Wavemaker India is certainly our best team: Global CEO, Wavemaker

Tim Castree is all praises for his team in India and trusts it to be a result of “an excellent execution of agency’s global strategy” headed by Kartik Sharma

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: May 2, 2018 9:00 AM

If there is an agency that has created waves in the Indian market in 2018, it is the Wavemaker. From Bisleri, Dream 11, Mother Dairy to Eureka Forbes, and and Tata Sky, the agency has won and retained a barrage of accounts this year. Tim Castree, the Global CEO of Wavemaker, GroupM’s media, content and technology agency, is currently in India to meet his team.

He calls all of these wins a result of “an excellent execution of the agency’s global strategy” by the team India, headed by Kartik Sharma. In a detailed chat with exchange4media, Castree shares the agency's strategy, targets and his thoughts about WPP without its original boss, Sir Martin Sorrell. Here are the excerpts:

You have had a great start in Q1 of 2018 in India. You have won a barrage of accounts already. If that’s anything to go by, what is in store for Wavemaker in 2018?

With Wavemaker, generally what we are seeing in India is an excellent execution of strategy and it leads to everything else. We are really good at modernising our products and bringing really progressive solutions to our clients. That has two impacts: in our core business, it is driving more revenue diversification and aggressive as well as more future facing services to clients above and beyond traditional media planning. This is in the area of content, analytics sports marketing e-commerce or performance marketing. So in all these areas, the business is healthy and strong.

And of course when it comes to pitching new clients, those same things are feeding the proposition of Wavemaker, which is really built around how we can help clients be successful when it comes to managing purchase journeys so that they can drive growth for themselves.

A lot has been said by your global and Indian team heads about your ‘purchase journey obsession’. Wavemaker claimed to have a head start with a data base of 375000 people’s responses across 35 different countries. How has it transformed for you in last few months?

When you think purchase journey first, you don’t think media planning or buying, you don’t think of any of the services. When you have full complement tools that can help with whatever the diagnosis is, whether you need more brand advertising, more content, e-commerce or performance, you can orchestrate those things around the purchase journey, then you'll have a very simple and successful value proposition for marketers, and that is what is well going in India.

So would you say India has been one of your more successful markets as compared to others?

Well all of them are moving in the same direction, but I do think that Kartik and his team in India are certainly one of our best. People in Italy or the UK, or other markets may disagree with me, but I certainly feel that the best expression and execution of what Wavemaker is, is taking place in India. Another factor that works well for India is the incredibly strong market growth rate. The market itself is growing at 13 per cent and that comes as a big advantage for us.

You are the first global leader of a WPP media agency visiting India since the big news of WPP’s god father, Mr Sorell decided to step down and shook the ad world. What in WPP has changed without him?

He is a legend in the industry. He did amazing things in creating and building WPP. Having known him, the thing that I admired most was how much he appreciated and loved a good argument. Even though he was tough and head-strong about his opinions, you could certainly disagree and argue with him. He also has a kind of wicked sense of humour which I enjoyed a lot. I feel grateful that after having admired him for many years, I got the opportunity to work with him. He was really smart on building WPP with all its operating companies.

So in truth it was quite a big of a shock for us, but we are all moving on. It is fundamentally a very strong network. Having said that I am bullish about WPP strategy, I am very confident about the work Mark and Andrew are doing. Our clients have been very supportive. I think it's big news, but everything is under control. We are focused on the right things. One of his best business moves was how early he saw the importance of BRIC economies and how he acted on that. WPP has had very dominant position in India, China, Russia.

Was the news as shocking for WPP insiders as much for us?

Well I learnt about it from the Wall Street Journal and Skynews, but I think it happened a week or two before I would have imagined it to happen.

Ogilvy and Wavemaker together launched the Effectiveness Lab early this year. What kind of improvements do you expect to see when data from Wavemaker backs creativity from Ogilvy?

It's going to be very helpful and it is one of the examples of how Wavemaker is part of WPP and with all the access of all its great partnerships and that’s example of the things we need to be doing more often. Creativity is fundamentally important, content has grown in importance. It’s one thing to have all the media and targeting tools and the purchase journey insights on how and where to spend my money and it’s another thing to say what the right story or message to land at certain points around the purchase journey to drive and I think the partnership with Ogilvy is really going to help us there.

What are your broad targets for 2018 for India as well as globally?

Well, we have a series of targets. We look for holistic growth for the company, which cuts across our people, culture and our relationship with our clients. However, coming to the business growth, I can't talk of specific numbers, but we aim to grow faster than the market growth rate. Like for India the market is expected to grow at a rate of 13 per cent so we aim at doing better than that.

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