Transforming marketing in a rapidly changing world

By William Smith

Wunderman Thompson is a global marketing and advertising agency, formed recently from the merger of advertising company J Walter Thompson and marketing firm Wunderman. Justin Peyton is Chief Transformation and Strategy Officer for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, having joined the company in May. It’s an industry and a role that requires skills developed over the course of Peyton’s career. “I started off in hard finance, and learned a lot about quantitative decision-making,” he says. “Then I worked for a while in film production and post production services, where I learned a lot about storytelling and understanding the emotional link that you need to build with people in order for them to relate to a story.”

Peyton has a similar perspective on the merger, the possibilities of which attracted him to his current role. “J Walter Thompson always had permission to talk about brands at the highest level and to further the relationship that brands have with consumers,” he says. “Wunderman had the technology and data skills to translate brands’ values into services that make a real difference in a consumer's life. The combination of the two offers the ability to think end-to-end, delivering both business value to brands and useful, purposeful relationships to consumers.” This end-to-end approach is credited by Peyton as providing the company with an almost unique offering.  “When considering our clients’ challenges, we combine brand strategy, technology transformation and marketing operations with a measurable focus on our clients’ real bottom line. In short, we bring the diversity of talent required to find transformative ideas, execute and optimise them at every stage. There are very few people, and very few businesses globally, that do that from a strategy perspective, and from a delivery perspective, and then all the way through to a run and operate perspective.”

In the APAC region, the company faces unique opportunities and challenges. The scale of Asia, for instance, might be deceptive, thanks to the diversity of its populations. “While Asia has a vast number of people, it is broken down into many different markets that have very different cultures and languages, with budgets being spread across each of them,” says Peyton. There’s not just a diversity of people, but a diversity of technology. “China is the biggest market in the region and remains one of the fastest growing markets in the world, but it's almost a different internet. While we typically talk about Google, Facebook, etc. as digital platforms, none of them are relevant in China. You've got a whole different set of technologies that exist there – Baidu, WeChat, Youku, and a whole different set of behaviours that structure their communications.”


Wunderman Thompson is well equipped to deal with these challenges, tailoring its offerings to specific clients and markets. “We try to be very technology agnostic,” explains Peyton. “We don’t go in and try to sell the same thing. Our question is: ‘how do we make sure that we're giving our clients the best fit for either the existing technology stack, or find the best fit for their ambitions?’ Clients all come from different starting points and with different ambitions, so there's no one size fits all.” Typical technologies Wunderman Thompson deals with are in the advertising and marketing realm (adtech and martech), looking at factors such as customer experience and data to further the goal of personalisation and targeted communications.

The focus of Peyton’s role, that of transformation and strategy, is of increasing importance to the company and to the market. “Transformation is the topic of the moment,” he says. “With change happening so quickly, we no longer get briefs from clients that don't have this focus. Brands today are all asking ‘how do we evolve our business to be as relevant as possible in a consumer's life?’ and, typically speaking, ‘how do we use technology and data in order to facilitate and accelerate that process?’”

The scope of transformation means that many different areas of change are valid. “What’s exciting is that Wunderman Thompson can approach transformation at multiple levels,” says Peyton. “We can approach it from a technological perspective, creating product stacks for clients by looking at big platforms and technologies. Or we can help them from the run and operate perspective – which I think is massive and has been overlooked so far in terms of what transformation means. This means looking at the day-to-day operations and tools people need so they deliver a modern form of marketing.”

Regardless of the method, as Peyton explains, the end goal stays the same. “The best thing that you can do for a client is solve a problem for them, at times to the point that the client doesn’t even need us anymore. If we can do that, it’s fantastic. People will say: ‘OK, but then you don't have a job.’ But in this rapidly changing world, we can’t be about doing and protecting the same thing over and over again. It’s about making sure that we're helping brands grow by solving today’s problems so that we can further partner with them on planning for and solving tomorrow’s problems as well.”


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