Speak to anyone in an agency leadership role and they will tell you just how tough it has been attracting talent into the industry lately. Bucking that trend and trading in 20 years client-side to head over to the agency world is Jamshed Wadia. The Drum caught up with him to find out more.
After almost two decades client-side (including 17 years at Intel, where he became digital lead for APAC), Jamshed Wadia is giving agency life a try, taking up the role of Edelman’s vice-chair of digital in Asia.
According to the announcement last week, Wadia will report into global chair of digital Tristan Roy and APAC president and chief executive officer Stephen Kehoe, taking over from Matt Collette, who returned to Canada in January to take on the role of head of digital for Edelman Canada, as well as global managing director of digital growth.
The Drum spoke to Wadia about what this means for his career and the future of digital in agencies.
Moving over to an agency after a long client career is a big change – what do you think being client-side brings to your new role?
At Intel, I was fortunate to work across various sales and marketing roles. I had the opportunity to establish Intel APJ’s Digital Centre of Excellence, lead different digital marketing disciplines and manage global sales accounts, as well as execute product management and pre-sales functions. This rich experience – grounded in the need for business outcomes, marketing efficiencies and innovation – gives me a unique competitive advantage in understanding the business and marketing needs of Edelman’s clients.
It’s an exciting time to be in the marketing function on the client side. There is increasing pressure on chief marketing officers to be accountable for revenue, customer delight and seamless customer experiences. With the rapid pace of change in martech, data, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital channels, clients have to rethink how they connect with their customers, deliver value and build trust. I have had this client-side experience of working with multiple stakeholders internally, and getting the agency and vendor ecosystem to deliver collectively on marketing and business goals. Therefore, this role with Edelman gives me the opportunity to offer a unique perspective when it comes to suggesting digital products and solutions to the firm’s clients.
What are you personally looking forward to in such a change?
Authenticity and trust are critical factors to establish in the relationship between brands and their consumers. Brands have to create and produce content rooted in meaningful actions in order to build trust and foster two-way engagement with their stakeholders and consumers. One of the many reasons I am excited about working with Edelman is that the firm is renowned for studying trust. They are also laser-focused on authenticity. They understand that brands and consumers communicate with two-way dialogue; that trust and reputation are earned through actions; and that all of this is ultimately shared on digital platforms.
The vice-chair of digital role at Edelman also allows me to work across a wide range of industries and brands. It gives me the opportunity to work across different digital workstreams – from social, influencer, storytelling and content to web, paid media, modern marketing and emerging areas of interest such as web3, metaverse and NFTs. All of this provides the solid foundation for me to leverage my expertise and experience in bringing digital to life for our clients, while adding incremental value to their business.
It’s also a big role for digital at Edelman – what does this signify for the importance of digital to the agency?
Edelman has had an interactive and digital division since the mid-90s, being one of the early adopters in the agency world to cater to marketing in a digital world.
In Asia-Pacific, Edelman operates multiple hubs and centers of digital excellence focused on areas such as influencer management, performance marketing and analytics. Digital is around 15% of the firm’s business in Asia, including specific depth in areas such as predictive analytics, performance marketing, SEO, social commerce and digital content. The firm has invested in digital content studios in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and India; a performance marketing hub in India; and specific centers of excellence focused on influencer (Australia) and creative (China, Singapore and Australia). The firm also revamped its digital leadership in Korea, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Malaysia last year – structuring around a minimal viable team model and shifting from generalist talent toward specialisms in areas such as B2B/CRM, performance, analytics, newsroom and e-commerce.
Edelman’s digital product innovation is extensive in Asia-Pacific, covering the digital crisis, predictive analytics, footprint mapping, AI-driven auditing, psychographic content analysis and paid amplification. Over the past two years, its digital practice in APAC has undergone significant growth and transformation under Matt Collette’s leadership, allowing the firm’s clients to benefit from leading digital offerings. I plan to double down on our current strategy of building out our digital teams, expanding our core capabilities and fostering new partnerships.
What role do you see digital playing in the future of an agency like Edelman?
As the world’s largest communications agency, Edelman has long served the world’s biggest brands and organizations with digital services such as social media, storytelling and content, influencer marketing and platform expertise. Indeed, these solutions have become core to Edelman’s entire business across its biggest clients, globally and in APAC.
Increasingly, however, we are being asked to help our clients solve new challenges in technology, experience design, commerce and advisory consulting. We’re being asked to help clients navigate and innovate within emerging solutions in the metaverse and web3.
Edelman’s clients need solutions that are inherently built for a digital and social world. And the vision is that in the future, all our client solutions and offerings will be digital-first. It will be my responsibility to bring that vision to life in APAC, by developing and growing our talent base, depth of digital capabilities and range of digital offerings.