Starting with a digital mindset

SMG's president of dynamic markets, Iain Jacob, talks to MiC about the agency's goals in Canada and why it wanted to work with Bruce Neve.

The world is accelerating toward an ever-digital future and in deciding whom it wanted to carry it forward into this future, SMG approached the executive they felt could best take it there, Iain Jacob, president of dynamic markets, tells MiC.

We caught up with the global SMG executive this week, the day the agency officially announced it had signed a deal with MEC CEO Bruce Neve to lead the company following the departure of Lauren Richards last fall.

‘What Bruce brings, I think, is a real track record in digital content, social and how to really make ideas work in the modern media environment,’ Jacob tells MiC. ‘And there aren’t that many people that can do that. His experience makes us feel confident that he’s the right guy to do that.

‘He combines digital expertise with great depth of experience, and that’s rare,’ he continues. ‘You quite often get one or the other in this world, and he’s one of those rare beings that does both.’

In naming a new CEO to the Canadian office, Jacob said, SMG is looking specifically to grow its digital capabilities in this market. Declining to outline specific targets, he said the agency is remodelling itself with a ‘digital first’ mindset, training its staff, as he says, to be ‘cross athletes’ in the media space.

‘We don’t literally start with a digital specialist; it’s a mindset for the total team,’ he explains. ‘We spend an enormous amount of time, money and effort making sure that all of our people are getting trained up in digital. We talk about having cross-athletes, people who are very comfortable across channels and across marketing techniques, rather than occupying the silos that we think our industry has gotten embedded in the past.’

Noting that the Canadian market has many similarities to other global markets in terms of scale and maturity, Jacob said that the agency is working at a group level to be less focused on geography and more focused on connecting its markets across those paradigms. The result is hopefully a closer relationship between SMG globally and its regional markets, he says, and the network will be looking to give Neve ‘a lot of support’ going forward.

As for changes at SMG in Canada with a new CEO at the helm, Jacob says there is always some change when a new leader comes on board, but that he expects them to be in growth areas, such as digital.

‘He’s got a great management team to build on, but I want him to grow the areas of expertise that we think are the future. Data is going to be a key part of the growth strategy, I think we’re already doing interesting stuff in social and I expect that area to grow for sure, as well as continuing to grow in spaces like search. I’m not expecting Bruce to get in there and make any structural changes, but I am expecting him to grow areas of expertise, given that I think that’s one of his great strengths.’