The unit launches today in 23 markets including Singapore, Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia and India and is led in Asia-Pacific by regional managing director Rob Doswell.
Craft expects to launch two more offices in Asia-Pacific next year in Thailand and the Philippines.
The network also employs more than 570 full-time employees and is working on a client list that includes Coca-Cola, L’Oréal, Aldi, General Mills, and Microsoft Xbox, as well as support work for the Commonwealth Agency.
The process of launching Craft, explained Schuster in a phone interview, started when he left Ogilvy to join McCann about a year ago. “Craft was born in response to client demand for a consolidated offering that, at the same time, was highly local—they want the authenticity without having to deal with a dozen different production houses.”
“So we leveraged McCann Worldgroup’s studio resources across the different disciplines offered, integrated, filled in gaps and added a marketing consultancy offering,” he said.
The network’s organisational structure is non-hierarchical and technically does not have a HQ. “We have the ability, if the client needs us, to be in any market around the world—even markets where we are not currently present.”
Key to this is a technology platform that streamlines these capabilities and links them together through a cloud-based, highly secure interface. Schuster claims that the network can have the platform up and running in a matter of days anywhere.
Craft’s roster of services includes the production and execution of print, digital, online video, TV, and design. It also offers translation services as well as ‘adaptation design’, which enables the unit to adapt a brand’s assets to any local market around the world without losing integrity. So far the team “hasn’t encountered a language we can’t translate to yet”, said Schuster. “We have a team of about 5000 linguists worldwide and one of our recent projects spanned 70 to 80 languages.”
Craft’s point of difference, commented Doswell, is its understanding of creative branding. “We respect brands and are focused on driving creative consistency across formats," he said. "While we can be aggressively cost-saving, we are, as the name says, craftsmen, and have very high quality standards.”
“It’s important to us to truly understand client’s brand and essence of the creative idea that is coming to us—that doesn’t get lost in the melee of delivering something overnight,” added Schuster.
Craft is agency agnostic and will work with agencies outside the McCann and IPG group. However, it has no plans to work directly with clients. “Once the creative concept and brand assets are identified, that’s the point where Craft takes it up. At the moment, we enjoy our partnership with creative agencies,” Schuster said.
Looking ahead, Asia-Pacific is a “tremendous” point of growth for Craft and for its clients, he continued. “When I joined, I made Asia our first destination and Rob [Doswell], one of our first hires. Next year our first global meeting will be in Mumbai because I felt it was important to bring the entire agency to Asia, to bring distance closer to home.”