Dentsu Aegis takes its ties with customers to the next level with ‘Eigyo’ culture
THE global advertising industry is in a state of conundrum with competition flaring from all directions. Previously only competing with one another, advertising agencies now have to deal with new players like technology companies and consultancies setting foot in the advertising turf to fight for market share.
This scenario has made the relationship between agencies and clients i.e. marketers even more paramount. On the marketers’ side, with the proliferation of digital activities and the amount of resulting data, companies realised they have to increase their speed of operation to respond to an ever changing consumer environment or risk losing shares.
To draw an example, two years ago on the global front, fast-food chain McDonald’s appointed Omnicom Group to handle its US creative account, resulting in the formation of a bespoke integrated outfit within Omnicom called “We are Unlimited”.
Even locally, there are movements where agency brands within the group have started to integrate itself more closely across its network, creating single profit and loss (P&L) models while those who do not belong to networks are acquiring or creating strategic partnerships to form alliances.
Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) Malaysia CEO Nicky Lim tells StarBizWeek that one thing is clear with all these movements.
“Things are becoming too fast-moving that marketers who truly want to focus on building business shouldn’t have their attention divided to manage agencies. Integration is imminent.”
The question is – does it happen on the client’s side or does it happen on the agency’s side?
Lim notes that Dentsu Inc in Japan is the only advertising agency in the world that has never been unbundled in the last 15 to 20 years and had great foresight to why it shouldn’t happen in the first place.
“For a company who holds 60% of the advertising market share in Japan, they are extremely respectful and strict in information handling and data compliance of every client. This is due to the fact that they hold a different perspective to the ad business. They are not just communication and business experts but they are fundamentally in the service industry.
“To the Japanese, clients and customers are revered with the highest respect and while this might seem like second nature to them, Dentsu has formulated the perfect science behind this subjective equation.”
DAN Malaysia’s chief data and strategy Officer Sue-Anne Lim says that in Japan, there is a term called “Eigyo” which in some agencies are known to be brand custodians who serve as the gatekeepers of the client’s brands and business.
“The concept of ‘Eigyo’ is beyond client assignment – it is about being the chief marketing officer (CMO) counterpart of clients within a group of specialists,” she explains.
She adds that DAN Malaysia has long launched the idea of “one market, one P&L” during the merger of two of the world’s largest communication groups in 2012.
“Today, with the ‘Eigyo’ culture ingrained, we’re even more determined to put the client’s business in the heart of what we do, and to be truly solution-based for clients that will impact their bottom line,” she says.
The agency recognises the inefficiency to have busy clients engaging and coordinating with so many different parties at an increasingly breakneck speed of turnaround time, Lim says, adding that it is time to have a CMO-equivalent on the agency side to match fast-moving technologies and marketing solutions to business needs.
“This is a practical decision to really go an extra mile for clients.”
When asked about the benefits of inculcating such a culture in agencies, Lim points out that there are many upsides, stating that the agency of the future is the one where at its heart is the client’s business first and everything else second.
“We have 15 agencies within DAN Malaysia, yet it doesn’t matter which specialist agency you’re from as you only have one goal – to collaborate with the right people to help clients win in the marketplace. Internally, we gain more well-rounded associates who are truly business focused and channel agnostic.”
Big account wins in 2017 for DAN proved exactly that collaboration is the way to go where the sum of one plus one equals three.
For instance, global and local experts from sister agencies across Dentsu Aegis Network were assembled to form Red Star, a team dedicated to deliver on the Heineken account.
“Clients are expecting holistic business approach from all sides of the plan – not just a media view. When I know my client’s business inside out, I can assemble and orchestrate the right teams to deliver results. The trust given by clients to us is what relationships today should be made of,” Carat Malaysia CEO Lorraine Capel says.
Sue-Anne agrees and cites Dentsu One’s Honda business as another case in point. “Teams who are practicing the ‘Eigyo’ culture of being brand-first are extremely proud of what they do and most importantly, they resonate with the client’s philosophy.
“Our ‘1Honda’ team recruits talents who have the ‘challenging spirit’ within them. And to those who are familiar with the Honda brand, make no mistake, that’s the DNA.”
That said, from a business perspective, how has the ‘Eigyo’ culture change the agency’s bottom line?
“I don’t think you can equate this directly on revenue in the short term. We are here for the long run and we need to understand how the world is changing.
“The consumers are forcing business to change and we simply cannot operate in silos. You can call this a defensive strategy but we call it evolution. We want our clients to feel appreciated and that we have their business goals at the forefront,” Lim shares.
“Brand custodians prioritise that goal and steers the entire ship towards it. We review our relationships with our clients and we ask ourselves, how can we make this better?”
Sue-Anne weighs in: “Having a strong integration on the agency side also allows us to consolidate intelligence to finally put every piece of the puzzle together to gain a holistic understanding of what investment worked and what needs to work harder for brands.
“There are a lot of gains from just upscaling our service to our clients. I don’t think there’s any strong downside to this except not everyone is cut out for this kind of clear KPIs. Our new culture will only attract dynamic talents who are agile and collaborative.”
According to Sue-Anne, integration of solutions also brings the possibility of data safety and integration, which will help agency partners gain clear visibility on through-the-line investments, and this will make them become better strategy partners – that is what clients always wanted.
“We offer brand custodians to all clients who appreciate greater speed of integration of marketing solutions – of any business size. This is something that we look forward to roll out for every one of our clients to improve both their business metrics and operations.
“Client-agency relationship has changed drastically over the years. We should absolutely take the lead to evolve from it,” Lim concludes.