In December last year, global tech and marketing services agency Dept made its way into the Asia Pacific region with the hire of industry heavy weight Vishnu Mohan (pictured right). Mohan, who served as CEO at Havas Group Southeast spent 25 years with the network and was charged with helping Dept grow its Asia wide foot print. 

Six months into the expansion, Dept now has its eyes set on growth in the region – namely through acquisition. With an aim to have 10% of its global revenue out of Asia, agencies in Australia and India are hot on its radar. Dept global CEO Dimi Albers (pictured left) said in an interview with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the markets present the agency with the right opportunities in quality of assets, scale, and long term value creation for brands.

Adding to the conversation, Mohan shared that Dept generally takes a market by market approach when looking at acquisition. “We believe that we can fulfil our Dept proposition from a perspective of finding a particular asset to begin with, irrespective of which market it originated in, and use that as a means of serving the entire Southeast Asia to begin with,” he explained.

However the expansions come amidst the looming recession making headlines globally. According to a report by the World Bank , growth is projected to decelerate to 4.4% in 2022 before increasing to 5.2% in 2023. The Central Asia economy is expected to shrink by 2.9% in 2022 year before growing by 1.5% in 2023 and growth in South Asia is projected to slow to 6.8% in 2022 and 5.8% in 2023.

So how does Dept remain undaunted despite the warnings of global economists and financial analysts?

“Well nobody knows what will happen for sure,” said Albers.  “There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, especially in the US. But we don't know if [the recession] is going to be a quick correction, or if it will be a long drawn one or if it will even happen. So it doesn’t makes sense to make plans based on something that no one actually knows,” he said.

Moreover, Albers remains confident that Dept has the right amount of diversification in its offerings, clients and revenue streams to sustain growth even through difficult times.

“We combine technology and marketing and if you look at our workforce as well as our revenues, you can almost split it exactly down the middle,” he added. Toda,y Dept doesn’t just talk to the CMOs in the room, but much of its conversations are also had with CIOs and CTOs.

“The only way we are able to do it is because of the right skill and talent. We are a tech company at heart and that's our heritage. When we speak to the CIO, we do the heavy lifting for clients on the tech side, ranging from global eCommerce platforms to CRM systems and custom software within the clients' businesses,” he said.

He added that having a team of equal numbers in tech and marketing also means that Dept is able to go in and communicate through the silos that still exist in many organisation. “We are able to start breaking the silos down and can work across the full customer journey. That’s the idea. That’s what sets us apart from a lot of other competitors,” he said, adding:

If we are speaking through the CMO and we are the CMO’s agency, we are unable to change anything on the tech side.

“But when we bring our tech team into the mix, that's when we are able to start opening doors and change discussions,” he added. 

When asked how Dept gets CIOs and CMOs to cooperate with each other, Albers shared that unfortunately in many organisations, marketing and tech still remain in separate silos. “Because we have both tech and marketing, we can start to break down those silos,” he said.

Secondly, the agency prides itself in creating pioneering work for clients which are ahead of the curve. For example, with its clients Just Eat Takeaway, it created an innovative B2B marketplace that caters to the needs of restaurateurs by leveraging the wealth of data.  It also brushed up Van Gogh Museum‘s virtual experience for a remote COVID-19 world, creating a first of its kind 3D virtual experience, as well as developed a branded commerce experience rooted in sustainability for Patagonia. Some of the other big name brands Dept works with include Google, KFC, Philips, Audi, Twitch, Patagonia, and eBay.

Moreover,  despite its global footprint with over 3,000 employees across 17 markets, the company still retains its boutique culture and mindset – which Albers claims really sets it apart from any other network.  “Dept is built in an ownership model and the founders own shares in its company. The people you deal with here, have a stake in the business and that means that everyone one of our people has personal relationships with clients and staff, which is the same as in the boutique agency. This culture sets us apart,” he shares.

Nonetheless, Dept also has a team in place which is watching the markets for development that enables it to react quickly. “We were really successful in reacting fast during COVID so we feel that we are able to do so again. But until a recession actually happens, we can’t make plan for it,” he said, adding:

So that combination of three things, tech and marketing, pioneering thinking, and culture, that's what sets us apart, which makes us competitive in all the right areas.


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