Caspar Schlickum, who was recently appointed CEO of global digital agency Wunderman’s Asia-Pacific region, sees tremendous opportunity for digital marketing in this area of the world.
Australian-born Schlickum spent 12 years with marketing and advertising leviathan WPP. Prior to joining Wunderman last September, Schlickum was a founding member of WPP-owned audience buying company Xaxis and CEO of Xaxis EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) for six years.
Schlickum is recognised as a leader in digital media and marketing; most recently, he was named Digital Trading Leader of the Year at the 2016 Drum Digital Trading Awards. However, his start in the industry was less than conventional. An economist by training, Schlickum was an investment banker with Deutsche Bank in Sydney for seven years, advising on technology, communications, and infrastructure projects for the Asia-Pacific region.
Despite earning himself a vice president’s position at Deutsche, Schlickum walked away from investment banking to undertake an MBA at London Business School.
After completing his MBA in 2005, he was recruited by WPP founder and CEO Sir Martin Sorrell to undertake a WPP Fellowship, a three-year executive program aimed at attracting graduates without a prior history in advertising and communications. Each year three MBA graduates are given the opportunity to spend three years working in three WPP agencies of their choice. Each rotation lasts for one year, but Schlickum only completed two--with consumer insight agency Kantar Added Value and media agency MindShare-before joining MindShare permanently as a global client leader for the agency’s HSBC account.
Schlickum’s meteoric rise now sees him in charge of 1,000 people across 28 offices in 14 APAC countries.
CMO.com: You started your working life as an investment banker and today you’re CEO of Wunderman’s APAC operations. How did that happen?
Schlickum: I’ve always been interested in marketing. When I was at school, I did work experience at Clemenger, and that really stuck with me. Banking was a great career, but I decided at some point it was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life; it was not really something I was passionate about. Doing the MBA gave me an opportunity to challenge myself and think about what I wanted to do. As part of the MBA, I worked on a project with WPP and, through that, the fellowship followed.
CMO.com: What opportunities have you identified in the region?
Schlickum: When we talk about the region, we’re talking about countries with distinct cultures, languages, and economies. Asia is a very exciting place to be from a digital marketing point of view. China is an exciting market with lots of opportunities. In the past, the focus was on selling major [Western] brands to China, but increasingly China has been selling its major brands to the world.
CMO.com: Are there particular marketing and media trends that will affect digital marketing in the region?
Schlickum: One of the things I’d highlight is the fragmentation in the media landscape. There are so many more opportunities to advertise–in new social networks and thousands of digital TV channels. Many companies are reviewing their marketing strategies as a result.
CMO.com: I’m asking you to generalise, but as data and technology continue to transform marketing, how ready are companies in the region to embrace digital marketing?
Schlickum: Different organisations are at different stages of the journey; it’s an extremely fast-changing landscape. Some clients are very, very sophisticated, maximising the extent to which data impacts their engagement with customers.
A lot of organisations take a while to develop their strategies; it’s very much a journey. Regardless of where they’re at, they all want results in the form of sales. Marketing as a basic discipline hasn’t changed.
When we talk to clients that haven’t developed a sophisticated point of view, we can propose a solution where they feel safe, maybe with a specific product or division. If they don’t see risk in moving away from what they’re used to, they are usually prepared to consider a digital marketing program.
If they see results, you get traction, and they’ll usually consider some of those approaches on a larger scale.
CMO.com: As the role of technology in marketing continues to grow, is there a risk for the digital marketing industry that brands will think that, with the right technology, they can do it themselves?
Schlickum: There’s certainly a discussion going on about in-housing some of this stuff. Brands are increasingly data- and tech-literate, but while it’s true that technology has made a big difference to the way companies engage with their customers, technology has also made the marketing space much more complex.
When you look at the exponential speed at which marketing is changing, we are seeing immense complexity. The world of the CMO is more complex on multiple fronts, and things are never going to get simpler. With complexity, it’s best to be outward- rather than inward-facing. Yes, there is lots of really good technology out there, but making decisions about which technology is the easy part. That’s only 1% of the journey if you don’t do anything with it.
The real-time immediacy of analytics has fundamentally changed the way companies use data and their data strategies. The end game is, “How am I using data, what are my business objectives, and what results do my stakeholders want?” All marketers are having to think about this.