Wunderman Bets on Singapore as Data Training Hub

WPP's Direct Marketing Agency Needs More Analysts, Pronto

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Wunderman's Singapore Office
Wunderman's Singapore Office

Wunderman needs more data analysts, and the WPP-owned direct marketing and CRM agency is looking east to fill the gap.

The firm, which already has a bustling office in Singapore, is using that outpost as the initial home of its new Center for Advanced Analytics. Its mission: pluck recent grads from Singapore and teach them how to manage and analyze consumer data, skills at the core of the agency's personalized direct marketing practice.

"We flat out have a supply and demand issue," said Gary Laben, president of Wunderman Data and Insights and CEO of KBM Group. "Our customer-intelligence personnel, our analysts, our statisticians… are sort of the hardest people for us to find and train."

The Center takes a cue from Wunderman's sprawling digital training program, Z Academy, which launched in 2010 in Singapore and has expanded across 35 countries including Brazil, China, India, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. There are more than 900 people who have participated in that initiative, which is conducted for college students in conjunction with universities. Program grads are known as "Zeds."

Now Wunderman is adapting that script to solve the latest problem of serving clients' growing data-services needs. The operation is intended for graduates with degrees that run the gamut from marketing to statistics.

As with the Z Academy program, Wunderman is working hand-in-hand with the Singapore Economic Development Board, a government entity that invests in training to provide a tailor-made workforce in industries such as aerospace engineering and healthcare. There are five people participating in Wunderman's data-training program currently; they work in the agency's Singapore office or at universities that have partnered with the new program.

"They are quite big believers in the talent of the population," Mr. Laben said of the EDB. "The individuals that come to us [from Singapore] are incredibly well-trained, have a huge appetite for digital and data, and they have a wonderful work ethic," he added.

Who might be a good candidate? "Anyone who shows a penchant for trying to solve problems quantitatively," said Mr. Laben.

The company anticipates opening the Center for Advanced Analytics to 35 people by 2017, and like the Z Academy, it could extend around the world. "This is a model that we wouldn't necessarily limit to Singapore. If it works out we'd do this in other parts of the world," said Mr. Laben, noting North America and Europe as possible future locations.

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