2021 is going to be an exciting ride. Speed thrills.
Tarun Rai, Chairman and Group CEO, Wunderman Thompson, South Asia, talks about the agency’s focus in 2021.
Flexibility: Business model, organisation structure: Clearly the pandemic has highlighted the need for a flexible business model. And when I say business model, it includes both revenue as well as costs. Our industry, over the years, has moved to a model where our revenues are increasingly unpredictable while our costs are, largely, fixed. The need to correct this has been amplified since March. More than 70% of our costs are people costs. In fact, since people are our only assets we like to refer to these costs as ‘investment’. True, however, we need better utilisation of our people assets and build flexibility in our organisational structure. The pandemic and the resultant lockdown, led to organisations discovering the wonders of WFH. Now, knowledge-based industries like ours, could happily adapt and manage working remotely. It also made geography pretty redundant. I have been a huge proponent of ‘liberating’ our talent from their geographies even before the pandemic. I have encouraged our people to work on brands where their talent is required, irrespective of where they are based. ‘Geography is History’ – a line used by a satellite phone company years ago – was my favourite slide when addressing our leadership team. Well, the pandemic has just underlined that. The appropriate talent, irrespective of where they are based, working on businesses where they are required, is certainly one way of better utilisation of our resources. Our organisation structure, however, is currently largely based on geography. This needs to change.
New sources of revenue: Another of my favourite topics, over the last five years, has been the need for agencies to look beyond their traditional revenue sources – to have multiple revenue streams. Even before the pandemic there were clear shifts in our clients’ marketing spends. The traditional advertising pie was shrinking, however, this didn’t mean our clients’ spends were reducing. They were just spending in newer areas – with new partners. With the formation of Wunderman Thompson there has been a huge change in our capabilities. To the traditional communication and brand building strengths, data, technology, digital and e-commerce have been added. This allows us to actively go after new revenue opportunities in these areas. Areas that are growing and at a much faster rate.
New business from existing clients: One of the biggest opportunities for us lies with our existing clients. Almost all of them are on their digital transformation journeys and are looking for partners to help them. We have strong relationships that can be leveraged to open new doors. And for organisations like ours, that have the requisite capabilities, providing that partnership to our clients is not difficult. Once again, the pandemic has accentuated not just the need for digital transformation with our clients but has also encouraged them to look at ‘consolidation’ of their spends with fewer partners because of the need to be more efficient with their budgets.
Developing new capabilities through upskilling and new talent: People, as we discussed above, are our only assets. To be able to exploit the new opportunities we need the appropriate people assets. We have done an incredible job during the last nine months of upgrading our peoples’ skills. Our training programs have been received with enthusiasm and the participation levels have been upwards of 90%. This is fantastic as it is clear that our people realise the importance of staying relevant in this fast changing world. However, what is also required is bringing in new talent. There is, however, a hiring trap – we like to hire people like ourselves. And if we continue to hire people with traditional skills the process of transformation will be slow. We need to bring in new talent from non-traditional backgrounds to act as catalysts. And we need to do it aggressively.
Fast -forward all initiatives: Need for Speed is a game my teenage son plays. Well, that’s the game going forward for us. If you look at it, the pandemic has not lit any new fires, it has really been like an accelerant that has been poured over small little fires that were already lit, and turned them into big, raging fires. And our response to that has to be accelerated. All the above points that I have mentioned that we need to get done have to be done double-quick. 2021 is going to be an exciting ride. Speed thrills.