Nepali Times
Good ad sense

Michael Maedel is president of J. Walter Thompson (JWT) Company, the global business communications company. Nepali Times caught up with him when he was in Kathmandu earlier this week.

Nepali Times: As a global company operating in almost 100 countries with about 200 offices, how do you maintain relations with all your clients?
Our company has been around for 150 years. Yet there has never been a time that is as competitive as today. This means our professional standards have to be very high. Our standards have to be the global standards.
Though we have been pioneers in using new technologies and getting into new markets, we find that our clients are ahead of us. They keep us on our toes. Though we are a global company with offices around the world, we have come to see ourselves as a network of talents that's there to serve our clients. Our clients do not want generic business communication solutions. They want customised solutions and our job is to deliver.

How do you do that?
Our relationship with clients is based on trust, openness and candour. Our clients view us not as a communication partner, but as a business partner. We approach clients with a mindset that their success is our success. For this, we take a pro-active stance to help them sell more. Their success strengthens our relationship with them.

Ad agencies are often perceived as making ads that win awards for themselves but do not necessarily help their clients.
Our clients know that money spent on ads is money spent on making an investment to sell their products. They track results for themselves, and see what works and what doesn't. Though recognition is nice, as our work for Nokia and Kit Kat in the competitive Asia Pacific market has demonstrated, well thought-out creative ad campaigns do lead to more sales.

In recent years, billions of ad dollars have moved online. Companies like Google are eating your lunch. What is your 'Google strategy'?
The Googles of the world can best be described as 'frenemies'. Because of their technological sophistication, they capture and analyse data in real time in such a way that clients have a much clearer idea about who's viewing the ads online in what manner. But we have to understand that when it comes to creating or 'ideating' an ad, just having it on Google does not help clients. It's the high-end creativity in which our company produces value for our clients to sell more of their products.

But what worked in the past in terms of ideation may not work in the future.
Yes. That is why we have invested time and resources to be a network of talents to serve customers. For this network to be strong, we have to attract and retain talents from all over the world. We are also redesigning our company to be an 'open architecture' company. This means we are open to good ideas that come from any part of the company, and this has helped us ramp up the creative value that we add to boost clients' product sales.

JWT's Nepal office has been running for 10 years. How has political instability affected your work here?
When we are in a developing market, we take a long-term view. Nepal is no exception. But when we see that there are many clients who take calculated risks to produce goods and services valued by their customers, we stand ready to help them be successful through our efforts.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)