Forever young 100-year-old company
In a technology-driven world, is there a place for a 100-year-old company?
For Grey Group, one of the world’s largest global communications companies, a readiness and willingness to adapt to and evolve in a world in flux secure its place even a century after its founding.
The company has never been coy about its age and has always proudly proclaimed “Grey Famously Effective since 1917.”
It continues to live up to its slogan even as it marks its 100th year.
Nirvik Singh, chair and chief executive officer (CEO) of Grey Group Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, does not anticipate any major upheaval in the way the group does its work. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, why fix it, especially if it is working efficiently and effectively and is so successful in what it is doing?
“We’re adapting to change and keeping up with the changes,” the Grey executive says. “Change galvanizes you and (makes you think of new) approaches to things.”
But the company will hold on to whatever kept it alive for 100 years. “It will remain consumer-centric and will keep evolving with changing consumer needs,” he says.
One or 100 years old, for Singh, who was in the Philippines recently on one of his regular swings around the area he oversees, the main focus of any successful campaign remains the same—product, message and audience. And the strategy is also the same—storytelling.
“But how the story is told has changed,” he says. “What has not changed is the ability to tell the story.”
Singh says, for the new market and the digital native consumers, “You hire people who are more technology-savvy; people who are taught to deliver the best consumer experience.”
But this does not mean staffing will be based on people’s ability to do repetitive tasks.
“Innate creativity will still be important,” Singh says. “People who can tell a story are still important” even though the way people consume the story may have and will continue to change.
“It is important to find people who can deliver the message,” he adds.
Boboy Consunji, CEO of Campaigns & Grey, the local affiliate of Grey, says a good marketing strategy will remain key to how well a campaign does. He says the company provides a client a whole package of services. It even works with clients on some aspects of production, including product tests, to ensure they are delivering the right message.
Singh says a company like Grey has to understand its clients and understand technology. Consumer behavior has to be monitored. Any strategy has to take into account that different markets now exist. The way consumers shop today has changed. There is, for instance, a lot of online consumer shopping and it grows every day.
If truth in advertising and marketing was important before, Singh says the greater transparency of the digital world places an even higher premium on honesty for marketing and public relations firms.
Today’s consumers have instant, digital access to data, he points out. “There are unusual sources of knowledge that you have to get used to,” Singh says.
“You should be able to tell truth from total falsehood and be ready to respond to attempts to manipulate information,” he says, “Consumers generally are willing to give you a chance to tell your story.”
The company, he says, will accept any project, as long as the product is legal, but he admits Grey also has a passion for do-gooding.
As it marks its centennial, Singh says Grey will continue to “do a lot of work on corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives,” collaborating with government, nongovernment organizations and private companies, even for free.
“We have to help solve the world’s problems,” he says and proudly proclaims “(CSR) is part of our DNA” and “(we will do what we) can to help solve problems.”
The Philippine affiliate received recently from London-based International Public Relations Association a Golden World Award for Excellence 2017 for its ”On-the-Go Pants” campaign. It promoted an apparel, developed by Filipino designer Dennis Lustico, that sought to improve the mobility and restore the dignity of patients with urinary retention problems and suffering from renal disease and prostate conditions.
Grey has been named AdWeek’s “Global Agency of the Year” twice, Advertising Age’s “Agency of the Year” and Campaign magazine’s “Global Network of the Year” in recognition of its record creative and financial performance.
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