1. So who the heck is Andrew Welch?
A Brit, born in Spain of Argentine parents (don’t ask!) largely brought up on ‘Span-glish’. Fortunately, an early exposure to languages made learning them reasonably easy (Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese) and working in them the natural thing for me to do. With that, I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to run the European Corporate Branding practice at Landor, a global branding and design agency of parent group WPP and, more recently, the opportunity to run Y&R South Africa as CEO.
2. Isn’t running a South African ad agency a bit like being exiled to St Helena?
Not at all. Coming to South Africa was absolutely my choice – an incredible privilege and opportunity. The South African ad industry is globally competitive and is seen as a global creative hotspot. I’m very excited about what lies ahead.
3. So what’s the big plan for Y&R?
In my short three months at the agency, I’ve learnt that Y&R has great people – some of the very best. We produce world-class work, and we have an enviable portfolio of client brands, all of which fills me with great confidence for our future. Going forward, the plan for us is to continue to attract and grow only the best talent to deliver on our mantra of ‘Insight, Idea and Impact’. Our goal is fixed on finding better and more effective ways of building brand experiences that excite their customers. And to create these experiences in a way that is singularly relevant to their customers and highly differentiated from their competitors.
4. What do brands want from agencies in a margin-crushed media environment?
Our clients are looking for strategic insight. Rigour. Spectacular creativity. They want an agency that is focused on outcomes, not just outputs. They want their money to make money. These days, more than ever, advertising needs to be measurable and demonstrate how it impacts clients’ businesses and brands. At Y&R, we take that responsibility very seriously.
5. If digital is the future, how does your agency rise to the challenge?
Today, 70% of Y&R Brands’ revenue is digital. Digital is integrated in all our key accounts. It’s not new; it’s just how consumers demand to interact with our client’s brands. Our in-house digital strategist and industry commentator, Dr. Sarah Britten, advises many of our key accounts on their digital and social media strategy. We are also about to launch a blog that promises to illustrate our latest developments in this area, as well as expose the personality of Y&R, our people and what makes them tick, as we build our presence across social media platforms.
6. In the South African space what does a digital solution actually mean?
In South Africa, a digital solution is an insightful, relevant way to reach your defined market using channels typically described as digital: online, mobile, social media. A digital solution should always address the core needs of a brand, whether it’s to create awareness, educate the market on the offering, drive a particular buying behaviour through a link with shopper marketing or use digital channels to enhance relationships with customers. It’s never something you do because you’ve spotted an empty seat on the bandwagon: you do it because it makes it easier for your customers to get what they need from you.
7. How does an agency win business in this tough climate?
Tough or not, the answer in my experience remains pretty constant: quality and effectiveness of people, depth of business understanding, quality and effectiveness of solution. The people issue is self-evident: without experts who inspire confidence, build empathy and trust with a client, you don’t get past first base. Depth of business understanding is key: business understanding influences the brand strategy, which in turn influences the brand experience, which influences the consumer’s perception, which influences the consumer purchase behaviour and this in turn naturally, influences the business results. So, for us, it all starts with the business strategy and understanding. Only having done this, can you be assured of delivering effective creative solutions that impact the clients’ business.
8. You might as well tell us how an agency keeps clients as well?
It’s about the consistent delivery of the above, really. Day-in, day-out. Insightful thinking that inspires well-informed, well-derived ideas that drive creative and effective campaigns. And constantly coming up with new ideas the client never asked for.
9. In a talent challenged environment – where do you find the stars?
My experience tells me that if you create an agency with an environment that is respectful, professional and competitive, talent will find you. Beyond that, of course, Y&R runs a very extensive internship programme that affords young stars an opportunity to gain agency experience and open doors for them.
10. What’s your goal for this agency, once described by my good self as a
Land Rover, solid, dependable, but not always exciting? Have you seen the Discovery 4?! I’d be flattered…I am not offended by this comparison at all. As a long-standing client of Y&R’s, we pride ourselves on the Land Rover work and the countless awards it has received. In today’s volatile markets, many clients appreciate the idea that their brand – their most prized asset – is in ‘solid’ and ‘dependable’ hands with brand builders that have a world-class track record. As to ‘exciting’, both our clients and Y&R have much to be excited about. Watch this space, and ask me again in a month or two!