'Every marketer needs to become conversant with search as that is going to be the next big thing' : Kent Wertime - OgilvyOne Worldwide Asia Pacific CEO

As OgilvyOne Worldwide Asia Pacific CEO, Kent Wertime is responsible for 16 offices in 12 countries in the region. That's quite a wide geographical swathe that he heads. Of course a core part of his line of business is in the ultimate geography buster, the Internet.

He began his advertising career in New York, where he managed Pepsi-Cola International's advertising and sponsorship activities. He spent the past 16 years living and working in Asia. During that time, he has held executive positions in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore.

Wertime's first book, Building Brands and Believers, was published in 2002. In this interview with's Hetal Adesara,he speaks at length about the OgilvyOne's beliefs and methods of working in the fast changing digital space, the emergence of search marketing and the hurdles that one comes across in the digital space.


In the Asia Pacific region, where does OgilvyOne India stack up and which are the top markets in the region?

There are a couple of answers to that question because I don't like to talk about markets just by absolute numbers. I can't tell you specifics of figures but I can tell you that India is one of our fastest growing markets. It is within our top five but is not the biggest of the markets that we operate in. China, Japan and Singapore clearly by size are bigger. But that's not the important metric for me right now.

India is very much the future. It is absolutely at the top of the list. Frankly, for a lot of multinationals, India, along with places like China, are very critical long term markets for the future. The great thing about our Indian operations is not so much about the numbers as it is about the thought leadership. There is a lot of great work that is coming out India. We are doing new things along with new inventions that are setting a new standard.

When I'm looking at the India operations, I am looking at not just the financial growth but also for influence in terms of our regional group. India has taken on a very important role particularly under the leadership of Kaizad.

India is pretty much the center of vibrancy. And among our Asian counterparts, India is an absolute critical part.

What kind of growth has the Indian operations seen in the last couple of years and what you do you foresee in the next one year or so?

We have seen double digit growth here but I can't share the numbers with you. It has seen a good growth geographically as we have offices in a few cities in India. So it's not like one place growing and no growth in the others. Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore are thriving offices and are all important to us.

We have seen a growth in our creative profile and in absolute business. Also another area of growth has been with our core clients, which is always the best sign. Are your main clients rewarding you with more work because they are happy with what you're doing? Those are the key measures we are looking at. We've seen all of them contributing to our growth.

What do I expect in the future? More of the same. I'm not looking for large geographic growth right now. It's not that we need to get more dots on the map, it's about getting more clients that are core to the type of work that we do. More great cases of creative work in digital, more business in pharmaceutical companies and more business in the areas that we see as key sectors such as finance, transportation and auto.

What are the core challenges that you face in the digital marketing space in India?

There are constant challenges that we face irrespective of the region and that is no different for India. The first challenge that we face here is that we are in a fast moving market that has more and more demands. We've got new type of competitors all the time and it's not just traditional direct marketing agencies. There are new digital shops that are starting. Apart from that, we constantly face the challenge of clients who are looking for more, better, faster services.

We also face the challenge of finding good people. There is always a lookout for new people particularly in the area that is new and growing. Direct marketing is not a highly developed area of marketing communications yet. So there is not as large a talent pool with specialists skills in this area as you would find in the traditional advertising. While we do have a good set of people here, there is never enough talent when you're a growing agency. We are always looking for more.

We also face the challenge of finding good people. There is always a lookout for new people particularly in the area that is new and growing. Direct marketing is not a highly developed area of marketing communications yet. So there is not as large a talent pool with specialists skills in this area as you would find in the traditional advertising. While we do have a good set of people here, there is never enough talent when you're a growing agency. We are always looking for more.

Then you have the challenge of complexity. There are lot of different things that clients today are trying to grapple with. So our task is to make these complexities simple enough so that they can make decisions. This is not an easy thing to do but is something that we have to deal with everyday.

One of OgilvyOne's core strengths is building bonds with consumers and brands. How do you go about that and is there any methodology that you follow?

You have to really take it example by example because there is no set formula to grow the bond. We deal with a lot of different types of clients. We have business to business clients, who may be selling a main frame computer that is targeted at maybe 10,000 people out there. The bond of that particular brand is around a much smaller group of influencers. And it depends upon the dynamics of purchase decision and the number of competitors. In every case it is a matter of truly understanding the buying process, the decision process and the loyalty process of the people who are making the decision.

So to answer your question, we don't have one set way of doing it but we have some set objectives and consistent ways of attacking, which really goes down to understanding your segmentation, effective communication and being able to measure.

While you mentioned that you in India you won't be looking at expanding geographically, are you looking at tapping any new markets in the Asia Pacific region?

One or two, because the truth is that we are by far the largest agency in our type of business. We have geographical footprints in 12 markets that cover most of the major markets. Vietnam is a market that we will be increasingly look at offering services in as that market is a young tiger market, which is now growing very rapidly.

With the exception of just a few markets out there such as Cambodia and Laos, we are in all the other major markets. Also, it's less about geographic growth now for us as much as it is about depth of service and depth of offering.

'We constantly face the challenge of clients who are looking for more, better, faster services'

In the digital marketing space, which includes web, mobile, search marketing… what according to you is going to grow the fastest?

They are all growing so fast right now. It's a good question. Mobile has ultimately huge potential. Across Asia, I think it is the big platform of the future. Digital point of sale although is a sleeping giant and once it awakes and a few good models come in that people see working, I believe it will take off dramatically.

We still see a very strong demand for customer management work for loyalty. We are talking a lot about acquisition in digital but there are a lot of companies that are looking at creating loyalty for their product.

I really don't know which horse is going to win. I see a lot of horses running very fast right now, which is very good for our business. So its hard to say.

Are Indian clients upbeat about the entire digital space and are more open to it than they were a few years earlier?

I think they are. But there is a spectrum of knowledge and confidence. You have some industries that have been in it for some time and are very sophisticated and then you have others that have dabbled and yet some others that are still on the sidelines.

But the story is still bigger than the overview. Business people in India are picking up newspapers and magazines, going on websites, watching television everyday, where digital is a part of what they're seeing and reading. Whether it is news about large digital companies or stories about particular companies doing interesting things - it is too much now for any tapped in business person to ignore. So I think there is a ground swell and it's a question of how you convert interest into action or existing action into more action.

With this boom in the digital space, do you think the traditional means of marketing are going take a backseat?

I don't think it is a matter of taking a backseat. It's going to more about integration. We know from all the research that if we touch people at multiple touch points and if they work in combination, it has a greater effect than any individual touch point. So we're spending a lot of time with our clients telling them that it's not this OR this; it's both. The question is in what proportion, at what time and what's the idea at the center?

It's not about -- I rob my right pocket to put it in my left pocket. It's about how you grow the pockets. And you do that growth by integrating it. We call it 360 and it's about taking a holistic approach.

Can you tell me more about your Customer Ownership methodology?

We've had Customer Ownership for a number of years now. It's about the basic approach we take as a company on how to grow bonds with customers. Within Customer Ownership there are a lot of critical tools, which we don't spend too much time talking about because that's not what clients are after. They are after the solutions.

It allows us to go through the process of analyzing a customer's business challenge and how you come up with the right kind of results. That involves doing various forms of segmentation, differential marketing, which means understanding which client bases to invest behind. It is very hard for clients to accept that not everyone will love them equally.

Customer Ownership process is not a fixed thing. It's thinking about the business issues that a client has and then applying different methodologies or tools to help them with their needs.

Coming to Ogilvy Healthworld, how different is marketing for pharma companies from that for mainstream brands?

It's both the same and very different. I'll tell you why I'm saying that. It is the same because communication is communication. You have to understand the target, motivate them and have insights.

It's very different for pharma companies because there are a lot of specifics and regulations that one needs to understand in the business. Also, understating how medical marketing works and particularly how drugs work. One needs to understand the science and knowing how to take that science, which has medical terminology and explain it in a way that the end consumer will understand.

So you need a great deal of expertise and that's the reason why Healthcare is often had its own unit around the world. So it's not just any copywriter working on it but someone who does have a technical background.

The big move right now is that around the world, medical marketing is moving into the next generation, which means talking to physicians in new ways primarily digital. Consumers too are going on to the web and finding out information that they need, particularly about health and hygiene. So it's a great channel to talk to consumers through.

We're looking at developing digital channels to reach out to consumers.

As far as Ogilvy Healthcare in India is concerned, there is a very good growth story for it in the next few years. We're in this business, not for a flash in the pan trend, we're looking for macro trends. This is a major trend that is going to be around for our lives. We're looking at long term sustainable growth patterns. Digital and pharma are long term sustainable growth issues and industries and that's why we are in the business.

What's your take on search marketing, which is suddenly getting more and more talked about?

Well it is deserved to be talked about because it is huge and will be huge everywhere because of a couple of reasons. One is that the whole premise of search is customer initiated. There is a huge power in that. The important thing to understand about search is that search is going local. So search, especially on mobile will become the way people find things.

According to me, every marketers should become familiar with search, which they are not right now as it is a new area. But they need to be conversant in it.

What are the new areas that can come up in the digital space keeping in mind emerging technologies?

Mobile, search, digital point of sale are all absolutely crucial. You have to understand new technologies that are turning flat, physical spaces into direct response media. Understanding how to build great websites, email marketing.

What are the goals that you've set for yourself and the agency in the year ahead?

Professionally, the goal is to be the finest business in the area in which we work and my personal goal is to help us do that across all of Asia. We're not in the business of short-term, we're in the business of sustainable growth for long term. It's about being a great agency, which is valuable to our clients because at the end of the day, we don't have any business without our clients. Everything comes from our clients, so if our clients don't love us, we can talk all we want and it won't really matter.

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