MediaMonks has hired former APD Singapore chief executive Tobis Wilson as its vice president of growth in APAC, as the S4-owned company plots major growth in the region.
Wilson spoke to The Drum as he started his first week, explaining the major task at hand, why the region is still the most exciting in the world, and how he’s going to channel his entrepreneurial spirit into a new business and culture.
The MediaMonks business in the Asia Pacific region is fast-growing, largely because the business had a smaller footprint in Asia than its home in Europe or even the US. This is changing, following its entry into Sorrell’s S4 business, as renewed energy and focus on the potential that lies in the region sees investment in talent, Wilson included.
Of the role, he will be a part of a wider team of growth vice president across the different regions, looking after the whole of the APAC market. He explains that the role sits within three key areas of direct, channel and awareness.
“Growth is a broad term, for this role I’m focussed on three key areas; direct, channel and awareness. Direct is obviously the client stuff, both attracting new clients or deepening relationships with existing clients which includes internationalizing and regionalizing clients. If you look across the different regions, we have these amazing client relationships, how do we centralize those, manage those and give them some scale? It’s a big focus for us, as any time you get deeper with a client, or wider into a client, there's obviously economies of scale that are afforded to both parties, meaning we can run the business more efficiently and reinvest in the relationship," he says.
"The next part is looking at our channel-partner network and ecosystem. We have our agencies, who we do incredible work with and for and we love them. We also have our tech partners, which is a really interesting area for us as they give us opportunities to play around with early releases of their tech, pushing their platforms to the limits. As MediaMonks grows and evolves, our offering grows and evolves with these partners, and it becomes a more interesting proposition for them and their clients."
He adds: "These guys have big brands coming to them wanting to do industry firsts and either they have a partner that maybe doesn't have the experience, or they have a partner that can't pull it off at that scale, or they don't have a partner. My job is to make sure that when people think of ambitious digital ideas, they think of MediaMonks and the broader S4 family of brands.”
For the final awareness element, he says the business is investing in both talent and activities that will put the business in the front, and top of mind, for senior digital marketers in APAC.
The Asia Pacific region will be important to S4 and, therefore, MediaMonks. S4’s Sir Martin Sorrell has spoken at length about the macro importance of APAC economically, but it’s also starting to play out in the business's strategy and decisions. S4 has put down significant roots in Singapore as its APAC hub, creating one of the first global offices to house both MediaMonks and Mightyhive.
“APAC has more than 50% of the world's population and more than 50% of the world's internet population, so I find it staggering that we’re still so far behind from a digital ad-spend perspective," explains Wilson.
"It’s growing, but there is a ton of growth to come. I also think the ‘outside’ world is really just waking up to Asia, so with that investment and focus we’ll see some big jumps from a growth perspective. It's pretty crude calling it ‘Asia’... the region has 48 countries and over 2000 spoken languages, let alone the underlying nuances between each region and sub-region which even after 11 years here totally fascinates me and keeps every single day interesting. It’s the center of the business universe in my opinion.”
One of the key areas MediaMonks will be looking to grow is its always-on content studio, of which the business is plotting Singapore to be a hub for. The company has signed brands including Avon into this proposition globally, which has helped boost the company’s early financial results.
While S4 is a relative newcomer, MediaMonks is well-established and has a staff count of well over 950, across physical locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Dubai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Singapore, and Shanghai. For Wilson, who has spent the last nine years either running his own agency or working mostly without a boss in the market, the new job presents a different challenge but one he thinks his entrepreneurial past is well-suited to.
“Either as an employee or founder, I have always thrown 150% of myself at everything I do and have worked hard to instill the same passion in my teams. Working in advertising should be a buzz, it should be fun, it should be exciting, it should fire you up. We need to be a little crazy and I think the industry, or maybe even business in general, needs more of that. You can go to any university or any educational institution and come out as smart as the guy next to you because that's what is in the books," he says.
"If we, as an industry, just want brief takers, or yes men, or robots then let's just fill up rooms with tons of those people and add no value. But I don’t think we do. MediaMonks is an ideal place for me because a lot of what we do hasn't been done before, there’s a risk and there’s a bit of the unknown and sometimes all those ideas need to become a reality is a bit of enthusiasm and passion.
He concludes: "I'd like to think that we're brief makers, not brief takers. We have the insights, we have the knowledge, we understand our clients, we understand digital, we have a great track record and we're able to apply that at scale, on mass.”
Wilson started his role this month and will be based out of the APAC HQ in Singapore.