WPP is turning to what it calls a nimble and data-driven product development unit to try to ignite growth. The new offering, called Big, is a first for WPP worldwide and is being launched today by WPP AUNZ.
According to a company statement, Big will focus on new product development (NPD) to devise new categories, markets and revenue for the clients. Big's founder and chief creative officer, Giles Day, who joins from WPP agency Landor, where he was ECD, contends that existing cost-cutting measures have cratered and that enterprises are looking for a new spark to drive revenue growth.
The announcement comes weeks after WPP AUNZ's chief executive, Jens Monsees announced his intentions for an overhaul of operations, after weak quarterly results. "Big is an excellent example of where our company is heading," he said, "using our vast data and tech talent teamed with our creative depth to innovate and develop new business models. By collaborating with clients through NPD, we are providing a true partnership that meets their changing needs in a fast-changing market.”
Rather than rely on the abstract art of new product development, Big hopes to use data to build products and services that consumers actually want and can therefore generate predictable revenue for WPP's clients. “We don’t just build on hunches," Monsees said. "We use data to define where the opportunities are. We use our understanding of people to create desire, then make useful new things that create new revenue."
The team has previously worked together to develop innovative new product categories including MilkLab, a product developed in collaboration with Freedom Foods to create new revenue from a commodity product, UHT milk. Day said WPP used data to establish a white space for “barista milk”, a category that didn’t exist before. Once the opportunity was identified, the team worked with baristas to co-create the product now known as MilkLab, a useful product that generates well over $50 million of new revenue per year.
Big will partner with businesses in return for a royalty, success fee or flat percentage after milestones are met, WPP said. The team is small, for now, with just three people, but is expected to lean on a broader set of around 20 specialists to try to piece together breakthrough innovations.
Day said Big’s team comes “from the worlds of engineering, design and technology” and includes Clara Klaassen, head of industrial design, backed by WPP AUNZ chief strategy officer Rose Herceg, who will provide the strategic backbone to the business, along with a network of business leaders, entrepreneurs, psychologists and inventors.