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Best creativity needs to be sold at a premium: Daniel Bonner

The Global CCO of Wunderman Thompson tells IMPACT Associate Editor Neeta Nair why winning in innovation is important for the agency network, and more

e4m by Neeta Nair
Published: Jun 22, 2022 8:51 AM  | 7 min read
Daniel Bonner

At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, IMPACT’s Associate Editor Neeta Nair caught up with Daniel Bonner, Global Chief Creative Officer, Wunderman Thompson, to discuss how winning in innovation is important for the agency network which bagged a Grand Prix in the category last year, what’s more important business or creativity, and his best bets at Cannes this year.

Innovation Lions will be announced today.

Edited Excerpts:

You were the CCO of Wunderman even before the merger with JWT took place. How different is Wunderman Thompson from the agency you headed back then? 

I think it's very different in a good way. But I was there only for eight months before the merger happened. So, I hadn't started to get my teeth into the opportunities and what we wanted to achieve. Wunderman Thompson has become the incarnation of probably what we wanted Wunderman to be singularly. By bringing in some more historical storytelling and brand building capability to what was more of a digital commerce, CRM, experience capability, we got there faster together, than we would've done separately. We're now a big organization with 20,000 people and have a lot of brands and a lot of capabilities. 

You share the CCO title with Bas Korsten, what are the advantages and the challenges of a twin CCO model on the global level and who takes care of what?

With 50% of our time, we share the responsibilities on excellence related internal initiatives, broad initiatives, future plans etc. The other 50% of our time is divided on initiatives that are unique, usually client opportunities. There's no point in both of us working on the same client. We have 30 global clients who represent quite a large part of our revenue. We don't have 15 each; that would be ridiculous. But we have specific ones that we focus more time on. Of course, there are business pitches and we take on those individually as they come in, depending on bandwidth and workload. 

Revenue-wise, who are the top three clients of Wunderman Thompson, globally?

On a value basis, in the top five we have Microsoft, GSK, Pfizer, Unilever. I think consistently, HSBC has been a great client. They have been very brave and courageous, and a double gold winner last year. HSBC has a real appetite and an acumen. Unilever too, has an appetite and an acumen for creative work. We have a lot of good local brands, who may not feature in our global lists, but are very important locally. 

For India, this year, we have a lot of great pieces by this brand - The Nameless Women. I would say in Asia, there is less of our bigger clients. But that's kind of reflective of the market. 

How are you ensuring better collaboration between different markets?

We have a tool called lightning bolt. We call it so because we want the lightning to strike very fast. Let’s take a global brand like Nestle and a global product like Kit Kat. We condense and refine the brief and then send it out to all the teams once a month. We give them teams 48 hours to respond, even if it is a weekend, we typically receive anywhere between 250-400 pages of ideas. The entire process is transparent, if the work gets made, the team gets credit for it and sometimes even the chance to work on it.  In fact, on occasions, we have also extended this to work with WPP agencies like the Dove campaign for Ogilvy in North America.

Cannes has awards in the most diverse categories. As a creative head, winning in which categories is the most important for you? 

We like innovation as a category. We won the Grand Prix in that last year too, so innovation is in our blood. This year, some new categories such as creative strategy, creative business transformation, and B2B are also there. I think creative data is also a good one for us. 

Back in 2014, JWT (now Wunderman Thompson) won eight Lions for its Nike campaign. After that point, we have not seen WT India bag Lions in such high numbers. Will Wunderman Thompson manage to bring back that magic this year?

It is not just down to the individuals in the agency to do it. You need courage in all stakeholders to do great work, including the brands, which is very difficult. In terms of a recipe for success, it is usually around trust, relationships, and courage. There is a great book by Ryan Berman, called Return On Courage. It says only 5% of us humans were naturally born to fight it out, stick around, work it out and get to a resolution. For organizations, that is tricky because courage can often sound risky. I mean, there is no shortage of great ideas. But I feel, it is important to make sure that whatever it is that we are doing is building the brand and whatever the brand stands for, because otherwise it can appear as a bit of a throw away. I think the reason why that Nike campaign (Make Every Yard count) was a winner was because it was helping build the brand that Nike stands for. So, I would like to think that the work that wins is the work that impacts the world, beyond this world.

What are your expectations from the festival?

I hope I see something I was not expecting, because that is what the headlines are all about. This is a showcase of the absolute best. And so if we could predict it, then it means that whatever’s won, is probably lame. I just genuinely think that I want to leave with things I could not have imagined because that is what great creativity does - moves the borders in your head

Which are the big campaigns from India that you are really betting on?

Lost Daughters did very well. It was called so as it was about reconnecting young female members of families who had been disconnected. They filmed a very powerful and emotional story. I think the Nameless Women campaign is also interesting, because culturally in India, women are often referred to as someone's wife or someone's daughter. So this was a campaign for a fashion brand where the women could, through the designs, show people their identity. I thought that was quite powerful. 

What are your expectations from Shamsuddin Jasani who is heading the business in India. What are the three areas that you really want him to focus on?

Every CEO, and Shamsuddin is no exception, must be a great advocate for the power of inspiration and creativity. While they must run a good business, it is about building teams and culture, where creativity can win. It is about trying to blend and bring capabilities together. This is where being global could be an advantage. Being open to bringing in capability is key as ultimately creativity is an inclusive process and it is much better that way. Also, understanding the power of creative excellence to unlock growth is important. We have to inspire clients, our people and customers. It is also about believing in talent and having the right people in the right teams at the right time, and making sure that the talent is working in the right way. I think these are things that truly matter. 

What is more important? Is it business or creativity?

I believe if you are selling the best creativity or the biggest amount of inspiration, then you should be selling that at a premium. Our clients hire us to inspire them and to inspire their customers. There's a good business to be made there that you can't give away for free.






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