Why Most of Our Business Will Be in Fast-Growth Markets and Digital Within 5 Years

If anyone needed a reminder of how profoundly the media world has changed in the last 15 to 20 years, they received it in the form of an era-defining announcement that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had purchased the journalistic institution, the Washington Post.

We’ll have to wait to see how the Washington Kindle fares, both commercially and editorially, and whether an Amazon treatment can turn analog dimes into more than digital pennies – but the point is made: a new breed of media owner has very much arrived.

As WPP deepens its relationships with digital platforms like LinkedIn, I’m delighted to join its Influencer programme – a further example of a digital player moving from platform to media owner and content creator and provider.

It’s another extremely effective way to emphasise the growing importance of digital and social media in our commercial and personal lives; to signal how we’re focussing even more laser-like on our strategy; and to talk about how we will develop it in the future and accelerate its implementation.

Our strategy is simple: new markets, new media, data investment management and last but not least “horizontality”. That last one may sound a bit clunky, but essentially it means getting our 165,000 people in 110 countries to work together even more effectively for our clients.

Sometimes our industry – advertising and marketing services or communications services – may seem to forget what we’re in business for. Our four objectives simply reflect the most significant recent general trends in client behaviour, and a strategic response to them.

And we’re giving a lot of thought to raising the levels of our strategic intent even further.

Currently, we lead the industry with about a third of our revenues in fast-growth markets (sometimes called the BRICs, or the Next 11, or the CIVETS, or the MIST economies) and the same in digital (we have four of Forrester’s seven digital leaders, and were recently named in the top 10 of the world’s 50 most successful digital companies), and a quarter in data investment management and the application of technology.

We also have a leadership position in terms of adding value to our clients’ businesses through client leaders, who bring together talent and resources from across our different businesses in dedicated client teams (Team Detroit is the most famous but there are many more), and country managers, who coordinate our efforts at a national level. Both types of leaders are examples of “horizontality” in action.

Now we will accelerate the implementation of our strategy by raising our targets from 35-40% for both fast-growth markets and new media to at least 40-45% each over the next five years.

Data investment management (previously known as consumer insight or market research) is already about right at 25% of our business and we will continue to broaden our “horizontality” approach by adding to our army of 35 client leaders and more than a dozen country managers.

Others in our industry may take strategic leaps backwards for various odd or inconsistent or contradictory reasons. We’ll remain focussed, actually even more focussed, on our long-established and consistent strategy, on future developments and on accelerating implementation.

That’s how we’ll really add value to our clients’ businesses – while others find themselves distracted by internal stresses and strains.

Last week’s additions of two highly regarded digital businesses in Asia (see here and here) and big data activities in Western Europe and Latin America are just further examples of our approach in action.

And yesterday, we announced an intention to add even greater weight to our already leading African business.

More to come shortly, and if there’s anybody out there who wants to help us, let me know.

Photo: Speaking at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar in June 2013. Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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