The year 2013 has been a busy one for Vizeum and for its President – Global, Thomas Le Thierry. The agency has been busy in forming a hub structure to mirror the way its clients operate and in reengineering its brand proposition to focus on ‘Connections that Count’. It is also chalking out expansion plans for the year ahead that would see it diversify into newer markets such as Dubai and grow its presence in the likes of Japan and China. In this interview with DMA’s Noor Fathima Warsia, Thomas speaks on the opportunities ahead, the advantage of a single P&L model that Aegis Media follows when it comes to offering integrated business solutions to clients, how digital is at the heart of everything today and how Vizeum looks to become a truly global network. Excerpts:
Earlier this year, you created a structure with nine hubs across your global operations to service your clients. How has this worked out for the agency so far?
The structure is established now and we are seeing massive advantages already. In a sense, this is the summary of our story, of our intentions to develop a play that is scalable and has the reach that our clients expect. The pitches and challenges that we can put out for our clients are now global. Our intention is to consolidate ourselves as a global network and move away from a central organisation to this hub structure, where these nine hubs around the world work in an inter-connected way to be able to respond to the global challenges that our clients and their brands face. This mirrors client set ups and their needs.
You had mentioned that your hubs in Asia Pacific include Melbourne, Shanghai, Moscow and Tokyo in the future. At an overall level, how is the APAC operation contributing to your overall revenues?
It can contribute more, but that answer would apply to every region. We have fantastic operation in India, where we have won many awards this year and we have been very successful. We are in a great position in Australia. We have a very competent offering in South Korea and their contribution to a number of pitches has been wonderful. We are looking at bigger growth opportunities in Japan, China and some of the other markets, which is giving us hope for developing our product further in the region. Given Aegis’ single P&L (profit and loss) structure, we enter some of these markets as a strong agency that integrates all its disciplines to offer holistic solutions to clients. We believe this works immensely in our favour.
Before we discuss more on the single P&L format and how that is working for you, what are some of these growth opportunities that you point out?
We have an ambitious growth plan for the Network. We want to double the growth of the business in the next three years and we believe that it will come from acquiring new clients or expanding our relationship with existing clients. We also want to expand into newer markets. We have clear plans for Dubai later this year. We are exploring upping our presence in Japan. We believe that the converged environment we live in opens up many new avenues of growth.
And the single P&L you mentioned is in line with the demands of a converged environment?
Yes, we have designed our company for convergence. This essentially means that we will have all our businesses such as Isobar or iProspect or Posterscope, in every location, in one building, so that we can operate seamlessly. And we also have, at the top of every country, every region and globally, an Aegis Media structure that has a single P&L so we can work without silos and deliver integrated service to clients that includes everything that each of our specialist companies offer. The face of the conversation with the client would still be a single brand. So, we are creating integration that is solving business issues with one window.
The structure also means that the other media agency brand from Aegis, Carat, also has access to the same specialist services. When that is the case, are these services really doing justice in bringing a competitive advantage to you?
Not entirely the same services but yes, like any good sibling, we share. In every decent family, the more successful your sibling is, the better it is for you. That said, we don’t do anything because Carat does it or doesn’t do it. We have our own destiny and we both bring our own individual propositions to the market. Vizeum’s is rooted into diversion and globalisation. It is all about Connections. That is why we have reengineered our proposition to Connections that Count. In the convergence environment, if you put the brand at the centre, our consumers are walking around the bought media (media we buy as a brand to say what we have to say) into owned media (shopper marketing, websites, mobile applications etc) to the social and viral space. In all of these three spaces, it is all about the connections that the brands manage to create with consumers. It is also the connections that consumers create inside their communities and groups and we need to understand that to get better at leveraging this connection amongst communities.
In this world, at a global level, it is all about Connections. So we have decided to own and champion that space and to focus on connections that make a difference strategically. Like you can count on good friends, connections that count make a difference and deliver value in the short term that is accountable.
What is the role that Digital media plays in the overall scheme of this Convergence World?
Digital is at the heart of the converging world. We don’t see digital as a topic in itself and definitely not as a silo. We believe in expressing things in terms of convergence. Consumer and content come together in real time through platforms and devices. This is what we call convergence. Digital is the central element of a revolution that is going on. It is not about what is online or offline because it is all about the converging environment that bringing people together and bringing media and transactions closer. This is very stimulating and is making media more important to clients’ business. Take the example of a car manufacturer in Europe – any new car buyer would spend, on an average, 19 hours online before the purchase. That person would then come to a dealership and be an expert on the car. Not only his expertise, but a good portion of his consumer journey, is happening online in a converged space. This makes us more strategic as a partner to the clients’ business.