Cheil on Iris: Our methods and expectations are more similar than our differences

Cheil's Simon Hathaway

Yesterday it was announced that Cheil Worldwide has taken a stake in independent advertising agency Iris. Here Cheil's Simon Hathaway tells us why he believes the partnership will work.

At a time when the deal flow of agency mergers and acquisitions is starting to become more than a mere trickle, it is worth pointing out that Cheil’s investment in Iris is a different type of deal.

A good indication of just how different is the fact that in the many months both parties have spent on the details of the deal, the most passionate discussions have come down to how it would affect the way that each of us worked. Not financials or who gets what title, but what it would mean for our clients and how it would help us serve them better.

And make no mistake about it, clients do need to be served better than they currently are by the traditional advertising agency blocs. The world has changed. The consumer is no longer in deference to the Mad Men. More than ever, people are now forging their own path in finding out about products, trends and innovations. Armed with smartphones, they’re more prepared to search for what they need and share the results – and in the process undercut the traditional marketing channels.

These are agile consumers and brands that want to engage with them can no longer rely on the tried and tired strategies of yesteryear.

Technology companies in particular get this which is why Samsung created Cheil 41 years ago. It recognised that in needed to be able to get to market with communications faster than traditional agencies were capable of – technology marketers don’t call it the bleeding edge for nothing. That requirement has only become more pressing with faster product refreshes, more innovation and a growing hunger for information that really helps the consumer rather than perpetuates brand myths.

Iris gets this too. Its heritage working for Sony Ericsson has given it a great cultural affinity with Cheil. Our working methods and expectations are more similar than our differences, which has made the process of agreeing to partner all the smoother, and will hopefully make the integration of our operations easier.

Both agencies were already starting to work together, and such was the belief that this deal was right for both of us that the speed of collaboration has increased as we got closer to signing this deal.

For Cheil, this is all about creating a genuine alternative to the existing agency status quo, and Iris is an exciting new part of our story. Its proven entrepreneurial zeal in growing from a wannabe start-up to an impressive global player, speaks of ambition and a recognition of changing client needs. Like Cheil, its strengths align closely with the areas where clients are looking to be more active: social, data analytics, and retail activation. Its creatively impressive work for clients such as Adidas show that it has the capacity to create Ideas that can Move across platforms, media, and indeed continents.

In terms of our global footprint, Cheil and Iris are a team that will be greater than the sum of our parts. This fusion of East meets West has the potential to make for a potent combination of creativity, innovation and agility. The East is home to some of the most technologically adept and demanding consumers in the world. Cheil’s work on such projects as Tesco’s HomePlus virtual store in a Seoul Metro and the Emart instore shopping navigation system, demonstrate this facility.

With Iris as part of our network, Cheil is committed to a long-term shared vision on how we can partner together to offer clients a genuine alternative to existing agency groups. It is the start of something genuinely different and exciting.

Simon Hathaway is president and global head of retail experience at Cheil

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