creative output and ability to produce work that is relevant and insightful, whilst at the same time growing sales. This boils down to the agency’s ability to identify areas of friction between consumers and brands and use these insights to create value for the brand.

Digital transformation and knowledge are key aspects of the change that is taking place across all sectors of business. 2020 will look nothing like 2018 looks now, and businesses that do not embrace this change will ultimately be left behind.

It’s an age where providing clients with solutions that have customer experience at their centre makes infinite sense. Furthermore, if the solution required lies beyond what Wunderman can offer in house, the agency has no qualms about bringing in capabilities necessary to provide clients with the right answers. In fact, Wunderman sees this as an honest way of mapping out the customer journey.

With Wunderman’s re-engineered structure, clients reap the benefits of an integrated approach that allows them to operate competently in a world where digital transformation has become a necessity. With customer experience at the core, three companies—Wunderman SA, Cerebra and Wunderman Technology—comprise the entire Wunderman offering. Wunderman SA provides clients with traditional integrated platforms, as well as digital, marketing, data analytics and CRM; Cerebra specialises in social media, and Wunderman Technology focuses on digital technological transformation.

The agency sells the group or individual offering to clients, depending on their needs. The key is to ensure that the client is provided with the right solution, even if it means bringing it in from outside.

The Wunderman Academy provides training and a recognised qualification for those in the industry. While the academy is currently not used at night, there are plans to utilise the space and facilities for those who wish to actualise their ideas but do not have the resources at home to do so.

From a business perspective, Wunderman acquired the Telkom account a little over 12 months ago, which has allowed the agency to position its integrated offering. Work on Standard Bank has also increased, growing through digital transformation and consultation.

Allwright maintains that the ability to provide a focus on the technical and creative aspect of digital marketing is a differentiating aspect for the group. He maintains that clients today have an expectation that their agencies will be technically astute, creative and able to help them to navigate within this space.

Key to trends in technology is artificial intelligence (AI). While there is a great deal of fear around what AI means for marketers and their jobs, the mandate of AI is ultimately to facilitate quicker processes, which, Allwright believes, will allow marketers to better apply their time and energy to the more strategic elements of campaigns.

For the next year, Wunderman plans to cement its customer experience proposition and will continue to open opportunities to work with smaller shops and partners, in order to help improve the South African economy, and rally around clients in the area of marketing automation and personalisation.