In February of this year GroupM’s newest and largest agency, EssenceMediacom, officially launched with the ambition of “Disrupting the old models across media, creative, innovation and analytics.”
The massive new entity – with a bold disruptive strategy – spans 120 offices globally combining Essence’s performance, data, analytics, and creative technology DNA with MediaCom’s multichannel audience planning and strategic media expertise.
When it launched, EssenceMediacom said that it would be responsible for more than $21bn in global media billings, with a client roster including adidas, Bayer, Dell, Google, Procter & Gamble, and The Coca-Cola Company, among others.
To get more insight into where things stand a few months into the official launch, we spoke with Rupert McPetrie, CEO of APAC at EssenceMediacom. Prior to this role, McPetrie was CEO of MediaCom APAC and prior to that, he led MediaCom in China for seven years. Over the course of his career, he has also held leadership roles in Russia and the UK, offering the industry vet a wide range of experience across continents and cultures.
During our recent conversation, he talks about the challenges of combining two large organizations together, the mission to disrupt old models, the effects of AI on the industry, how brands can best weather the current economic pressures, and more.
You’re now a few months into the merger, what have been some challenges and rewards of bringing two diverse organizations together as one?
The creation of EssenceMediacom has been extraordinary. In APAC, it involved bringing together about 2,500 people into a new agency, with a new vision and proposition, a new organizational design, new ways of working, and building something new from the best of both legacy Essence and legacy MediaCom.
The challenges along the way were largely around how to take the time to do the merger properly – taking the time to involve all our people, and involve and update our clients and partners – at the same time as our desire to move quickly. We also worked hard to ensure that our day-to-day business of taking care of our clients and our people was not impacted by any merger distractions.
“We see common challenges and opportunities for our clients across the region, in what we call the new communications economy. With this confluence of media, data, technology, social, commerce, and content, the clients that succeed are those that can break through.”
When we officially launched on the 31th of January this year, we had already seen many rewards and we feel really optimistic about the future. The feedback we get from clients, prospects, and the industry is very positive, and it is clear that we have created a new and unique offer that is highly relevant and demanded by brands. Equally, the feedback from our people – our Essentials – is positive. We are confident about the direction of our business, we have a new culture for EssenceMediacom, and we are excited about the opportunity in front of us.
EssenceMediacom launched with the mission of “disrupting the old models across media, creative, innovation and analytics” and finding new opportunities for brands. Tell us more about that specifically.
EssenceMediacom has unique capabilities and offerings from the creation of our new agency born out of the core strengths of Essence and MediaCom, and this gives us a terrific opportunity to create new solutions and breakthroughs for brands.
We see common challenges and opportunities for our clients across the region, in what we call the new communications economy. With this confluence of media, data, technology, social, commerce, and content, the clients that succeed are those that can break through.
“For APAC as a region, we are cautiously optimistic, and we do see opportunity and growth, but this will not be consistent across APAC given the diversity and range of the region.”
Breakthroughs go beyond the regular optimization of channels and systems – they deliver something or things beyond and additional, and we have great cases where we have delivered incremental outcomes for clients on the basis of substantial changes to their marketing and media.
How is AI affecting your industry? Both in terms of how brands are using it and how EssenceMediacom is using it for clients.
AI is and will continue to be a disruptor for our industry. Once you remove the hyperbole and drama around it, there is a lot of opportunity for the industry and for us as EssenceMediacom.
Our lens on it is to assess the practical application of AI in our model and offer, and move quickly to seize the opportunities that it offers. We already have AI within some of our tools and technologies, and we see it as a significant enabler for our business. Today, more than 1,000 of our people have access to a private and secure AI assistant, code-named emChat, to start to realize the benefits for our business and our clients.
“AI is and will continue to be a disruptor for our industry. Once you remove the hyperbole and drama around it, there is a lot of opportunity for the industry and for us as EssenceMediacom.”
So, we see AI as enabling us to simplify some parts of our business and operations, allowing us to automate elements, move at a faster pace, and focus our people on higher-value areas for us and our clients. It is an exciting moment for our industry.
With economic pressures remaining a factor in business strategy, what is your advice to brands looking to weather the storm?
My clear advice would be, if at all possible, to maintain investment in your brand at a good and reasonable level.
There are multiple cases and business studies that demonstrate the risks and opportunities around how brands react to economic challenges, showing clearly that short-term cuts impact your brand and business in the longer term, and that there is an opportunity for brands that maintain investment to gain market share that endures and that will deliver significant upside over the mid to longer term.
“There are multiple cases and business studies that demonstrate the risks and opportunities around how brands react to economic challenges, showing clearly that short-term cuts impact your brand and business in the longer term.”
To help decision-making, businesses should aim to stay as close to the consumer as possible, have as much data and insight as possible, and have a clear line of sight on the business impact of their marketing investments.
From a global perspective, how is APAC performing compared to other markets and what are your expansion plans in the region?
There remains some uncertainty globally with various political and economic factors, and APAC has its own share of uncertainty, both from the impact of global factors, and some more local market factors.
Overall, APAC is performing well, and within that, some markets are doing very well, with economic growth, ad spend growth, and EssenceMediacom outperforming the market.
“Asia is for me the most exciting region to live and work in. The diversity of the region is so interesting, in terms of people, culture, experiences, and of course, the work.”
For APAC as a region, we are cautiously optimistic, and we do see opportunity and growth, but this will not be consistent across APAC given the diversity and range of the region. With confidence levels in China returning, India performing strongly, and our new EssenceMediacom offer, we believe that our momentum will pick up as we move through 2023 and beyond.
We do have ambitious plans for the region, as we already see the strength of our differentiated offer for clients and the strength of our people.
Having worked across varied locations, what appeals to you about living and working in Asia?
Asia is for me the most exciting region to live and work in. The diversity of the region is so interesting, in terms of people, culture, experiences, and of course, the work. No two days are the same in Asia, which makes it so exciting and energizing. There is always a sense of endless possibilities and opportunities.
Can you talk about EssenceMediacom’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the Asia-Pacific? How are you working to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, both in-house and across the industry?
DEI is at the heart of our culture and operations of EssenceMediacom. We believe that we have a responsibility to our people, to ensure that all that we do allows all our people to be their authentic selves, and that our business should be representative of the communities in which we operate.
As a major player in the industry, we also feel strongly that we have a responsibility to drive DEI agendas for the wider industry and beyond, working with our clients and partners.
We have clear plans globally, regionally, and in all our markets to drive our DEI agenda, and have a wide range of practical initiatives to deliver on our promise. We also have very clear accountability on our DEI agenda, with our senior global leaders accountable for various strands of DEI. For example, I personally advocate for faith diversity.
Everything that we hear from our people indicates that DEI is very important to them across the region, so it is both high on our agenda and an integral part of our strategy.
- Book everyone in the industry should read: American Icon by Bryce G. Hoffman
- Favorite show you’re watching lately: Rabbit Hole
- One album you would take to a deserted island: Wish by The Cure
- Something you want to learn or wish you were better at: Trail running