Agencies that rely too heavily on technology and data to drive their work risk losing out on the fundamental creativity that underpins the marketing and advertising industries, said John Gutteridge, APAC CEO at J Walter Thompson.
Gutteridge, who took on the role last year following the departure of Tom Doctoroff, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that although data and analytics are extremely important tools in today’s world, it will “become almost a hygiene factor for any agency to have those capabilities”.
“There’s almost this reliance on data and analytics to do all the work,” he said. “Whilst it’s very important, and it’s absolutely right that we have the capabilities, let’s not lose sight of the power of creativity as well when it comes to doing our job.”
To Gutteridge, creativity taking a back seat is counterintuitive.
“For me, this is about playing to our strengths, and creativity is how our business was founded,” he said. “It’s still a real weapon for us in business today, so we’ve got to just continue to strengthen and repurpose how we use ideas and creativity.”
To that end, Gutteridge said JWT has been investing heavily in its creative offering, which is what can set the agency apart from its new digital competitors.
“It’s probably the best asset we have, and in many ways a lot stronger than if you look at the management consultants or the Facebooks,” he explained. “I think where they’re struggling is in retaining good creative talent. Their environments don’t necessarily lend themselves to the best creative talent. So it’s something we should really capitalise on.”
That’s not to say JWT has not been strengthening its own technological capabilities, Gutteridge added. In his time as APAC CEO, the agency has developed more proprietary data and analytics tools, and secured more partnerships to build a broader set of services.
“There are areas that are more foreign and challenging for a business like ours, where you don’t have R&D teams and huge buckets of surplus dollars that you can continually invest,” he said. “So that’s where we need to be really smart and be prepared to partner.”
Thinking long-term, Gutteridge says developing JWT’s own IP and products could lead to a new revenue stream “that will mean we can be quite self-sufficient, and not always reliant on clients to be part of the journey, which is quite exciting”.