Rupert McPetrie
Mar 18, 2024

What I learned from one year of EssenceMediacom

On the first anniversary of the merger between Essence and Mediacom, APAC CEO Rupert McPetrie reflects on what this journey has taught him about people, communications, operations, and more.

Photo: Rupert McPetrie
Photo: Rupert McPetrie

One year ago, we launched EssenceMediacom in APAC with multiple events for our people and clients around the region, heralding the first day of our new agency. It was the culmination of nine months of hard and meticulous work—work that proved to be an excellent investment for a terrific 2023.

Reflecting on the launch a year later, there are many lessons that can be gleaned. From people to communications, here are the four key learnings that could be useful for any business going through organisational transformation.

It is all about people

You can have the best plan in the world, the best vision, beautiful organisational charts and grids, leading tools and technology—and of course, you need all of these and more to launch a startup or transform a business. But at the heart of a business lies its people: The people who create and drive the culture, energise a proposition and bring to life a vision, those who partner with clients, and those who work with partners and vendors. The plan must start and finish with people.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Immediately after any big announcement comes uncertainty and questions. Again, it is all about people. It's a human response to the fact that change is coming, but we are not clear on exactly what, when, how, and for whom. So, there is an immediate and urgent imperative to communicate with teams. It does not matter that you do not have 100% of the answers for 100% of the questions. What matters is that you share openly, transparently, and in an authentic way what you do know and what you can share at that time. It also matters that leaders are sharing, listening, taking questions, and committed to answers and feedback.

It is also vital to keep clients updated on what’s happening and include them throughout the process as you develop your vision and proposition. Is the new offer genuinely different, and will it answer the big questions brands have for the next five years and beyond?

At the time, we all felt that we were communicating well internally and externally, with a mix of formal and informal updates, town halls, and emails on a regular cadence. Looking back now, I would likely do more communications, to the point that I would prefer people to ask us to dial down the communications, rather than to wait or ask for more.

Move fast

It pays to invest time and energy into doing things right, allowing time to canvas opinions, get input from around the world, and align with all the various stakeholders. It also pays to move fast, to initiate things and get things moving. Whilst some elements of the business will be deeply involved in the organisational transformation process, some are not, and they, together with clients and new-business prospects, will be eagerly awaiting updates and signals of change. Do not wait for the entirety of a solution on paper; go with 70% to 80% and get things underway on the ground in the real world— you can always adjust and adapt. In fact, you will be doing this anyway, so do not wait.

You will have a lot of expectations building up after the announcement—your teams and your clients will await updates and changes, and you cannot leave this for too long. We tried to find that balance of getting to the 80% and getting things to move fast. One thing that worked well was encouraging the human side of getting things up and running; bringing teams together, enabling people to mix from across the business, whether informally in a social setting, or on a specific project. Once we got people together, things started to move more quickly and smoothly.

Keep focus

It is so easy to get distracted with the excitement around the work of launching a new company or a new business proposition, and therefore so important to guard against this. You have clients to serve, people to take care of, and new businesses to win—all at the same time you’re trying to create something new. It takes some effort and discipline to stay focused and not get distracted, but this is critical.

We went to great lengths to stay on course for our clients and our people, and we reminded ourselves after every session, and in every note and document, to avoid distraction. In hindsight, this is something I believe we did well during the launch, only by holding ourselves accountable to this each and every day.

In an industry that is in constant transformation in the new communications economy, I will keep these learnings on hand as we look ahead to the next transformation and how we can seize the extraordinary opportunity in front of us.

Rupert McPetrie is CEO for APAC at EssenceMediacom and GroupM China.

Campaign Asia

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