Shawn Lim
Nov 27, 2023

Veteran Matthew Godfrey returns to advertising with MediaMonks

In an exclusive chat with Campaign, former Y&R and Publicis CEO Matthew Godfrey explains how generative AI and MediaMonks' digital-first approach lured him back to the ad world.

Veteran Matthew Godfrey returns to advertising with MediaMonks

MediaMonks has brought veteran advertising executive Matthew Godfrey on board to head the agency's content practice in Asia Pacific. 

Campaign understands Godfrey, previously the chief executive at Y&R and Publicis Groupe, is not a direct replacement for Michel De Rijik, who previously announced his resignation on LinkedIn as APAC CEO to take charge of his mental health. 

Godfrey will co-lead the agency in APAC with Kenny Griffiths, the agency's APAC managing director of data, digital and media. He will also focus on expanding the MediaMonks business model in APAC, which currently centres on markets such as China, Australia, Japan, Korea and Singapore, and the agency's content excellence hub offices support this.  

On joining MediaMonks

After his exit from Y&R in October 2017, Godfrey left the ad industry to join health start-up Nutrition Innovation, where he has spent his last six years as CEO. Godfrey says he is excited by the potential of generative AI to transform the ad landscape in the next five years.

“MediaMonks' approach to embracing and running with these changes, being a digital-first agency, positions us well to succeed in this era. I wanted to be part of this particular team, so when the opportunity to come back arose, it seemed like a unique offering in the marketplace. Few people have as much passion, capability, and potential for growth as the monks," Godfrey tells Campaign.

"In the last six years, I was involved in a hardware and software business licensing system, which sounds technical but at its core, it involves core marketing, repositioning existing products, pitching to clients, and helping partners launch their brands, including packaging and communication." 

Joining MediaMonks means Godfrey will again work with his former WPP colleague and boss, Martin Sorrell, founder of the agency's parent company, S4 Capital. 

Having worked in holding companies like WPP and Publicis, Godfrey has lauded the network’s ‘fluid’ model that allows seamless collaboration across borders and divisions. Godfrey says he was surprised by how easy it was to work with different capabilities within the network without the barriers of geography, business units, or egos. 

He contrasts this with the traditional holding company model, where each unit operates in its own silo. Godfrey says he is looking forward to getting close to clients in Los Angeles, Malaysia, and Korea, who can access the best talent and expertise from MediaMonks regardless of location. He believes the fluidity will be a significant change and a competitive advantage for MediaMonks in the creative industry.

Taking on the agency's challenges 

Godfrey faces a tough challenge as S4 Capital reports a 15.4% drop in Q3 revenue, mainly due to lower activity in content and data and digital media. 

The network also reduced its headcount by 9% since June 2022, cutting about 500 jobs. However, S4 Capital saw some growth in technology services and in the Americas region, where net revenue increased by 8.5% in the first nine months of 2023. 

Godfrey remains optimistic about the opportunities in APAC, despite the decline in net revenue by 10.5% in the region. He says: “If anybody thinks there is no growth in APAC, they are not looking at it correctly.”

“Business is not about macroeconomic trends. It’s about what we do every day. We can go out and win a new client tomorrow and have the best year ever, regardless of the recession and the challenges.”

He points out the ‘pockets of excitement’ in China and India, where the economy is booming, and the untapped opportunities in markets like Indonesia, where the agency has no presence. 

He says: “To grow, we need to do a few simple things: understand our client’s business, solve their problems, win their trust, and look at the whitespace in our industry. What categories and markets are we missing? And how can we apply our best talent to fill those gaps?”

How he plans to lead the agency

Collaboration and learning: Godfrey praises his partnership with Griffiths and his team, describing it as a “perfect collaborative relationship” that allows him to learn from their wide range of skill sets. He says working with them is like a ‘masterclass in digital data management.’

Content creation and quality: Godfrey reveals his simple operating system for managing his day-to-day focus: making great content with great clients and people. He defines great content as transformative and engaging, designed to captivate viewers rather than being a mandatory watch. He cites examples of MediaMonks’ work with brands like Kenvue and Google, and credits his talented team for delivering outstanding content and client relationships.

Empowerment and innovation: Godfrey expresses his desire to empower his team to excel in their respective areas and to follow his ‘true north’ of the three touchstones. He also shares his passion for innovation and how he has been experimenting with cutting-edge technology. He mentions a recent conversation with a client who wants to minimise operational friction and explore new markets and opportunities for growth, and calls it a ‘competitive advantage’.

Opportunities and challenges: Godfrey acknowledges the exciting and challenging aspects of this transformative era, and the risk of falling behind or being surpassed by competitors who might discover or innovate in new ways. He says the most exciting aspect is also the one that keeps him on his toes.

Campaign Asia

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