Wunderman Thompson Technology isn't necessarily creative in the traditional agency sense, but beware of not seeing their work as inherently creative all the same. The digital consultancy works at the intersection between clients and their growth in a digital world – and more often than not, that includes a sapient use of technology, as well as a solid strategy in place.
Led by Leigh Gammons as the EMEA CEO, Wunderman Thompson Tech has had the chance to work with leading brands and clients from all over the world, and though a bit shaken by the Covid-19 crisis, they are still one of the best examples of organic teams in the industry. Particularly considered that they changed their name from Cognifide in the middle of a pandemic.
For this Company Spotlight, we are learning the story of how the then Cognifide was founded some 15 years ago, how it was acquired by Wunderman Thompson in 2015, and how far the company has come since those very first days of industry-wide digital transformation.
How was your company born and where are you based?
Wunderman Thompson Technology opened its doors for business in Poznan, Poland 15 years ago as Cognifide. Founded by two young tech gurus, Miro Walker and Stuart Dean, it carved its niche by specialising in what was then the infancy of content management systems.
In 2014 the business was acquired by WPP and we became part of the Wunderman Thompson family, changing our name last year to Wunderman Thompson Technology. In the UK we’re based in London at WT HQ in the fantastic Greater London House in Camden. However, Wunderman Thompson Technology is home to 4,000 technologists across 33 countries, providing an end-to-end service across customer acquisition, customer experience and commerce.
What was the biggest challenge for the growth of your company?
We are a technology company that was formed as every business and every brand realised that it needed a digital presence. Technology has moved on exponentially since then as has the digital sophistication of consumers and the digital maturity of every organisation. In the early days we focused on building content management systems because they were so in demand and we built a deep expertise in that area.
It then became very clear that we had to build a consultancy practice because technology is never the single answer. Today we work with clients across the martech stack and help them to solve complex challenges around organisational design, people and process. We focus on the business goals and help our clients to build and use technology to develop the capabilities they need to achieve those goals.
Leigh Gammons is the EMEA CEO at Wunderman Thompson Technology.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
It’s hard to pinpoint a single landmark success. I’d like to think that overall, our growth tells the story of our success. I joined the business in 2015 and our revenue has grown from $25m to over $40m in that time. However, there clearly were landmark moments. When we started to work with some of the world’s biggest brands, such as Ford, Unilever and GSK, helping them to bring their digital strategies to life, that’s when things really got exciting.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
Most of our existing clients are pretty far along the digital maturity curve now. So looking at ways in which we can help them to deliver even better customer experiences with AI and machine learning is pretty exciting. At the end of the day, we exist to help our clients grow their businesses and COVID has obviously presented us all with a fairly challenging economic climate.
We want to work with our clients to help them discover new and better ways of working with the technology they have and with new technologies. COVID has transformed the way that we all live, work and consume everything and we need to embrace those changes to make the future a better place for consumers. Brands have a lot of power to make that happen and we have the knowledge and experience to help them.
Can you explain your team’s process?
Clearly at Wunderman Thompson Technology we’re not creatives in the traditional agency sense. However, we are lucky to work with the world’s best creative talent within Wunderman Thompson to provide our clients with a single partner from the big idea, through its execution and on-going operation.
However, that doesn’t mean that the tech side of the business isn’t creative. We have a heavy focus on R&D, ensuring that we’re continually pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and providing clients with proprietorial solutions and tooling that make that execution easier, faster, more efficient and less expensive.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
To be honest, that’s been really hard in the last 12 months and I don’t think that we’d be the first to admit that. We were very lucky to be able to move to remote working pretty much overnight last year. We already had the infrastructure, technology and processes in place, and we’ve been able to tighten those up in the last 12 months. But all of that doesn’t make teams happy when they can’t get together. We’re looking at ways now in which we can improve the employee experience and really reinvent what our culture means for distributed teams.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
I’ve touched on this already – it's hard not to when it’s had such a heavy impact. In many ways we were extremely lucky though. We had clients in sectors that were not too heavily impacted last year and, as I mentioned, transitioning to remote working wasn’t so hard for us as a technology company.
Although we are not out of the woods yet, the vaccines that are out there look promising and we can start to imagine a future where we can be in our offices again, in whatever form that takes. My focus as CEO will be firmly on our people and our clients. I think that some of the impact of what we’ve all been through in terms of mental health, new habits and the way we want to live our lives as a result of this experience, will only be felt as we move through 2021. I just want to make sure that our focus is on making sure that the people we work with – employees, clients and partners – are in the best position to move forwards.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from?
This is an easy one for me, David Attenborough. Some of the traits I admire greatly in others are honesty, resilience and having your heart in the right place. What better match than Sir David! The content he has created over the years is timeless, he uses his personality to further good causes and after all these years he is as compelling and dignified as ever.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
My hope is that we all look back on 2020 as the year things changed for the better in modern times. It has often been said that 5-10 years of transformation have been crammed into 2020, some of it has been great and some is more concerning. How people engage with ideas, initiatives and opportunities around many of the world's problems is often created or facilitated by brands and businesses like ours, and this is on people’s minds more than ever. We have such an opportunity to create change for good and our industry has its part to play in getting people on board with the right information at the right time.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
I would recommend that everyone reads the geopolitical books by Tim Marshall, particularly “Prisoners of Geography” and “Worth Dying For: the power and politics of flags”. They are a fantastic insight into the history and journeys of many of the countries and beliefs that exist in the world today. I think we could all do with learning a bit about each other and the background to our cultures in today’s society and these books are a great start.