Earlier this month, advertising group WPP announced the consolidation of VMLY&R, VMLY&R Commerce, and Geometry, to form one connected brand, thus bringing all the entities under one roof. In an exclusive interview to Communicate, Andrew Dimitriou, EMEA CEO of VMLY&R, and Nick Walsh, CEO of VMLY&R MENA, reveal what the merger will be offering internationally and in the MENA region.
Global advertising group WPP first announced the merger between VML and Y&R in September 2018. This was followed by the launch of VMLY&R Commerce in November 2020, when Geometry and VMLY&R joined forces.
Earlier this month, another announcement brought VMLY&R, VMLY&R Commerce, and Geometry under one roof. Communicate sat down with Andrew Dimitriou, EMEA CEO of VMLY&R, and Nick Walsh, CEO of VMLY&R MENA, to dive deep into the internal and external solutions and works of the merger.
A natural evolution
Since the beginning of its establishment, VMLY&R has been focused on building a connected brand and consumer experience, “what we have is our premise of really trying to build connected brands. To deliver on that premise, there is a need to understand what makes a connected brand. And that is a brand that lives wherever, whenever, in people's lives. In that context, this merger is a natural evolution where you're going to bring brand experience, customer experience, and commerce together because now we need to think about the collective ecosystem,” explains Dimitriou.
Celebrating the vital work of UAE mechanics to keep drivers and passengers safe on our roads, ‘the world’s largest’ portrait exhibition at The Dubai Frame, 'Portraits of Change'' was conceptualized and brought to life in partnership with VMLY&R Commerce.
Omnichannel is now survival
Briedis and Gregg from McKinsey and Company argue how companies need to “take a hard look at their existing resources, align on a starting point and an ambition that is both realistic and a value driver for the business.” Omnichannel is the next inevitable evolution for advertisers and marketers across. According to Dimitriou, “clients are increasingly seeking one partner to handle all their needs because the world is complex.”
VMLY&R's campaign for Wrigley Extra: An always-on digital movement that keeps the UAE fresh. A creative commerce experience that allows people to alert friends and family about their breath and offers them an incentive to buy gum. All that happens anonymously, through Whatsapp, avoiding family feuds cold shoulders!
They need someone that understands omnichannel and how to convert it into commerce creatively. So, for us, this was just a natural evolution of people and capabilities coming together to form something much stronger, rather than the length of time over which this happened,” Dimitriou further explained.
VMLY&R Commerce's Ramadan campaign for rejuvenates Fava beans as a staple in the kitchen in line with Americana's launch of the Foul El Arabeya product range with a pop song launched across all social platforms.
Walsh further discusses the integration’s significance in the MENA region. “Everyone here is struck by ambition and there is a lot of growth underway. With the level of creative capability at VMLY&R, Geometry, and VMLY&R Commerce, and at the scale that we have, bringing them together makes us unique in the market, thus enabling us to enhance our customer experience and social capabilities,” says Walsh.
Regrouping and rejuvenating
Along with the announcement of the merger, the global advertising agency also announced a leadership change including Miguel Bemfica as Chief Creative Officer, Ginny Kemp-Taylor, who will be taking over as Head of Marketing and Operations, Chelly Megale as Head of People, and Martin Barta to become the Chief Financial Officer.
Commenting on this shuffle, Dimitriou says, “one of the things that we kind of look for in leaders is the ability to understand and help clients navigate the complexity that exists out there. By bringing the companies, we’ve also brought its people together. It is a cross-functional leadership team that can help clients. Whether it's Nick and his experience, on brand and creativity side combined with commerce or whether that's Miguel, who has an extensive background from working at MRM and McCann on digital and creativity.”
Dimitriou reiterates the importance of deploying learning, driving personal and organizational growth, and creating experiences through the journey of this merger. “One way we do this is through partnerships with companies such as Adobe and Salesforce, to help us with personalization and integration into our process of delivering connected brand experiences,” he adds.
In its room for uncertainties, both Walsh and Dimitriou expect it to be an “accelerant of growth.”
“Having gone through these mergers: openness, transparency, clear communication, openness, transparency, communication, and repeat is what is really important,” says Dimitriou.
After spending over 17 years with the WPP group, Walsh believes in “being a part of something better than something great.”
“We've got a really strong central heartbeat hub in Dubai. So we've got capabilities outside the network and the opportunity to build out while keeping our clients at the core. Moreover, as we move forward with this merger, more and more clients are headquartered out of here and they need capabilities across markets. I'm particularly excited to see the growth of end-to-end suite of capabilities allowing us to grow with our clients,” concluded Walsh.