‘Keep growing Wavemaker, and get to No. 1 in India’
Toby Jenner, Global Chief Executive Officer of Wavemaker, spells out his mandate for the agency’s South Asia CEO Kartik Sharma on his maiden visit to India after assuming his new role in September
Six weeks into his new role of Global Chief Executive Officer at WPP’s Wavemaker, Toby Jenner is busy picking up the nuances of his new job and travelling to each market to learn about the strengths and opportunities inherent in each to formulate the strategy that will help him lead the media, content and technology agency, going forward. A WPP veteran of 23 years and former COO of MediaCom, Jenner is on his maiden visit to India, and talks to exchange4media about growing the agency, mandate for the India leadership and what he wants Wavemaker to stand for.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Two years after the merger of MEC and Maxus, how has the new agency Wavemaker fared? What is your assessment of its performance?
I am really impressed with what I have seen so far of the Wavemaker network. I have spent time with Kartik (Sharma) here in India. I met with the Asia Pacific team in Bangkok. I met the CEOs of UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the US… and I am really impressed with the quality of leadership that we have in our organization. I am also impressed with the scale of the business. We are one of only six WPP businesses that are in excess of a billion dollars in net sales or revenue. I have been very impressed with the local nature and entrepreneurial spirit within the organization. It’s important for me to learn and understand the strengths and opportunities. Then, I will look at how we globally align the network, share and reapply the great work that Kartik and his team do in India across multiple markets and vice versa around the world. So, my first six weeks at Wavemaker have really been about meeting people and learning as much as I possibly can to fuel the strategy that we will develop moving forward.
Now that Wavemaker’s launch and transition phase are over, what are your top priorities in leading Wavemaker globally and charting its growth strategy in the next couple of years?
At Wavemaker, we have merged two businesses, one that was very strong in Asia, and one that was really dominant in Europe; today it’s a powerhouse, and among the top five global networks. When you merge any two businesses, a lot of the time it’s quite inward-looking because you have to get the processes and procedures in place, set up the people. Now we have a real opportunity to look forward to what we want Wavemaker to stand for, what is the DNA that makes Wavemaker the business it is. And then what is the product, what is the work that we want to produce on behalf of our clients that underpins the proposition that we create and vice versa - the proposition needs to reflect the work that we produce for our clients. More broadly, I want us to keep growing our clients’ business, I want to keep growing our people, and I want us to keep growing Wavemaker as an organization. If we have a really compelling proposition, that Wavemaker stands for, and a really compelling product that supports that, then we will have great opportunity moving forward.
Which are the most promising markets for Wavemaker and where do you see the next leap of growth happening?
All our markets are hugely important. Our markets in South East Asia, India and China, are full-fledged powerhouses within our network. There are import markets and there are export markets. India is an export market. We need to take the very best of the work that we are producing in India and cascade it across the rest of the world. The opportunity is to share and reapply brilliant work wherever it happens in the world. For example, we have an amazing content business in the Philippines, an amazing e-commerce business in Shanghai, China. The size of a market is much more about the capabilities within that market. Even if there are 20 people, who are brilliant at what they do, then it’s our job to make sure that everyone has access to that capability. That is a huge opportunity; winning global clients is a huge opportunity. We have been built on lots of very strong local market businesses, and we need to complement that with lots of global businesses around the world.
Most marketers today are looking to get more and pay less. They are tightening their purse strings, and have a short term view of their business, focusing on immediate numbers. How do you deal with that?
There is danger for a marketer if they only focus on the here and now. Anyone can chase sales. I think it’s important that you chase sustainable sales. There is absolutely a balance to be had between brand and performance. One of the central roles of our business is to ensure we get that balance right. So, the clients have got great results, both short, medium and long term.
What is the importance of India as a market in the global scheme of things? Where would you place India if you were to rank the markets?
UK, India, France and Italy are our four best-ranked markets. Italy is at No. 1, the other three are at No. 2 position. The overall ranking of our business around the world is at No. 4-5. And in India, it is ranked at No. 2, with 12 per cent market-share. Our global average market-share is about 5 per cent, so it’s twice the global number. India is a hugely important business for us. That’s before you get into the IP that’s produced in India. Going forward, just as it is starting to happen in China, India is a market where clients will need networks externally. Clients that are Indian businesses but growing and looking to expand beyond India… I would really like to take advantage of that as an opportunity for us, moving forward in the next few years.
What are your expectations from Kartik Sharma? What is your brief to him?
Keep growing! Keep growing our staff, our talent. Keep growing our clients. And keep growing Wavemaker. We can over-complicate things as an industry, but we just want to simplify things. We have got a fantastic business here. How we can share and reapply some of those learnings that made the business that Kartik leads so brilliant externally is part of the job. Ultimately, I would say keep growing our clients, keep growing our people, and keep growing Wavemaker, and get to No.1.
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