‘It’s about spotting opportunities’

You’ve been in business for over half a century, you have around 7,000 employees in 60 countries and clients including Shell, Microsoft and EDF Energy, and yet you like to describe yourselves at Wunderman as an “underdog” or “a startup”. Why is this?

It’s important to retain the sense of hunger, energy and fun, of wanting to break new ground and find smarter ways of doing things. By retaining an entrepreneurial mindset our eyes are always open to how marketing is changing and how new techniques could solve clients’ problems. It’s about spotting opportunities, like new data APIs [application programming interfaces], machine-learning, content and experience design-thinking, and making them part of how we work.

You’re also very keen on diversity. For many organisations this is still a box-ticking exercise for the human resources department. Why is it so important to you and how do you use it differently?

It’s not only about fairness, though that’s of fundamental importance. It’s about ensuring a diversity of opinion too. Having a range of different viewpoints helps us to stay fresh and to keep evolving. Making sure we keep these diverse perspectives in the business means two things: ensuring all existing staff feel comfortable speaking out and contributing; and making sure diversity is part of our recruitment process. We recruit based on skills, attitude and experience, not where someone is from or how they were educated.

At Wunderman you’ve got a wealth of data thanks to your many years as a leader in digital marketing. How do you optimise it in a way that others fail to? Can you give me an example?

We connect it with a kind of creative thinking that benefits from the diversity that I mentioned. It might sound simple, but many businesses start with either data or creativity and fail to make them work together effectively. Wunderman has grown up with both since our very inception. We have a way of working, called Collision, which brings creative, strategic and data experts together as a team from the start of a project. A good example is our work with the Sun’s Dream Team fantasy football game. Data has helped us understand the most valuable players – those who recruit their friends into mini-leagues – has helped us define the creative story of the product – when it’s fantasy football it’s OK to “cheat” on your favourite team – and helped us connect it all together in super-smart data-informed creative executions. Last year’s campaign targeted supporters of real-life clubs with stories of how much their fellow fans “cheated” on the club. This year’s campaign features cutting-edge personalised videos for every potential player. The videos pull in data on these players’ previous activity and get them to do the naughty on their club with the line “It pays to experiment”.

We’re seeing an ever-greater avalanche of data, an increasing number of devices and channels, and a more demanding, time-poor customer base. Can you identify some trends and offer some advice?

The volume of data will get exponentially larger. With the internet of things and the
non-stop barrage of sensor data around the corner, organisations must get in shape to handle it now. They need to use machine-learning plus humans together to unlock its potential. The power of machine-learning exemplified by IBM’s Watson and Apple’s Siri will help connect vast datasets and make them useable. But by itself it is just a way to find patterns. Pairing machine-learning’s analytical power with smart, creative data thinkers will help invent the usage cases, and create real value for businesses and brands.

For more information please visit wunderman.co.uk