Spikes Asia HP Media

HP is sticking with its agencies because it does not want 'a one-eyed view of the world'


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

October 8, 2018 | 7 min read

As some brands revaluate and experiment with existing relationships with their agencies, there are some who still prefer the status quo.

Brands like Renault, Unilever and P&G are experimenting with a new model which will see media and creative agencies merged, and more work brought in-house. They are confident that this approach will increase their creativity output, and bring transparency and greater control to their media spend, amongst others.

One brand that still fully trusts its relationship with its agency is HP, as it believes that because an agency has multiple clients, it can bring cross client learnings to the brand, allowing it to learn from other brands.

Omnicom’s PHD and Dentsu Aegis Network’s Gyro are HP’s media and creative agencies, respectively in Asia Pacific. The brand has worked with PHD on multiple campaigns, including one where it addressed the fact that the reasons for buying printer ink were incredibly varied and often price-driven.

“If we want to say, do a dynamic creative optimisation campaign for example, because we're talking about creative and data, I will ask PHD 'What have you done around the world and what have you done with other clients in other countries?'" says Todd Martin, director of digital and media marketing for APAC and Japan at HP during a conversation with The Drum at Spikes Asia 2018.

“When we first talked to PHD about that, they said, 'Oh, we've done this amazing work for Volkswagen in Europe.' Then they came and showed us how they had done that, we took it and applied a lot of that learnings to how we were able to do DCO for our printers here.”

HP was also looking for a process where it could start with its insights and go through a strategic framework that could be applied over an entire year. Instead of reinventing the wheel, HP was impressed PHD were able to take that and turn it into a HP process that could work for the brand and apply it. “They said, 'Well, we do that very rigorously for our FMCG clients and for a couple of our automotive clients.'” Martin explains.

He adds that “if you do things yourself, you have a very one-eyed view of the world”, saying: “You're just looking at the world through the HP telescope and not learning from the successes and failures of other clients that an agency would have.

“I encourage my team and PHD to talk to their other big clients like Unilever and Volkswagen, and I encourage them to get to know their counterparts in the other teams at PHD so that we can discuss those learnings.”

Design thinking

What has changed in HP and PHD’s relationship, however, is that the brand has created a structured process that starts with its customer insights. HP takes these customer insights and use the company's internal get-to-buy, which comes from the insights team at a global level and bring this to APAC.

The brand then brings together its data science team, data partners, third party partners, creative and media agencies all together in a structured format. However, Martin cautions that this is not a free-for-all or a brainstorming session.

“What we do is we create from that get-to-buy, a role for communications. This role transcends everything because it goes across creative and media, as well as data. We use that role of comms to then produce the media plan, the type of creative we're going to require for the media,” explains Martin.

“That might be dynamic creative, a static creative, video. We then align that with our data science people who know what internal data we have on audiences and audience segments, and then we also have discussions with our third party data providers who may have business insights or business intelligence tools to be able to then create the best possible media plan and the best possible execution for that campaign.”

HP is not just doing this at a campaign level, but on a one year basis and has applied this method for its major campaigns that are going out in 2019. This will allow the brand to segment the campaigns into how they will work with the customers or the people who have propensity during that year.

“It is a very structured approach, but it uses that collaboration between at least, sometimes up to six different streams within HP, plus partners outside of HP to be able to create that. This is the best possible design thinking approach from briefing to media planning,” says Martin.

This is a departure from the tedious process of the marketing business unit at HP creating a brief and handing it to the creative and media agencies, and waiting for them to come back with their ideas. This process had no design thinking, notes Martin.

“What you need to do to create resonance is obviously address the behaviour. If you start from a behaviour, then the design thinking process is tailored to that. Using design thinking, what you are doing is you are putting the target audience, the customer and their behaviour first,” he explains.

“Then you are designing around that and creating the highest degree of resonance with that person. Because putting a general awareness is always important and you look at the big global brands, they're good at doing general awareness. It is something that you cannot discount.”

It does not hurt to slap on a big logo in a campaign for a new product to raise the awareness, but Martin asserts that these kinds of campaigns are not targeted, and a brand will have to cast its net wide and keep building awareness all the time.

“Addressing the behaviours of people and how they are interacting with your brand is what the design thinking process is made for. So that way you can use a collaborative process to bring in all of the most important people to create a brief. And that is the process we have developed over about the last four or five months for the market business units at HP,” he says.


What is being done in-house at HP is the management, centralisation and alignment of its global directives for marketing. It also leans on its regional and country-based teams to create country specific and culturally appropriate messages to go out in those countries, based on its understanding of the audiences in those countries.

“We own and manage the process. So internally, what I do is I work in like a marketing science division. It is called the centre of excellence for digital and media marketing. And what we do is we handle insights, media, data science .and marketing impact which our measurement division,” explains Martin.

There is nothing stopping brands from ending their relationships with their agencies and doing everything in-house. It could be even beneficial for them, but as HP points out, it is hard to see what is coming up in your rear view mirror without an outside input.

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