Interview with Jessica Wardle, Managing Partner at M&C Saatchi

Mike Wittenstein Mike Wittenstein Experience and service designer and consultant, Storyminers
Interview with Jessica Wardle, Managing Partner at M&C Saatchi

We caught up with Jessica Wardle, Managing Partner at M&C Saatchi. We’re keen to understand what changes she's witnessing across the FDI sector and in the promotion of investment opportunities by cities, nations and regions.

How did M&C Saatchi become involved in the world of FDI, investment promotion and economic development?

M&C Saatchi was international at birth. We've always had a global outlook. One of the first projects the agency ever worked on was for the Government of New Zealand. We were asked to help define the country to the world. To make the case for New Zealand - its products (and services), as a place to visit and a destination for investment. The brand and campaign M&C Saatchi developed, 100% Pure New Zealand, is arguably the most successful and enduring promotional asset ever created for a country. Since then, we have learnt a lot. We've become specialists and, we'd like to think, experts in the field. FDI promotion and its ability to drive substantial economic development is something we've witnessed and believe in. We have now worked with many governments, both national and regional, on similar projects.

What changes have you seen over the past five years in investment promotion?

The most significant change is just how contested the promotional space has become. So many more countries and regions are in on the act. They all focus on the research suggesting the same key FDI drivers - market access, cost competitiveness, geographical and digital connectivity, a skilled and available workforce, a 'one-stop shop' etc. Its not that these aren’t important, but often, the result is that everyone is saying the same or similar things, in an environment that is exceptionally noisy and competitive. More than ever, the need is to make a case that cuts through, across multiple, especially digital channels, that's equally effective with complex audiences at different stages of the FDI decision-making journey. If it's not unique. If it's not relevant. If it's not motivating. It is useless.

How and why is digital media proving so disruptive?

FDI promotion and decision-making is no different from other areas of economic and social activity. There's a need to be "always on" and have a point of view on the world and the issues facing current and potential clients. To be pro-active and front-footed. The news cycle is faster. And we're seeing the importance of a content calendar, thought-leadership and participatory and collaborative promotional activity gaining strength. Put simply, digital media demands more. The people we need to influence and persuade increasingly lead digital lives. It's how they receive information and research/inform their decision-making. It's vital FDI promotion reflects this if it's to be effective.

How important are “personal” connections in FDI promotion?

The cliche of it not being what you know, but who you know, of course plays its part in FDI promotion. But smart, consistent and sustained promotional activity can assist and extend the "personal". Familiarity creates preference. Forging an emotional connection with your audience we've found helps to create relationships. It makes people predisposed to listen.

The new digital landscape also allows for a much higher degree of personalisation in communications. This enables FDI marketers to purpose their messages and content placement to be highly relevant to the audiences they are seeking to engage.

Ultimately, everything is personal. The most successful promotional campaigns provide an effective short-cut to that reality.

What is it that makes the FDI decision making journey more complex?

What's at stake. The size of the capital flows involved and the variety and number of people contributing to the decision. Add in the political dimension, the length of time often involved, and the long-term consequences of foreign direct investments, for all parties, and there's probably no other commercial decision that's as complex and demanding. It's almost never linear, entirely logical or sequential in a standard way. The better you understand this, the more successfully you can influence outcomes.

What three things do you hope that delegates joining your breakfast briefing will take away from the session?

Insights they've never heard before into the end-to-end process that leads to investment. An appreciation of the power of "Brutal Simplicity of Thought", the credo of M&C Saatchi. And one other thing I can't tell you. People will just have to come along.

 Are you seeing an increasing tendency for economic development and investment promotion teams to work more closely with other government departments, including tourism, within a more holistic approach to place branding and marketing?

We're seeing great intent, some action, but ultimately remarkably little cohesive and sustained inter-department activity. Too often, campaigning and messages are not holistic. It's still rare to find a destination speaking fluently in a unified and singular voice.

Is there a country, region or city – which you’re not currently working with – which you admire for their approach to and/or success in investment promotion?

India has done a terrific job. Let's be blunt. Narendra Modi was single-minded in his pursuit of manufacturing as the sector that the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion sought to target. And as China became more expensive, India benefited. They had a following wind. Nevertheless, 'Make In India' has been a massive success and I admire the focus and energy of the campaign.

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