Clients need partners that can move at pace: Q&A with iProspect UK’s James Bailey

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Earlier this week, iProspect relaunched globally as a ‘performance-driven brand-building’ media agency following its integration with. The relaunch brings together more than 8,000 specialists across 93 markets and includes six offices across the UK. James Bailey, CEO, iProspect UK discusses what this new agency proposition means to him.

What do you hope to achieve in with this new agency proposition?
The work we do is very complex. How clients engage with our people and capabilities needs to be really simple and delivered without friction. I want clients to feel like they can access capabilities, thinking and talent throughout Dentsu with ease, and for that to be deployed around their goals with real speed. We want to continue to be a home for media and digital practitioners throughout the UK where they feel like they can grow in their craft. We want to be a home that provides amazing commercial returns for clients. Ultimately, I want to convince new clients to join the party.

What’s different about the 'new' iProspect?

It’s in the right proportions and in the right locations. We have 80% of our people focusing on optimising today’s commercial returns for clients in digital and media. Meanwhile, 20% are liberated to think about transformative behaviour for future brand health. That could be in technology, in communications strategy, first-party customer management in partnership with Merkle or creative work in collaboration with DentsuMB and Isobar. Our people are based throughout the UK with significant teams in Manchester, Stafford, London, Newcastle, Leeds and Edinburgh. Both iProspect and Dentsu represent the best geographic diversity in the industry and we are committed to delivering digital careers throughout the UK.

Why do you think now is the right time to make this change? 

Every single advertiser is in an accelerated mindset. It can be enthralling and exhausting for marketers in the same instance. Clients need partners that can move at pace, that can accelerate them to meet new consumer behaviours or disruptive threats head on. iProspect is a safe space because so many of our people are there to deliver on today’s commercial goal. But with this merger and expansion of our services we’re also creating head room for clients to plan for tomorrow’s challenges with the right strategists and consultants on our side ready to work with them on the big questions.

What do you think the biggest challenges will be in the coming 12 months?

There are a few. Managing a migration to a cookieless view of digital advertising is first up. iProspect and Dentsu have the best analytics, platforms and data science teams of any agency and they are providing considerable support for clients looking to adapt their measurement and optimisation approaches. For my part, it’s important to hold Google and Facebook to account over how conversion data is mapped to advertising effectiveness in a closed ecosystem but geared clients toward testing all opportunities CAPI, GA4 and Ads Data Hub opens to clients.

The next challenge is ensuring the balance is right culturally when offices re-open. We’re committed to hybrid working for our people but I need to ensure cultures in the office or remotely accessed do not move at different speeds. We need to address where COVID and remote working is undoing progress that the industry has made in making marketing a positive career for mothers, it’s not acceptable that we’ve stepped backwards here as a society.

Finally, we need to collaborate more and more. If there is any brief for the people of iProspect it’s to continue to increase the breadth of your collaboration, in Dentsu, with clients and their marketing partners and with media partners.

How have clients taken to the changes at the agency? 

Really well, although I would say that. But interestingly it’s the clients that on paper this made least immediate sense in a new iProspect that are the ones that are really welcoming some new perspectives in media and digital. My message to clients is simple, we’re just trying to expand the capabilities that are at the fingertips of your teams here. So far no one has suggested that’s a bad idea.

How does the 'new' iProspect compare to its competitors? 

We’ve taken a step to expand our list of competitors. When I look at the scaled independents like JellyFish and BrainLabs, agencies I admire because I know they can deliver performance marketing really well, they are starting to make some strategic hires in communications strategy to broaden their horizons, I find that encouraging because we’ve leapt past this to merge with a communications planning agency but backed that up with an international footprint of 8,000 employees worldwide. The independents are great competitors to have because they move quickly and I want us to be on our toes. When I look at the media groups I believe that our geographic footprint, centralisation and de-badging of capabilities, strength in CXM, the reduction in brands and focus on collaboration should worry them. In Dentsu Media there is now genuine distinction between our media agencies – Carat (deep human understanding), DentsuX (convergence of creative and media) and iProspect (accelerated brand growth) and I don’t believe that’s the case in all holding groups.

What effect will these changes have on the UK footprint of iProspect? 

Only positive ones. We’re going into new digs in Stafford where we have nearly 150 employees. We’re keen to expand in Newcastle and Leeds where we have in infrastructure there to grow. In Manchester and London, we have the most sophisticated digital operation in the UK marketplace and in the considerable expertise in the fine art of stitching it all together for clients.

We will look at additional locations alongside other Dentsu capabilities if it allows us to access great talent. I think we’re up to around 80 new hires in 2021 already and there is a nice distribution of that opportunity in London and through all other locations.

This article was originally published on The Drum.