The Kantar Group

Eric Salama, Chairman and chief executive officer

Report by Eric Salama (above)
Chairman and chief executive officer

As the old joke goes… Sam comes home for dinner and is greeted by his parents. “So Sam, how are you?” “Mum,” he says, “in one word, good. In two words, not good.”

There is so much that is positive, exciting, satisfying about our business: the way in which we are adding value to clients and how we are simplifying the way in which clients can access our best capabilities. At the same time none of us can go a day without recognising and dealing with the impact that the economic situation is having on our clients and people.

From an internal point of view, the big news of 2008 was the acquisition of TNS, a business and a set of people who are every bit as good, professional and passionate about their clients as we hoped they would be. Much has been made of the size and scale of the enlarged Kantar Group. It is true that we are now the No.1 or No.2 business in all but two of the largest 10 markets in the world and in all of the 10 most important emerging ones; that we have leadership positions in areas such as media, healthcare, retail; and that we remain the pre-eminent player on issues such as communication effectiveness and customer satisfaction.

But being big and being global is of no inherent advantage to our clients and to our people unless we make it so.

open quoteThe big news of 2008 was the acquisition of TNS, a business and a set of people who are every bit as good, professional and passionate about their clients as we hoped they would beclose quote

We have to have our best talent focused on clients: develop the best solutions for the needs of the marketplace; have mechanisms that ensure that knowledge is shared around the world so that clients can benefit from best practice; preserve our ability to understand consumers and service clients locally as well as globally; ensure that we are nimble and proactive; create environments in which people can thrive, learn and develop satisfying careers.

Sometimes it all comes together globally. In winning 2008 Advertising Research Foundation gold awards for work on Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard, Arm and Hammer and Interstate Brands, Millward Brown was recognised for the effectiveness of the research and for a productive working relationship between client, creative partners and research company.

Equally we can be proud of the fact that our talent is applied to societal and public policy projects at a local level: running the British Crime Survey in the UK; testing a government scheme in France designed to bring the long-term unemployed back into the workforce; running the largest longditudinal societal survey in Germany, which is used in policy making by various federal departments; being the Gates Foundation partner in India and helping devise the most effective ways of getting people to vaccinate themselves.

Our clients and people do not – and should not – care about our size or internal structures but they care very deeply about the experience they have in working with and for us. How we are structured is only a means to an end, so this review of 2008 starts with a look externally and then reports on how we are positioned and what still needs to be done.