‘New verticals together account for around 30% of our business’
Wavemaker, the five-year-old media agency from GroupM, has differentiated itself on the back of investments made in functions such as commerce, influencer and content marketing. Ajay Gupte, CEO, South Asia for Wavemaker, talks to Christina Moniz about how the work for ad agencies has expanded in scope, Wavemaker’s goals for 2023 and more. Edited excerpts:
Wavemaker has had a good year in terms of new business and recognition at industry awards. How would you rate the agency’s performance in 2022?
We saw a lot of wonderful things happen for Wavemaker this year. The first were the accolades that help create positivity in the company and encourage people to do better. We have consistently been investing in commerce, influencer marketing, content and performance marketing over the past 3-4 years. These investments have allowed us to do some differentiated work, which has won us recognition. Moreover, we are fortunate to work with a good client base of over 100 brands. Our content team now has 70 people, which is 10% of our workforce and almost as large as a creative agency. We have audience and data scientists on board to provide insights and a better understanding of the consumer’s data platform (CDP) journey. These investments have created new avenues for growth. Additionally, we won several new businesses this year such as VIP, Paytm First Games and Truecaller and our billings from new businesses have grown by 10%.
Perhaps the only disappointment was losing the ITC account, one of the few losses we have seen in a long time. We have however retained our other key businesses like Mondelez, Vodafone and L’Oreal and done some great work on these accounts.
What has been the growth in billings from both new and existing businesses?
We are growing by 20% year-on-year. About 10% comes from existing businesses and the other 10% from new accounts.
What volume of business comes from Wavemaker’s new verticals as opposed to the traditional media buying and planning functions?
The content, commerce and CDP verticals together account for around 30% of our business, which is not bad at all. We are at a tipping point where e-commerce has become really critical. People today are buying even basic essentials from e-commerce and quick commerce companies. So we support our FMCG clients on the e-commerce front in various ways. For instance, we help drive traffic to the brands’ websites, consult them in terms of what products should be sold on which marketplace, what pack sizes they should sell and combo-packs that will work based on consumer purchase data. On social commerce, we offer strategic inputs in terms of which influencers our clients should partner with and what kind of content needs to be created to drive sales. Clearly therefore, our work extends well beyond advertising and media planning today.
With the scope of work becoming wider, how has the talent pool changed? And what are the challenges in wooing a myriad of talent?
Attracting talent is a challenge. We need filmmakers, copywriters, audience scientists and e-commerce specialists. The other challenge is demand in the market – media agencies, creative agencies, start-ups and media companies are all vying for the same talent.
We attempt to address these challenges in a few ways. At the GroupM level, we recruit young talent from colleges in large numbers and train them for three months, and then get them on board our agencies, as part of a programme we have called mWizards. Further, we retain people by giving them opportunities to pick up new skills and perform new roles. Our success at industry-level platforms and awards have also made an impact with young talent, who want to work with us. We’re proud that we have the lowest attrition rate.
What are your key priorities for 2023?
Our aim is to bring more of Wavemaker and its offerings to more of our clients. So if we are talking to 15 of our clients for e-commerce today, I want to take that to 100 clients. And naturally, we will work towards getting more new business too. We want our clients to get the benefit of everything we bring to the table. Looking ahead, anything below 20% year-on-year growth will not be satisfactory.