Interview: Shamsuddin Jasani, CEO, Wonderman Thompson, South Asia

Six months after joining as CEO of South Asian Wonderman Thompson, Shamsuddin Jasani has helped on-board digital talent and digital-first clients at the agency. While most retainers, new age brands are looking for project-based work. In an interaction with Aspiration City, he further shared how the agency is looking at acquisitions in data and technology space to double its revenue over the next three years. Quotes:

Has agency business returned to pre-epidemic levels in terms of revenue?

Overall, Indian M&E (media and entertainment) will reach pre-epidemic levels by the end of this year, but the mix of media will change – digital advertising spending will surpass TV for the first time.

For us, Wunderman Thompson is back to its pre-epidemic level, and in the last six months, we’ve won over 30 clients, including Hero Electric, Mondelez, LaunchMyCareer and Skechers South Asia. A transformation has taken place, especially in the digital power within the organization, which is also reflected in the recent digital-first wins. We are now aiming for 30% revenue growth in FY21. Also, by the end of this fiscal year, about 30% of our total revenue will come from digital.

Does this mean that Digital has now become a key offer for Wonderman Thompson?

For us, it’s about having a client-centric solution. We don’t want to be the digital-first company. The concept has an integrated approach. The short-term goal for the end of 2022 is to become a partner that provides an integrated approach for clients.

That said, over the past six months, there has been a clear flow of digital talent to complement existing services, and there has been a greater focus from each team on understanding how to make better use of digital media. We’re trying to find people with digital-first abilities, not just digital skills.

Are advertisers still choosing the ‘epidemic-proof’ strategy of project-based work as opposed to holders?

Within our client base, most of us have retainer clients. Going forward, however, there will be both types of requirements and there is room for both. There will be clients who want to work with an agency that really builds a brand, is consistent with it and understands its principles. Also, there are many brands, especially newcomers, who are watching ‘Wow Moments’ and so, go for project-based work.

What is your long-term vision for the company?

That would be to be a strategic partner in the consumer journey and to create experience at every touchpoint – in doing so, using technology to stay in the right place with the consumer at the right time, and then, ultimately, to transform it through sales. Trade is the future of the agency – to be the client’s solution partner throughout the client’s journey. In this journey, we will look at the acquisition of data and technology space to enhance capabilities that do not currently exist in our systems and to help the agency scale up. The acquisition will also play a role in doubling revenue growth in the next three years.

As the digital ecosystem prepares to embrace the cookie-less age, how do advertisers reconsider first-party data?

Although Google has announced that it will phase out third-party cookies next year, anyone can collaborate with various platforms to access first-party data in a cookie-free world, while using customer data in the right way. There will definitely be a conversion in about a year or two, but I don’t see it affecting digital spending. In fact, it will help agencies come up with better solutions. However, metrics need to be standardized in the digital space, which marketers also need to look for.
Although we, as an agency, comply with privacy laws and regulations, we are also working on how, within the scope of the rules, we can still effectively achieve the objectives for clients.

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