Our evolution of Wunderman Thompson will involve taking its legacy and adding a renewed focus on commerce, data and technology: Shamsuddin Jasani
As digital advertising agency founder Shamsuddin Jasani joins a traditional creative agency, here’s what you can expect...

Our evolution of Wunderman Thompson will involve taking its legacy and adding a renewed focus on commerce, data and technology: Shamsuddin Jasani

As digital advertising agency founder Shamsuddin Jasani joins a traditional creative agency, here’s what you can expect...
  • After two months of joining Wunderman Thompson, Shamsuddin Jasani is all set to propel the agency's South Asia business forward.
  • Jasani talks to us about the future of the advertising industry, what employees are expecting from a leader as the COVID scare increases across the country, challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for him as a CEO of a creative agency, and his larger vision for the agency.
After 13 years with Dentsu’s Isobar -- growing it from a two-person team to over 300-strong people across South Asia, Shamsuddin Jasani joined creative advertising agency Wunderman Thompson in October 2021. At his new stint as the Chief Executive Officer of the South Asian market, he is excited about continuing Wunderman Thompson’s creative legacy and marrying it with Data, Commerce and Technology.

Before this huge career shuffle, he asked himself, “Where does the future of the agency model lie?”

Telling us why he chose Wunderman Thompson, Jasani said, “The agency was right at the juncture where I thought we needed to evolve from. It also allows me the flexibility to have that vision and take Wunderman Thompson to where I feel the agency model needs to reach. The edge I want to bring in is from a creative and technology perspective, to add to the already existing beautiful legacy of a brand-experience creative agency.”

The rules of the game, in a world as dynamic as digital marketing and traditional advertising, change every minute. Jasani mentioned that the kind of competitive set that exists today is very different from what it was even till a few years ago. He was quick to realise that he needs to be ahead of the curve and decided to move on from Isobar.

He explained, “It means that our competitor set evolves from not only having the traditional agency model -- it will accentuate and evolve into completely different platforms. And that's why the idea is to take what I have learned, marry digital-first and technology thinking to creative-first thinking. The aim is to come up with the agency model which is more relevant in today's world. Wunderman Thompson already had those ingredients, it is just about putting all this together.”

After the pandemic, there's no doubt that consumer behaviour and shopping patterns have changed. From medicine and grocery to luxury cars, internet users are making a lot of their purchases online. However, this doesn’t mean that people have lost interest in experiencing the physical world around us or buying on the basis of feel and smell still.

So, Jasani is looking at enhancing Wunderman Thompson’s current capabilities and combining them with his specialty - commerce.

“As we enhance our capabilities in commerce, we’ll also go to our clients and say, 'How can I marry that with commerce?' Because today, commerce is going to be as critical as just the communication in marketing that we're doing. We are going to break this journey up into six months, a year, and two years. The evolution is starting off as a brand experience agency that talks about marketing, advertising, and adding digital components to it -- the innovations that the new mediums are bringing up, exploring how online and offline co-exist. The whole Phygital experience of how we are taking people from online to offline and back again is going to be very critical for solving a lot of our client's needs. And it would be about how we can be relevant and work with them to solve their needs on every touchpoint of the consumer journey, including what happens post-purchase,” said Jasani.

Preparing for the impending wave of COVID-19

Jasani moved into a new agency when COVID numbers finally seemed to be coming under control. With the number of vaccinated citizens increasing every day, hope and optimism was beginning to replace uncertainty and anxiety. Consumer sentiment was up and employees were back to working from the office. However, just in the last two weeks, India has seen a rapid resurgence of COVID cases. We might be heading into a recap of 2020 and employees will need their leader’s support yet again. Clients and their budgets for traditional mediums might also plummet.

Jasani is confident that the employees and clients are better prepared for the third wave than they were back in 2020.

He said, “The number one thing that is always on our minds is the health and wellness of all employees but I also wanted to talk about how this is a situation in which we need to be very agile in how we are reacting, in terms of the people and externally as well for the clients. So we are completely supportive. We have everything in place to make sure that our teams feel supported. They feel that they are a part of the Wunderman Thompson team but at the same time, they have their safety and security also taken care of. The converse to that is we still want people -- once things are back to normal, or at least the new normal, as they call it -- to start interacting much more. We are still working in an agency setup, which is all about people working together to come up with some brilliant solutions. While digital is a great medium, a lot of that is really widening off people really working together. So, we are looking at a very hybrid, agile model where we want to have these pockets of inspiration that we want people to get into, which can be physical and digital.”

As we prepare for another possible wave of COVID-19, Jasani has one piece of advice for brands and agencies.

Sharing what consumers will expect from brands this time, he said, “I think brands need to be true. People see through brands and businesses that are just doing public service announcements, so it's very important to be true. And secondly, we are slightly better prepared for this wave than we were in the last wave. So a lot of that communication still needs to be normal. We simply need to evolve our channels, the way our consumers can interact with us, reach to us and buy stuff

It is going to be about making it seamless for them, in whatever communication that you're doing. It's about making things easier for the consumer. If I have to put it in one line, it is about how you are creating that sense of ease and seamlessness.”

Larger vision for the agency

Wunderman Thompson and Jasani’s vision for the next three years is to grow the agency to twice its size.

On his game plan to achieve this goal, he shared, “We will do this by taking our legacy and adding a layer of commerce, technology, and MarTech, and also doing brilliant work creatively. I think that is something that does not change, creativity is always going to be the center of everything we do. In fact, this focus on creativity will only increase in 2022 and 2023 -- the focus on doing brilliant work, and helping clients really take part in this ever-evolving landscape and making consumer experience better. I think that's what 2022 is all about.”