Staff Writer
Sep 11, 2019

Differentiation is our strength

Dentsu's Dick van Motman on the unique qualities and diversity his evolving agency network brings to the table

Differentiation is our strength

Maybe he was just being coy, but as the 2019 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity got underway, Dick van Motman wouldn’t tip his hat toward a lead contender from any one agency or market. Instead, the global CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN), Creative Agencies and global president of Dentsu Brand Agencies (DBA) extolled work from across the network, from voice-activated social media campaigns in India to film craft from the Philippines to mobile-driven work from mcgarrybowen in China and brand experience activations out of Taproot Dentsu in India.

In the end, it was India’s Dentsu Webchutney which emerged as DBA’s biggest winner, becoming India’s most-awarded agency with six Lions for metrics-backed campaigns on behalf of three different paying clients (no causevertising here). But for van Motman, the scope of work entered was equally important.

“I really like the diversity of offices contributing but also the work being very multifaceted,” he told Campaign. “One of our strengths is that we have various agencies that have different strengths. In the old days, a network was all about consistency and conformity. I think now, having a network is about a diverse set of capabilities, a diverse set of characters and personalities that bring different things to the table.”

For Dentsu’s global agencies, those capabilities continue to evolve. During Cannes Lions, Dentsu Brand Agencies launched the Dynamo Brand Index (DBI), a new world brand ranking which van Motman expects will only improve DBA’s value proposition. Borne out of a need for a more contemporary view of brands, the DBI combines old world brand fundamentals around direction, purpose and clarity with new world energy and user experience. The tool will not merely identify the world’s most dynamic brands, but will allow the agency network to help create them by linking brand design and experience through big platform ideas. 

“In that sense we need to be constantly evolving and update our capability set when we can deliver that” says van Motman, “and then decide when we partner within the group, because we’re blessed with a group that has top-notch capabilities in terms of performance media and when it comes to data capabilities.”

Those partnerships within Dentsu Aegis Network, between media and creative and between Dentsu and DAN are only expected to grow and deepen as the firms move toward a ‘One Dentsu’ philosophy and a new corporate structure. 

Already since March, when van Motman took on additional responsibility for DAN’s global creative agencies, he’s relished the opportunity to flex more muscle in pitch rooms. “It’s a bigger footprint, that allows us to compete more aggressively for global and local assignments,” van Motman notes. 

The move towards ‘One Dentsu’ meanwhile, only adds potential. “The connectivity with the mothership in Japan is something that should be a real differentiator for us. Japan is the home of innovation and Dentsu innovates a lot,” van Motman says.  “I have quite a few international clients of ours in Japan and they say ‘can you bring some of that magic to the rest of the world?’” Likewise, van Motman says his global agencies can bring more lessons back home to Japan.

To be clear, ‘One Dentsu’ is not about pure integration and conformity. Instead, van Motman argues working with the global creative agencies of Dentsu and DAN are an opportunity to create something uniquely different. 

“We operate much more as a collective of agencies, which is much more contemporary,” he says. “There is room for individual identities of the agencies but they can operate collectively with a common philosophy and platforms.”

It’s a recurring theme, network strength through diversity, which van Motman says applies to their acquisition strategy as well. “We’re acquisitive with a purpose. Our goal acquisition is a means to an end,” he says “we look at [it] from that lens – where do we need to be, bulk up, or add capabilities, not to necessarily acquire for revenue but with a view to be sufficiently scaled and substantially differentiated.“

This strategy has been a proven one over Dentsu’s long history. “We’re a 120 year-old company founded by a journalist, Hoshiro Mitsunaga who quickly embraced the telegraph as the convention at that time to reach more people, faster. That sounds like a very contemporary notion to me,” van Motman says.  “But that’s always been the spirit throughout the company and therefore we’ve never defined ourselves by form. We’ve never really said we’re an ad agency, but we’re creating solutions for clients to build their brands and business. If you do that, if you define yourself like that, you need to evolve your capability sets also.”

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