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Wunderman was credited with coining the phrase ‘direct marketing’ but has since reinvented itself as one of the world’s leading digital agencies. The Drum spoke to CEO Daniel Morel at the Cannes Festival to find out how the WPP network has transformed itself.
Wunderman was accredited with defining the meaning of modern day direct marketing. In fact its founder Lester Wunderman, is attributed to coining the phrase way back in 1967 as part of an MIT speech.
Their innovations included the 1-800 tolls-free number, helping American Express launch America’s first customer rewards programme and the magazine subscription card.
To their fans a truly great innovator. Early experts in managing data and engaging consumers. But to a large part of the Cannes elite, they were once frowned upon, their carefully crafted leaflets and direct response mechanics often dismissed as nothing more than junk mail.
But now Wunderman are seen in a new light at a festival such as Cannes. Their traditional skills of data analysis and customer engagement were ideally suited to the new digital economy, and the WPP-owned network has transformed itself as a result.
Today only 5% of its $1.5billion turnover is derived from print. Call centre operations account for around 15% whilst digital makes up the other 80%.
Speaking to The Drum at Cannes, Wunderman’s Miami-based CEO Daniel Morel makes it clear his business considers itself to be very much at the cutting edge of this brave new digital world. The company employs more than 7,000 people in 59 of countries but says despite its scale the transition was an obvious move from the outset.
“Digital came quite naturally to us. We were alway about two way communication, listening to the customer, and were never fettered to one channel like an ad agency. When the internet arrived, we did not question it, we simply saw it as a great way for speaking to the consumer and collecting data.
“We have always seen the whole conversation as being about data. Google now say they are not a tech company, but a data company. But data has always been central to what we do.
“Now we are in a position to take the data we have always had, like what car you have to where you live and link that information to what you did five second ago. That is extremely powerful.”
However, Wunderman, whose client base includes the likes of Ford, Nokia and Best Buy, did face challenges in terms of ensuring their staff were up to speed in terms of the new economy. To ensure they have a team that intuitively get the whole digital ecosystem they have created a new recruitment initiative known as the Z Academy.
Working with the likes of the Singapore Government they hire kids - some aged 19 - even before they go to college into an apprenticeship scheme. As part of the deal, once they have gone through some basic training, they are flown into centres across the world where they are given the opportunity to work on major accounts.
“What these kids know in terms of marketing is zip,” said Morel, “But that doesn’t matter. We can teach them. But the trade off is what they have got is a real understanding of digital. Through this we are changing the culture of the whole agency.
“We now have around 240 apprentices in the business - and around 40% of them will be offered jobs at the end of the process. It has been a very successful scheme.”
Such policy has meant that Wunderman has managed to rethink its operations. For example it has creatives in places such as Cairo and India, who - based on data - can create online solutions in real time. This is an increasingly fast paced world, which demands fast thinking people.
It is why identifying talent is a key preoccupation for Morel. Identifying the new creative generation is a primary reason for him attending Cannes. But the French born CEO exudes a certain impatience, as though he is constantly on the lookout for the next big thing; which as it turns out he is.
“The internet is great for finding information or things such as your next car or next girlfriend. But it is still very information based. I am still waiting for the entertainment aspect of the web. Okay you have games and you have TV. But that is simply replicating what is available elsewhere. The internet will have forms of entertainment that is available there and only there. And like the moving cameras that transformed TV, this will ultimately transform the online medium. I have no idea, yet, what that will look like though.
“Our challenge it to recruit a range of creative people; some who are so creative they can imagine a whole new web.”
According to Morel such restlessness is not unique to him. “This event used to be very advertising centric - dominated by agencies and TV people. Now you have creatives, clients and the media. I would be very interested to see the ratio of creatives to business people here now.”
In this fast-paced world some major questions remain unanswered. And it looks like it is just not Wunderman who is turning to the creative community for the answers.
Read more at http://www.thedrum.com/news/2012/06/18/whatever-happened-direct-marketing-drum-catches-wunderman-ceo-daniel-morel?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#5xrIIfrhUYa7MWU2.99
- Wunderman CEO Daniel Morel on why he comes to Cannes