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Integrating agencies in the new global order

Integrating agencies in the new global order
Cheil UK chief operating officer Matt Pye looks at why UK agencies need to broaden their scope as technology opens up new opportunities.

As the UK focuses inwardly on its general election, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s a big wide world out there.

Not so for brands who increasingly look to communicate globally, and seek out agencies that can help them do it.

The growth of globally significant agency groups has been driven by this client need, and has put agencies such as Cheil on the acquisition trail, snapping up exciting and innovative players around the world. But as our global COO Michael Kim pointed out recently, the process is not always simple and it can be very difficult to successfully integrate agencies.

It is a challenge that will increasingly face other holding companies too.

WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell pointed out at Advertising Week Europe in March that Chinese advertising companies are becoming more acquisitive abroad, pointing to BlueFocus’s buying spree of Vision7 in Canada, Fuseproject in the US, and London’s We Are Social.

As an agency with proud Korean heritage and which has forged a similar route of global expansion, we understand it is sometimes easy to use words like ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’ slightly pejoratively to imply that things don’t quite fit together easily. However, the reality is that a fusion of ideas derived from different perspectives is exactly what clients are calling for today.

The agile consumers of 2015 no longer hold advertising or marketing communications in the esteem that previous generations did. They are discerning, marketing literate and used to finding things out for themselves from their always-on smartphones and online networks. They are also more internationally minded.

Agencies should be the same. Great ideas are no longer the preserve of Madison Avenue or Charlotte Street. They can come from anywhere around the world, and agencies that fail to recognise this will fail to produce ideas that can move people.

Understanding technology and how it is reshaping people’s lives is key to this new world order.

Technology is baked in to all of Cheil’s agencies around the world, and examples of technology-based solutions permeate through the network.

For example, the UK came up with the web-controlled NX Rover to let photographers try out the Samsung NX remotely. Cheil’s Barbarian Group in the US developed Cinder, a software platform that makes it easier for creatives to code, and which won the inaugural Cannes Lions Grand Prix for innovation while colleagues in China produced an app that helped children with autism to make eye contact and recognise the faces of others.

We have found that to really make integration work, you have to find partners who share your vision and culture. When you find that partner, it becomes easier to integrate. The deal with iris to create a business with 48 offices in 41 countries and more than 6,000 employees came out of a close working relationship on Samsung that highlighted more similarities than differences.

It also helps if there is an attitude of openness that looks beyond the ‘not invented here’ attitude that can prevail in some companies. Just as the digital age has seen the growing importance of marketing communications that are not traditional advertising, including digital, experiential, retail activation and sports sponsorship, so agencies have to be prepared to accept a creative idea from an unexpected source. Nobody has a monopoly on creativity.

Bridging cultural differences can sometimes be tough, but the best things in life often don’t come easy and the results can make the effort worthwhile - which is why difference is something that should be celebrated rather than tolerated.

Matt Pye is chief operating officer at Cheil UK.

Read Matt’s other blogs on Cannes Lions and boosting effectiveness through agility.

Last updated 07/05/2015

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