Why data, diversity, and a radical company overhaul are front-of-mind for GroupM’s CEO

Andy Serdons, Elham Rizi-Shorvon / November 2019

“Data is key for digital marketing transformation, but more importantly you need a clear vision of why you want to transform your business, if you want to be successful,” says Jonas Hemmingsen, CEO of GroupM Nordic.

With this in mind, we sat down with Hemmingsen to discuss C-Level priorities, the current agency landscape, and why diversity is as crucial for progress as data.

Why data, diversity, and a radical company overhaul are front-of-mind for GroupM’s CEO

Make your digital transformation revolutionary

To prepare themselves for digital transformation, companies often focus on their organisational structure rather than the consumer. But the real opportunity of digital transformation lies in its ability to help businesses become more consumer-centric.

The fundamental question is, what do your customers want, and how can digital transformation help them achieve this? Only if you truly understand this, will you be able to design a customer journey that puts the user first.

To get organisational alignment, you need a clear and ‘revolutionary’ vision of where you want to take your business. If you just make small, incremental changes, you might improve processes — but seldom will it help you transform your business.

The challenges that agencies face

I believe that in the current landscape, the challenges faced by agencies are two-fold; as digital maturity across the Nordic region is very high, most businesses already have strong digital capabilities, and it’s our role to help them accelerate in an already digitally advanced landscape. That’s why we’re constantly investing in ways to build the strongest and most advanced capabilities within data and tech, such as using Google Cloud as a platform to build even more advanced models.

In parallel we see a growing insourcing trend, as this allows clients to directly tap into the knowledge and insights obtained from their data and better prioritise investments based on consumer signals. To help clients on that journey, we have built new bespoke solutions that offer flexibility and enable clients to develop in-house competences and build strong hybrid teams.

Lead by example

We have been lucky to help companies on their transformational journey, but we believe it’s essential to lead by example, and have been rethinking and reshaping our own business as well.

Today’s clients expect more hybrid and flexible agency relationships. That’s why we launched our own transformation, which helped us to create an agile culture, and simplified structures and processes, allows us to focus on our clients.

Last year, we began radically redesigning GroupM Nordics by implementing an ‘open agency’ approach, which means transparency in process, data, talent, and financial transactions.

Empower your teams

Talent — and diversity of talent — is crucial. We tend to be biased in the way we recruit, looking for profiles similar to those we already employ. This must change as well, whether that means diversifying the different cultures in your organisations or their educational backgrounds and experiences.

It’s not just about investing in talent but in their development too. We have a strong culture of empowering young people to take charge of their career early on, and this includes building graduate programs that span our entire group.

Creativity never goes out of style

When it comes to building a brand, creativity delivers more than 50% of the impact. In the current climate, advertisers are trying harder to find the right mix of branding and performance and creativity is a valuable driver of both. So luckily, creativity never goes out of style.

One of my favourite campaigns is by The Economist: simple yet impactful, they show a deep understanding of their audience. It started around 20 years ago and they still use the creative platform to this day. With such great insight and copywriting, the medium becomes less relevant.

Why data, diversity, and a radical company overhaul are front-of-mind for GroupM’s CEO

Fifteen years ago, CMOs mostly focused on branding and they did it well. Now you have marketers who are digital natives but not necessarily with the experience of building strong brands. Finding the right mix between investing in short term sales and long-term brand building is increasingly difficult, and definitely an area where agencies still can add a lot of value.

Consciously step into the unknown

Our landscape is constantly changing. We see agencies struggling to keep up and new types of agencies emerging. There might be fewer, but surely more specialised agencies in the future.

We must be more agile, ready to shift focus, and understand exactly how our client’s needs are changing. And challenging our traditional mental models is fundamental: we must consciously step into the unknown.

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