Wunderman NA COO Tombacher: ‘We’re tremendously poised to compete' against Deloitte, Accenture

Robyn Tombacher takes the first COO post for Wunderman's North America region. / Wunderman

Wunderman has named Robyn Tombacher, most recently its head of operations for North America, as its first chief operations officer for the region.

Tombacher, a veteran of DigitasLBi and R/GA who had been in her previous role for over two years, has been elevated to help the WPP firm streamline and open up its organizational structure, and strengthen its practices in data and e-commerce throughout the region.

The creation of the role itself shows a shift in organizational thinking for the WPP agency. She said: “WPP typically is really relied on the CFO to play a hybrid financial/operations role, where the vantage point in that position was about the finances and the bottom line.

“I think we're coming at it from a different perspective. We’re focused on the balance between business and financial performance, but also what's best for our clients. How we service them, and how do we create the best teams to create the best work.”

The work for Wunderman now has it squarely in opposition to management consultancies like Infosys, Deloitte, and Accenture, all of which have encroached on the territory of traditional ad agencies in recent years. When asked if Wunderman’s recent moves have better positioned it to push away these newer competitors, Tombacher said that the agency’s heritage has already placed it in prime position to take them head on.

“Our heritage has always had a mix of marketing strategy, but also marketing automation and technology. With the addition of our own consulting services in the last few years, I'd say we're tremendously poised to do that.”

She noted the partnerships the company already has with Adobe and Sitecore, which allows a flexibility to take on almost any client’s task. “Clients can come to us who maybe are born out of a marketing and advertising heritage to do for them what they may be asking of some of the management consultants to do. But again, we’re coming at it from more like an understanding of the consumer and the creative.”

Two of the weapons that Tombacher looks to streamline region-wide are the company’s growing data and commerce practices, the latter of which recently added the DC-based Gorilla Group to its team.

Tombacher said she was excited to see the growth of Wunderman Commerce, “just to be able to deliver on the omnichannel and the transaction services that our clients are looking for.”

Helping to address client needs in the retail space, Wunderman’s data arm, which hired e-commerce veteran Michael Murray in July. Tombacher voiced her enthusiasm, saying: “It’s the fact that we own our own data products and had sort of cultivated those over multiple years. Then to be able to connect them into like a marketing ecosystem, it's just tremendously powerful.”

This, in comparison to other holding companies, who have acquired external data practices in a rush to mine consumer info, put the company in a unique position.

“What I think makes us stand apart a little bit from some of the others is that this is our heritage and we've always had data as opposed to sort of plugging it in after the fact. Ultimately, If we can get Wunderman Data truly singing, truly optimized in modern technology, connected into the marketing ecosystem for our clients, I think it's a tremendous value and tremendous experience that we can offer.”

On how this effort to streamline these offerings will impact drawing new business, Tombacher adds: “I think it's really about the client and how much they want to invest in more, and how much they want to invest in customer journeys and customer experiences.

“If you were to put things on a spectrum, wherever that client falls, I think that's what will ultimately define who they decide to go with, but we feel like we're tremendously poised to compete in every way.”

The impact that consultancy rivals have made in recent times has forced ad agencies like Wunderman to readjust how they structure themselves internally. Nikki Mendonca, an OMD vet who joined Accenture in July, had recently called out what she considered "incompetence" by those in marketing services.

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