Superunion chief: end 'obsession' with short-termism

Superunion's global chief executive, Jim Prior, has called on the marketing services industry to end its "obsession" with campaigns and place greater focus on helping brands with long-term strategy and organisational change.

Superunion chief: end 'obsession' with short-termism

"The lens has got to widen a bit," Prior said, explaining how WPP’s new global branding network is "structured much more like a management consultancy".

He added: "As brand consultancy businesses, we help to shape and steer the direction of our clients’ businesses over a sustained period of time. We are less and less these days about the immediate, high-impact, super-visible, public displays of creative work."

Superunion, which counts Ford, Diageo and Vodafone as clients, was formed by the merger of five agencies. It has revenues of about $100m and 750 staff – accounting for less than 1% of WPP. However, Prior said: "Billings are not the way to look at it – it’s influence, and I’d argue we have a very high influence. You do not go through a strategic rebranding process, whether it involves a change of logo or not, without talking to the CEO and involving every department within that organisation."

Prior said companies are carrying out "fewer major brand identity changes" partly because boards are "nervous" about a negative reaction, but also because they are more interested in long-term change.

The creation of Superunion is merely one in a string of agency mergers across WPP as the group aims for greater collaboration, dubbed "horizontality", and to cut costs.

Prior, who previously ran The Partners and Lambie-Nairn, two of the agencies that became part of Superunion, said staff are working closely with other WPP agencies in creative, media and public relations.

He added  that the challenge for all agencies is to think more strategically. "The thorn in the side of advertising agencies is they’ve got to lose that obsession with the industry being defined by campaigns," he said. "The criticism of branding agencies is it’s all about changing logos. We all suffer from that to an extent."

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