Interview Transcript

If we just take MediaMonks, what would you say their competitive advantage would be in winning new content business?

It sounds a bit glib, but it all stems from faster, better, cheaper. The alternative way of describing it is speed, quality, value. Faster, as I said, is about agility; better is about understanding. It’s worth running through the companies; Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tencent, Alibaba, TikTok – to anywhere it goes – Apple and Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, IBM, SAP, Twitter, Snap, Pinterest, LG, Samsung, Spotify, Netflix.

Can’t the holding companies win some of this business?

They do. I was just talking, in Australia, where there were two big Adobe driven pitches. We didn’t pitch one of them; we weren’t invited on one of them. On the other one, we won. Who did we win against? The incumbent was AXQA. They can, I’m sure, and they will try to. As I say, their organization gets in their way.

When looking at driving a real competitive advantage, as a network, over the next five to 10 years, as S4, what do you really focus on?

Those four things. Focus purely on digital. It’s half the business at the moment and it will be 70% within a few years. Understanding the holy trinity model of faster, better, cheaper. And the unitary structure. Those are the four things and that’s what applies to our content practice around MediaMonks and our data and digital media practice, around MightyHive.

How do you think about allocating the cash flow from the core business?

Our structure remains the same. We don’t pay a dividend at the moment and we’ve said that we’ll probably pay a nominal dividend in due course, but in terms of the rates of return that we get in the capital allocation process, where can you get the better return? The better return is by investing in our business. For example, our Epic investment, our Fortnite investment in India, in the new technologies; our production centers in Buenos Aires or in New Delhi or Kazakhstan or the Ukraine or wherever it happens to be. Those are data and analytics centers. Obviously, also investing in M&A. The structures of our deals remain the same; basically, half shares, half cash. No earn outs because that creates fragmentation. That’s part of the problem. WPP will probably go off and buy companies and they’ll have people who want to sell, which is a key thing. You don’t want people to sell; you want people to buy in or sell into your company and you want people to continue. It’s no good having companies drop dead after the earn outs.

With the land and expand, now you’re getting into these bigger accounts, like Mondelez or MINI, how much deeper can you move into other services for clients?

We started with brand awareness, in the last half of 2018. In 2019, after going through awareness, it was a brand trial. Then we moved to conversion at scale, the 20 squared objective of around 20 whoppers, which actually, if we didn’t have a cent or a dollar of revenue in those, it would mean that we would be recreating $400 million of revenue. But a lot of these clients are clients that we work with, so we’ve identified the top five. We’ve identified another five where we’re running at $5 to $10 to $15 million of revenue a year. Then we’re identified another 10 where we think we have potential. Over the next couple of years, we want to get to 20 clients of 20 million of revenue or more.

So the answer is, the priorities for next year are, obviously, consolidating our organic growth and growing more whoppers. Secondly, unifying the business even more strongly, through rebranding which you’ll see shortly when we launch the rebranding. Thirdly, continuing to expand our offer by broadening our capabilities, within the three pillars of first-party data, digital advertising content and digital media.

In the long run, another pillar?

No; I think we’ll stick to those three. We may move up the funnel, strategically. We may do more in the way of systems integration, but that’s really within the three areas that we are interested in and the two pillars, as we’ve created them, content and data analytics and digital media.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing?

I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge; it’s an opportunity. It’s the conversion at scale. We have to demonstrate that this model works at scale. We’ve already won business at scale. Now we have to not just show that it works in those cases, but go well beyond.

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