Surekha Ragavan
Nov 9, 2021

VMLY&R appoints chief experience officer in Asia

Experience design veteran Symon Hammacott discusses his new role, the way CX expectations have shifted, and the responsibility to incorporate ethical design into client work.

Symon Hammacott
Symon Hammacott

VMLY&R has appointed Symon Hammacott as chief experience officer in Asia. To be based in Singapore, Hammacott has clocked decades of experience in the industry including a previous role as regional head of experience at Publicis Sapient and 10 years as experience consultant at Isobar.

In this new role, Hammacott will be tasked with “identifying and investing in new technologies and partnerships to reinforce and develop VMLY&R’s CX portfolio”. He will also participate in Team WPP pitches and proposals as well as drive culture initiatives and talent development across VMLY&R’s principal offices around the world.

He told Campaign Asia-Pacific that CX, to a lot of people’s minds, is just the design of customer touchpoints. But what attracted him to this role is that VMLY&R’s experience offering is comprised of four facets: technology, experience design, data, and product management. Hammacott will oversee some 200 full-time staff across these four facets in Asia.

“[The four facets] don't exist in silos,” Hamacott said. “They're fully integrated into all the things that we do. So it means that I get to lead the practice across those four facets as well as some client stewardship and building our ecosystem of partners.”

A role like Hamacott’s in an experience agency has significantly evolved even in the last five years, taking into account the way CX has significantly evolved.

“Five years ago, we were designing solutions that were touchpoints, and we were trying to connect with touchpoints together," he said. "But what we're now doing is designing systems which have intelligence sitting underneath them for things like personalisation, and now, hyper-personalisation. It’s a completely different environment.”

Hamacott said that CX work now is about solving business problems rather than just optimisation. For example, a brand’s experience is expected to be complete from end-to-end—its level of service must be as good in its call centre as it is in the shops, the app, or on the internet. The content strategy must be seen everywhere, and the brand must understand when a customer is on each of its platforms and anticipate their needs in the next respect.

“When you look at Netflix, it’s basically crafting thumbnails for movies that are personalised to your preference," said Hamacott. "They show you the actors, the moment in a movie, the art direction, or a style that you like. There are a lot of creative decisions that are happening in real-time because of the CX technology. It’s a fascinating time to be in this business.”

The challenge, however, with the onset of CX technology, is distinctiveness and differentiation because there's a potential for everything to end up the same. Hamacott said that banks in particular face this problem, where many of their digital services are similar to their each other, and distinctiveness becomes key in setting them apart from competitors. This is where more traditional creative thinking comes into play—finding insights that can unlock an audience segment or seeking unique ways to be innovative.

One area that Hamacott is particularly passionate about is sustainability and ethical design, and integrating them into client work. He’s recently worked on projects that have been very much about trying to get clients and audiences to understand that every design decision made on the front stage will ultimately have implications backstage as well. For example, if a brand decides to offer a product in 24 hours where previously it was offered in 48 hours, it affects the entire supply chain.

“I believe that we have the responsibility as designers to understand those decisions and to help clients to understand the decisions," he said. "And normalise our designs so that they take account of that. For example, Singapore is awash with delivery riders, and there are implications where we make design changes to how we might be affecting their lives and their livelihoods.”

Campaign Asia

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