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What we can learn from WPP's woes?

Published on Tuesday, 10th October 2017, contributed by Great State

Our very own MD Neil Collard gives his insight into what we can learn from WPP's woes as part of our e3 leaders series.

I would not be the first to argue that we live in disruptive times with whole categories being redefined in ever shorter timeframes. At e3 we’ve been digital evangelists for 20 years and have been central to helping clients to adapt to these swift changes.

Of course, we are not immune ourselves to disruption – our business is very different today to just a few years ago; we use different skills and new technologies to solve completely different sets of challenges. This constant variation is probably what makes life at e3 so consistently fascinating.

For years we have predicted increased competition into the digital space from the ad networks and the management consultancies. If digital is the only game in town (and believe me, it is) then it is only natural to expect new players to enter the field from adjacent sectors. As much as we have seen their bold claims, I am still left with the nagging thought that they have missed the point.

As the world changes you need to get good at new things and this is harder for larger organisations than smaller ones.

At e3 we have long thought about ourselves as both thinkers and doers. We believe that the thinking (strategic) element is always going to be of value to clients – the more we can help them understand what is important to their customers the better. However what that thing is that we go on to produce through the doing, needs to be ever-more flexible.

We need to develop digital products, services and experiences that are driven by user need and not driven by what we, as a business, happen to sell at that time.

This is where I believe WPP have come unstuck. Despite laudible efforts to bolster their digital offer, a very large proportion of their income stems from core services such as media and 30 second TV spots. They have been very successful in continuing to sell such services in a declining market but against such seismic shifts they can only stem the tide for so long. The bigger worry has to be that when the final adjustment comes it will be even more violent in its making.

Entering the digital space is about using technology to create solutions that are 100% geared towards creating value for the user. And here’s the thing. The nature of those solutions changes so rapidly that success comes not when you are good at doing one thing, rather when you are good at identifying the right thing and rapidly spinning up a team to deliver it.

Consumer understanding, creativity, technical flexibility and project management are the constant skillsets that we apply to all challenges at e3, even if the outputs vary wildly; from a website to an AI powered chatbot to a secure messaging app.

The exciting space we work in is the one where you are unburdened by existing products that you have to sell and can create relevant solutions at pace for clients who get that speed is important.

I think that is where we are, and with our recent purchase of LSU, we have some of the brightest consumer insight minds in the land. Coupled with our deep UX and flexible technical skills, we can spot the right opportunity, create the proposition and deliver the prototype at pace – and that is how the modern world works.

Until it changes.

If you'd like to get in touch with an agency that applies digital momentum to each and every task, contact us.