Byravee Iyer
Oct 17, 2014

VML CEO Jon Cook on acquisitions in China

CHINA - VML’s acquisition of Chinese social media agency Teein makes China the agency’s second largest market, a significant milestone for a company founded in the heartland of the US.

Jon Cook
Jon Cook

VML, founded in Kansas City and now part of the Y&R network, entered China last year with the acquisition of IM2.0, a thriving digital agency that claims clients like Dell, Adidas, Haier and Mondelez.

The latest acquisition helps boost VML’s social-media offering. Teein’s 170-strong team will operate as a separate business unit with its own sales KPI, and is expected to help grow revenue to $25 to $30 million by 2015. Founder Roy Yan will continue to lead the unit.

“We needed more depth to go to the next level with clients,” Jon Cook, the agency’s global CEO, told Campaign Asia-Pacific via phone from Shanghai. “Teein gives us a whole set of tools across social listening, influencer management and the science behind social search.”

To be sure, VML China has worked with several social marketing agencies over the past year. “Out of the many partners we had, working with Teein was absolutely the best,” said VML China CEO Chris Tung. “The projects we worked on were very successful and satisfying, making it quite clear that our services are complementary.”

An example of this was the collaboration between the two agencies in running a real-time social-media effort for Adidas during the World Cup. The initiative involved a 24-hour war room where the client sat in with a cross-functional team from VML IM2.0 China in shifts, reacting to every important in-game moment. By the end of the campaign, Adidas’ overall social-media performance was three times that of main competitor Nike, according to the agency.

Tung said integration has been a smooth and seamless process, largely because of this prior association.

Cook sees China as an important part of the firm’s growth, and the latest acquisition as a step toward helping global clients navigate the complex and unique nature of social media in the country. Following the deal, Teein, which currently works with Google, SAP, Estee Lauder and Danone, will also be looking to work with clients outside China.

Cook and Tung did not rule out future acquisitions, and the ultimate hope is to strike a good balance between organic and inorganic growth. “We look at acquisitions either to enter a new region or for certain depth within an existing one,” said Cook. Equally important is a good cultural fit. “We spend an immense amount of time getting to know people and we look for companies that have a thirst and curiosity while bringing a new perspective,” he said.

VML is specifically interested in growing and making its e-commerce offering stronger, not necessarily via an acquisition. “We see that as the big differentiator in 2015,” Cook added.



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