Bob Jeffrey and Gustavo Martinez

Report by Bob Jeffrey (right)

Worldwide chairman and chief executive officer with

Gustavo Martinez (left)

Global president

As I write this in early 2014, our celebrations have already begun for our 150th anniversary. JWT is the longest standing agency in the world. But we are very clear that JWT is old because it is good, not good because it is old. In an industry rightly obsessed with ‘the new’ it remains a source of great pride that JWT has remained relevant to the needs of clients across the decades – powerful brands including Bayer, Ford, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Kimberly-Clark, Microsoft, Nestlé, Nokia, Pfizer, Rolex, Royal Caribbean, Schick, Shell, Unilever and Vodafone.

As Charles Darwin noted, “ It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change. ” It has clearly been our ability to manage change that served us so well. We often talk about the agency’s many firsts; the first agency to become international, the first to appoint a female creative director, the first with the account planning discipline, to name but a few. But it is the spirit that created those firsts that has been key to our irrepressible success.

There is a spirit of endeavor, bravery and ambition that we see in JWT’s history time and time again. It has led us to reinvent and renew ourselves to remain relevant in every era.

We call it Pioneering. The Pioneering spirit of JWT is what has created our past success and it is what we cherish and exploit for our future success too. Pioneers don’t stand still; they keep moving and exploring. And this era of marketing communication needs that kind of agility more than any other we’ve seen.

The more we Pioneer, the more we are continuously relevant to clients’ needs, the more we achieve financial growth.

Delivering organic growth from existing clients requires high quality and adventurous solutions for their brands. We aim to provide more of those firsts wherever we can. Our ‘Fakka’ work for Vodafone in Egypt, for example, was the most awarded piece of strategy in the industry last year across the world’s award shows. Inevitably it also swept the board in many of the industry’s creative shows.

It was very pleasing to be awarded the global creative services for Nokia last year to complement the local activation work that we had been providing for them around the world. Equally, we were delighted to take on responsibility for handling the Tylenol brand for one of our biggest existing clients, Johnson & Johnson.

New business growth is an important signal of JWT’s contemporary relevance as it often involves attracting clients from newer industries. Becoming the global agency of record for PUMA confirmed JWT’s credibility in the booming section of sport and fashion. Other exciting new business wins included Energizer personal care brands, Air Canada and The Singapore Tourism Board.

It is extremely rare now for a communication solution not to involve digital channels and technology-led answers. JWT has demonstrated its ability to manage this digital change; much as we did with the invention of the television medium in the 1940s and 50s. We now have over 2,000 non-traditional specialists who spend more than 50% of their time delivering digital work for clients. The big opportunity is to create an agency that is the perfect blend of timeless brand-building wisdom and modern tech-led execution.

Our recent work on one of the world’s oldest confectionery brands shows us the way forward. Nestlé’s Kit Kat was recently named by TIME magazine as one of the most influential candy bars of all time – a pioneering achievement worthy of a brand that embraces the blend of classic FMCG marketing with leading-edge technology.

Within the JWT group we are reinventing, or ‘digitalizing’, the JWT agency, and also acquiring pure-play digital agencies. Four of our recent digital acquisitions have taken on wider regional roles from their local beginnings. We now have anchor digital agencies across the world: Digitaria in North America, XM in Asia Pacific, Casa in Latin America, and Activeark in Europe and continue to acquire growing digital agencies with the purchase of Thomas Idea in Thailand, Post Visual in South Korea and DesignerCity in Hong Kong.

As the consumer journey and experience expands to include multiple online touchpoints across numerous devices, the power of the digital channel to influence purchasing decisions grows more important. Our specialist digital offerings – for example, Lunchbox, focusing on digital activation at point of sales – position us as the ‘tip of the spear’ to take advantage of these opportunities.

JWT is also an active collaborator with WPP’s digital resources. We recently became one of the joint venture partners of WPP’s The Data Alliance to help fuel our data strategy and capability.

JWT has enjoyed a huge influx of new digital talent in recent years. It is often the norm to see account teams that boast skills of digital strategy, social media and interactive design. If the agency is about Pioneering then our talent must be Pioneers.

JWT’s geographical ability is one of our great strengths. Some parts of the world are still feeling the effects of the ongoing recession, while others are experiencing much faster development. One of the responsibilities of being a global agency is being able to manage that portfolio of business situations. It is important we are investing in the growth markets where our clients need their own brands to do well. Equally it is important we can provide scale and innovation for our clients in the big, mature regions.

Our Pioneering spirit is helping JWT reinvent and grow. We are diversifying our capabilities and managing our different geographies

It was symbolic last year that JWT signed an affiliation agreement with Mango Marketing in Myanmar giving our global advertising network a Pioneering foothold in the region’s newest emerging market.

JWT’s APAC region saw a historic creative performance in 2013, winning more Lions than any other Asia Pacific network in history.

So our Pioneering spirit is helping JWT reinvent and grow. We are diversifying our capabilities and managing our different geographies. But at the end of the day we are creating value for our current and potential clients.

We welcome with great enthusiasm the arrival of Gustavo Martinez to the agency as global president. He will become our global CEO at the end of 2014 when I will become non-executive chairman.

Our 150th birthday year will be a platform for reinvigorating the agency with our spirit of inventiveness. We will be bringing back the original J. Walter Thompson logo as the anniversary icon – The Owl and the Lantern, a symbol of intelligence that we hold dear. But, as Darwin says, it is our ability to manage change that will ensure our future success. I have every confidence that Gustavo can manage that change better than anyone.

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