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With response data of 3,75,000 people we understand purchase journey better: Alastair Aird, Global Chairman, Wavemaker

10-November-2017
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With response data of 3,75,000 people we understand purchase journey better: Alastair Aird, Global Chairman, Wavemaker

Wavemaker, GroupM’s new billion-dollar revenue, media, content and technology agency created from the merger of MEC and Maxus, opened for business in India on November 9. With a team of 700+ professionals, lead by the recently announced Managing Director - Kartik Sharma, the agency is all set to create waves across the Indian market. The agency already has some noted clients including FMCG giant ITC and L’Oréal. As the agency sets off on its journey, exchange4media speaks to Alastair Aird, Global Chairman, Wavemaker. Excerpts:-

As per the description on your site, your business is to support, consult and execute the decision-making for CEOs and CMOs. You help bring together data, creativity and platforms to help the best brands in the world make the future they want by making better choices today. Aren’t all agencies offering this? How is Wavemaker different?

Our USP is our obsession and the commitment to understand the purchase journey. This is that one thing that is going to make us different from others. We have a head start with a data base of 375000 people’s responses across 35 different countries with us. It is 3.5 times more than what any other research agency in the world may have. Our passion is to understand the purchase journey better than any other agency or business or consultancy.

How did the MEC and Maxus merger, resulting in Wavemaker, helped you serve your clients better?

The Wavemaker has been created to help clients through this period of digital disruption and to answer many of their questions that they may have. It is our opportunity to help brands build their future. The future is only the manifestation of the decisions we take today. To build brands you need to spend money behind them. You need to use all the tools of marketing to make a brand. We at Wavemaker are aiming at giving customised solutions using our data and obsession for purchase journey as the key means.

There were speculations that the mergers were an outcome of WPP being under pressure to streamline as clients chose to cut back on marketing spends significantly in 2016-17. Have these speculations affected your relationship with your clients in any way?

Actually not at all. We had spoken to our clients here as well globally before the merger. In fact that was one of the reasons why we delayed the announcement of Wavemaker in India. We have to make sure that what we are creating is right. We have created Wavemaker from what we have heard from the clients. I am not going to pretend, every agency is looking for more efficiency but for us the primary reason was not financial. The primary reason for the creation of Wavemaker was that we have two businesses that were very similar in culture, very similar in their client services. Both MEC and Maxus were very heavily into local clients. Upto 80 per cent of their clients were local clients. Also we shared a number of clients like Loreal and Vodafone. So by bringing them under one single agency we have also simplified the job for our clients.

How are you seeing the role of consultancies such as Accenture or McKinsey shape up in a market like India? Are they potential competition to your role as advisors and partners to clients in India too, as seen in other markets?

To be honest I don’t see that. They have always been advisors to the companies. As per a WPP research, of all our pitches globally only a tiny, very tiny pitches, had consultants behind the decision. And you look at the implementation part that is very different. Media is very different in every market, based around the people, and you need people to understand that. The consultancies are just not set up to be able to deliver that. They are doing a very small part of what we as media agencies are doing.

What are some of the biggest challenges towards fostering a healthy client-agency relationship in today’s times? How have clients' demands and aspirations changed over the years?
Living and breathing clients' problems every day and understanding their problems and challenges are key to strategic planning. Clients these days have changed. There is too much pressure on driving the investment down and driving the cost down. So I think there has been a lot of pressure on pricing and cost saving. Also, the world is so complex, it is becoming increasingly more complex to know how to reach your client the right way. And to add to all of that, there is digital disruption. So I think they are looking at us more and more to provide them simplicity in this very complex world. The single thing that we can do as an organisation is to make the complex simple for our clients.

How has 2017 been for the agency, and what are your expectations from 2018? Will it be a good year and if yes, what are some of the key trends contributing to it?

Whenever you go through a merger you have to go through the journey of bringing together of people, cultures and systems. So a lot of this year has been a year of building. The next year will see more of execution. We are excited about 2018 as it would be a new journey and a new story.

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