Geometry, WPP’s end to end creative commerce agency promotes Nick Walsh as the first-ever CEO of the agency in the region. A pioneer in the brand activation space, Walsh is credited with transforming the Dubai HQ internally as managing director of the firm and now in the new role, bigger challenges and opportunities awaits him. Communicate got an exclusive interview with Walsh, to learn about his plans for the agency and the commerce space.
What does this promotion signify for the agency?
We’ve experienced fantastic growth in the last three years; [slowly mastering] the discipline, opening a brand new headquarters, that is purpose-built for the sectors we work in terms of test areas and innovation. Our in house talent has also grown considerably and [this is reflected] in our financial performance. On top of that, we’ve been getting global recognition for some of the work we’ve been doing. [Overall] this is a sign of the emphasis that our global team is putting on this region. Putting all of these things together along with our future plans, the promotion was a good next step.
Why is this new role being created now?
We’ve built a very solid offering for the region and it is also one of the top examples of a Geometry [offering]. But now, we’re moving into a much wider, multi-disciplinary service offering- with an enhanced commerce team who is moving into the experiential business in a bigger way, focusing on the large events and experiences in the region. We’re also building long term/permanent brand experiences such as brand centers, flagship stores, store-in-store, etc [for our clients.] On top of that, we’re moving into new markets such as KSA and Qatar. As Geometry begins to be recognized as an independent network within the WPP, it’s important to have a figurehead that can bring the company through to the future.
What role does Geometry play in WPP’s approach to the MENA market?
WPP has four areas in its creative transformation strategy; commerce, experience, technology, and communication. Geometry is playing a big role to be part of the WPP’s overall positioning. The agency is WPP’s end to end creative commerce agency, that means we’ve transitioned from being a second-tier or plug-in agency to one of the top six creative agencies within the WPP portfolio. It’s a testament to the growth potential in the commerce and experience pillars of WPP. Because we’re specialists and dedicate our focus to those key areas, it allows us to work independently with clients who request our expertise or we can plug-in with any other WPP agency partner in an integrated way. Given the fact that we’re specialists in a certain area with a unique global offering, there are still markets in the region where this service has huge potential for growth – which ultimately falls in line with the changes WPP is making.
How do you view the state of commerce in the region?
It’s a very interesting space at the moment because of the pace at which it’s changing. Day by day, there are new ways consumers can purchase products online but the physical [retail] environment still remains relevant. The infrastructure is still changing and the experience you have with certain retailers is also changing. [Once upon a time] you used to visit the store to purchase products and now you’re buying them through their website. I think groceries are still a very powerful proposition in this market and there is an awful lot of tech coming into the delivery services, which enables groceries to get to consumer’s [doorsteps] quicker. Commerce is no longer a downstream transaction anymore. It’s very dimensional and ever-evolving, which is both exciting and at the same time challenging for us, because we have to keep on top of it constantly.
How do you plan on re-imagining the commerce space?
When we talk about re-imagining commerce, it’s really about the evolution of commerce. Back in the day, there were shopper agencies and BTL (Below the line), where it was all about how do you communicate brands back out to consumers in a store and that’s evolved to an omnichannel, where the challenge is getting people both online and offline. Now what’s evolved is this idea of living commerce where commerce is all around you. So it’s now about people out. That’s exactly how we approach it. As we talk to clients, the discussion is not going to be about in-store communication but more about transformative ideas and solutions at the moments where commerce touches people’s lives (e.g., physical retail, eComm, point of sale (POS), experiential, social, visual, voice, product, design and more). Creativity won’t be just about a nice design but also conceptualizing an innovative way to drive purchase that’s never been seen before.
What are the trends you foresee for the coming years?
E-commerce is going to continue to grow and we’re beginning to see brands exploring newer ways to reach consumers. Today, we are seeing new means of commerce whereby brands relevantly infiltrate existing contexts where their audience exists. For instance, brands are taking over gaming platforms through in-game purchases, enabling orders for pizza, burgers and even Louis Vuitton bags. Take Burger King, for example – they partnered with Twitch to customize a whopper and order it. And from a different angle, we’re seeing how brands are re-imagining points of purchase and physically bringing them to life. For example, Nike turning graffiti art into exclusive spaces for their latest collection.
The [main] trend will be the ways in which people will be able to purchase- is just going to continue to grow and grow across different markets.
What do you expect your biggest challenges will be?
The challenges will be around consistency and [handling] the maturity of different levels of different markets. As a specialist agency, we have to make sure that we stick to our specialist subjects and what we’re good at but we also have to make sure that the business is still going to grow. We also need to have the flexibility to implement what we’re doing here, across other markets to be able to achieve that growth.