Shamsuddin Jasani sheds light on the agency’s new vertical - Wunderman Thompson Health

He also talks about acquisitions, technology and integration as his primary focus.

Mumbai: Shamsuddin Jasani, fondly known as Shams amongst his advertising mates, took over the reins as CEO of Wunderman Thompson’s South Asia operations a year ago. And he seems to be nothing less than modest about joining the agency network, which has had a strong foothold in India for the last nine decades.

Shams is a veteran of the media and advertising industries, with more than two decades of experience, of which 15 years have been in leadership roles. In his current role, he leads the Wunderman Thompson (WT) South Asia group, which comprises Wunderman Thompson, Mirum, Contract, and Wunderman Thompson Commerce in India.

As part of his South Asian role, which includes India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, Shams’ major focus is on scaling up the business in India, because 95 per cent of the revenues come from there. Considering the kinds of headwinds that exist, he is of the opinion that India is not going to be as impacted as other parts of the world. So his focus is on driving and working with clients in India to give them a very loyal, integrated offering across all the services that the agency network has.

Shams is one of the leading voices on digital, commerce, and martech, in addition to advertising and marketing, in the industry.

Prior to joining Wunderman Thompson, he fulfilled his role well as dentsu Isobar’s CEO and was responsible for managing over 600 people across Isobar, Fractal, and Taproot Dentsu.

Under the leadership of Shams, WT India has won more than 20 new businesses in a year which includes accounts like Skoda, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Edelweiss, Barbeque Nation, Cavin Kare (HTAM), Kyndryl, Mahindra One, Abbott Gutfit, Dr.Reddy's Labs, Zydus Wellness, CERA, Nestle OOS, Unilever – Novology, Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd, Manyawar and many more.

Some of the successful campaigns that have been churned out by the agency during this year include those for brands such as The Times of India (the Trust campaign), Nestle Munch, Hero Xtreme, Apollo Trampler, SF Sonic Battery, and Tata Pravesh.

One of the growing areas of focus for the agency is the WT Health vertical, which Shams has brought together; the new biz wins under this vertical are Abbott – Troponin, Dr. Reddy’s – Alfoo & Dutas T, GSK – Physiogel, Zovirax, Zimig & Zoderm, Sun Pharma – Revital, Volini, Pepfizz & Abzorb and HUL – Novology.

In his interview with, Shams speaks about doubling the agency’s growth in the next three years, acquisitions, focusing on areas such as health, and even discussing the technology side of the advertising business at length.

Edited Excerpts: 

On revenues and growth chart for the WT group

We are back to 2019 levels of business, to pre-pandemic levels of business, which is a substantial growth over 2020 – 21. The year 2022 was very good, both, in terms of revenue as well as overshooting our targets, as far as profits are concerned. We've done better than what we had thought we would do for 2022. And we are back to our 2019 numbers as far as our growth is concerned.

We have a very ambitious growth goal of doubling our size over the next three years. So that's a stated goal that we have set. If you just add it up, it's about 33 per cent growth a year that we're looking at. And it's a very high growth rate that we are targeting for our company, especially given the size and scale of what Wunderman Thompson is, but we are quite confident that we will be able to deliver that growth based on the new mix of services that we're offering—not just the advertising side of the business, but martech, commerce, and health. I think these things combined will give us the growth that we're looking for. 

On the formation of and focus on WT Health

It’s that these skill sets have been with us all along; we just brought them under one roof.

Over the past two to three years, Wunderman Thompson has been winning a lot of business in the healthcare sector. And that just happened. There is Sun Pharma; there is GSK. And you know, there are a few health clients on the consumer side of the business, which means that how do we take what we are talking to them about and do a brand experience with them for consumers? But on the Mirum side of the business, too, there was organic growth among what we call healthcare professionals. So creating communication towards healthcare professionals—again, this was completely organic; this had nothing to do with, you know, timing the market or anything like that.

Both of these existed in silos; they were talking differently. But what we did was combine the strengths of our brand business, which talks to consumers, and our healthcare professional business, which Mirum does beautifully. And they have an entire army of people who are actually working on that side of the business and have brought it all together under one roof, which is Wunderman Thompson Health.

The idea was that we are able to deliver across the spectrum of services that any healthcare client and the category require—both talking to consumers as well as talking to healthcare professionals. So it was just a logical integration of already existing healthcare services and getting them to work together. I think that was something that happened organically.

And I think it's just a market need as well, because, especially on the healthcare professional side, there is a very particular skill set required because, to write and create that kind of content, you need to have a certain understanding of that category. And the language that you will use has to be a doctor's language, for example. So it's a very different skill set from what you would do on the brand side of things that we're doing.

So I think, as far as the growth is concerned, it was small when we started just six months ago, but the growth has been phenomenal, but the base is small. So I think that 2023 will be the real scale for growth for Wunderman Thompson Health. 

On new-age acquisitions

They’re all under process and will take time. These things take time. Around the middle or end of 2023, we should be able to announce something. But it’s a very exciting chapter. The way that we're looking at it is this: there are complementary skills that we're looking at acquiring, and additionally, there are a lot of things that we're doing organically.

On the usage of adtech and martech by brands to its optimal potential

I'm very wary about the words "martech" and "adtech," because I think a lot of people still haven't understood that the integration is slightly difficult when you're talking about adtech and martech. But yeah, so I'll give it a shot.

So I think, increasingly, I'll just put everything under marketing automation, whether it's martech or adtech. By that, I mean that adtech is more about media automation, and media buying is part of marketing automation, while martech is more about marketing automation. So I would just say that adtech is technically a subset of martech because, at the end of the day, marketing is the overall mothership. And media is part of marketing.

So increasingly, clients are looking at automating a lot of their marketing capabilities. And how do they work with agencies like us to be able to help them do that? That could be on the pure advertising and marketing side of the business, or it could be on the media side of the business, where ad tech plays a major role. So it really depends on the scale and scope of how you're using this to transform your business. And it's a part of the overall digital transformation project that a company takes forward. So, marketing automation, adtech as a part of marketing automation—all that is part of having an entire digital transformation journey. And that is, I think, an end goal for us as well, which is also to talk to clients about how we can help them on their digital transformation journey, where martech is a part of it, of course.

So I think, finally, it's about how we can have discussions beyond just marketing and how digital plays a role in transforming the entire business that a client wants, and adtech and martech are subsets of that. 

On data analytics and consumer privacy

So I think we still are a little way away from cookies and third party data completely being done away with - it's going to happen eventually. But I think in that kind of a context also, I think us as WT, as WPP, globally - GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has always been taken care of. So it doesn't matter if those are in India or not; we are governed by global laws. So, data privacy is extremely important to us, irrespective of which country we're working in, and we are working with clients to be able to make sure that the data of the consumers are protected, and we don't have understanding and reading of that micro level data. 

But I think that we are able to make a sufficient leap of understanding and faith. And that's where I think creativity comes in: being able to use a spark. I always say that if you have 100 per cent of the data correct, you don't need to make decisions. Because, as you know, pretty much all the data is giving you everything.

So I think it works very well for creative agencies, because we're always the teams that take that leap of faith; we create those moments of inspiration out of just that little spark that happens. So, as creative agencies, we need that spark; that's it. So I don't feel that there'll be a big challenge for creative agencies to really understand or be challenged by this whole thing, because we only need to work with clients to understand how consumers behave with them in their own ecosystem. That's about it. We don't need to know the exact details about the consumers. So I think that spark is enough for us to create great campaigns and great advertising. 

On whether data analytics is the appropriate tool to measure the performance of campaigns

What I would say is that the success of my campaign really depends on the KPIs I set at the beginning. The KPI could be a brand metric, a sales metric, or it could be in terms of the word-of-mouth that has happened.

There is too much data out there. What you need to understand is what your final objective is, and you need to be very clear about what your objective is as a brand and as a business that you're achieving. And you and the agency are together responsible for driving those objectives. One suggestion is not to get daunted by the amount of data that's available, but rather to just focus on what it is that you want your final objective to be.

If you set the right kind of objectives? Yes, you need to measure them properly. There is a measurement metric. Now the measurement system varies depending on what the objective is. If it's an ecommerce only in play - then you're looking at metrics, which says how many conversions or how many people bought, what is the ticket size that is there. If it's a brand-only play, then I need to understand what the demand metrics are and how that got kicked off? So it really depends on what you are using it for. 

On how metaverse, NFTs, web3 and blockchain are going to change the way advertising is being portrayed and utilised by brands

With regard to creativity being used in newer technologies, you need to understand how to creatively use a new technology that comes along. So, NFT again, I would say is kind of still far away. But take the metaverse for example - within the metaverse, you will use NFT. And this whole thing but for example, when we talk about mixed reality, or metaverse, or any kind of immersive virtual reality, of course, you can have your regular advertising. For example, if you're in a gaming environment where you're using metaverse, or you're in Meta when Meta actually comes up with their metaverse program, there will be advertising out there wherein the formats will depend upon what is the kind of reality that you're in - either in virtual reality or augmented reality. And hence, the formats will change in terms of pure advertising. 

But I think the focus should be in terms of delivering a great experience for your brands to the consumer. So it should not just be about saying, Let me just put up an ad within that universe and just say, Can someone see my ad? That's one part of it. More importantly, if a particular consumer is within an ecosystem, or whether it's inside the metaverse, how are you making yourself relevant, and at what stage are you giving him/her a great experience to then become relevant to him/her and have recall? This is something that I think is very critical.

The simple answer that I'm saying is, how do you build relevancy for your brand within the confines of that universe of technology? That is going to be more critical than just being there. And that's fair; I mean, right now, we're just scratching the surface. So, everyone is just kind of figuring out what to do with it. So your first step is just to be there; let's just do something. But eventually, I think it's more important to be relevant by doing something that creates a brand experience for your consumers within that space. That is, in the end, what we must strive for.

Latest Reads
Kurkure Playz launches #HalkeMeinLo challenge

Mumbai: Continuing its light-hearted demeanour, Kurkure, snack brand, has announced a quirky social media challenge – #CringeIsCute. The challenge is a part of the brand’s latest #HalkeMeinLo campaign that encourages the youth to take a lighter approach to life and is inspired by the soft texture...

MAM Media and Advertising Digital Agencies
Roger Federer and Trevor Noah on a ‘The Ride of a Lifetime’ in Switzerland

Mumbai: Switzerland Tourism has unveiled its new film for its ongoing ‘I need Switzerland’ campaign to promote rail travel and the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. After having collaborated on screen with Robert De Niro in 2021 and Anne Hathaway in 2022, tennis legend and the global brand...

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns
Pexpo unveils its new brand identity

Mumbai: Pexpo, water container manufacturer, has introduced a new logo and tagline “health on the go”, reflecting its commitment to replacing plastic and ensuring health and wellness for all. Pexpo’s dedication to a better tomorrow is reflected in its refreshed colour, appearance and feel, which...

MAM Marketing Brands
TCL becomes world's second top TV brand

Mumbai: TCL, a global top two TV brand and top one 98-inch TV brand, recently claimed the second-place spot for TV market share in terms of shipment volume, thanks to break-through advancements in its Mini LED technology and its vision that bigger does really mean better when it comes to screen...

MAM Marketing Brands
Enjoy the goodness of mango with WOW Skin Science's new products.

Mumbai: As the weather heats up and we transition into the summer months, it's important to adjust our skincare routines to protect and nourish our skin. This season, draw inspiration from the tropical mango fruit and incorporate these skincare tips into your daily regimen. WOW Skin Science, has...

MAM Marketing MAM
Siyaram's launches first influencer-led campaign with Aparshakti Khurana.

Mumbai: Siyaram’s, one of India's leading textile brands, recently launched its first influencer-led campaign with youth icon Aparshakti Khurana. The campaign had been conceptualized to persuasively promote the brand's classy and in-style range among young adults who prefer to look their best...

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns
Weekend Unwind with: Momo Media co-founder & creative head Anant Sharma

Mumbai: With another weekend upon us, it is time to unwind with the latest Q&A edition of’s Weekend Unwind—a series of informal chats that peek into the minds of business executives through a fun lens in an attempt to get to know the person behind the title a little better...

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns
Bajaj Allianz General Insurance and dentsu creative India launches new campaign ‘Kum Padega’

Mumbai: Bajaj Allianz General Insurance and dentsu creative India have launched their new campaign titled ‘Kum Padega’. The campaign aims to raise awareness among individuals about the importance of having an adequate sum insured as a crucial aspect of their health insurance plan.

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns
CEAT launches SUV tyre campaign

Mumbai: CEAT Ltd, India’s tyre manufacturer, has launched its new TVC for its four-wheeler SUV tyre range. The TVC features Indian Men’s Cricket team captain Rohit Sharma and two players, Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill - with all three of them featuring in somewhat different roles in the new advert...

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns