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Meet The Team: Jonathan ‘Johnny’ Walker

Here we talk to Johnny to see how his career has evolved over 10 years with M&C Saatchi.

“Brand Desire is our revolutionary, AI-powered strategic decisioning tool, which helps brands to understand which desire attributes they should lean into to drive commercial growth”

Irish born, and now US based, Johnny Walker is Fluency’s Global Director and heads up Fluency’s New York office. As you’d expect with such an iconic name at the helm, the booze industry has a big appeal for Johnny; “the opportunity for drinks brands to win big with data is huge”. But, as Fluency’s expertise is industry agnostic, Johnny leads our charge to help brands both sides of the pond become data-fluent and win-big.

Here we talk to Johnny to see how his career has evolved over 10 years with M&C Saatchi.

What is your role at Fluency and explain the Fluency set up in USA?

I am Global Director here at Fluency, and Head of Fluency North America. I oversee key client deliverables and manage all client relationships in the USA. The Fluency team are located in M&C Saatchi’s New York HQ office in the financial district, alongside the other M&C Saatchi group agencies. With data being so central to everything in marketing, Fluency plugs into all of the M&C Saatchi group specialisms and is integral to the growth of the group and the success of our US clients.

What clients do you work on?

I oversee all key global clients but day to day, my primary focus is on supercharging US growth for Fluency, working with some incredible brands including Ashley Furniture, Diageo, FuboTV, Fruit of the Loom and WWE.

What inspired you to get into data?

I did a 3-year undergraduate degree in Commerce at University College Dublin, and then chose a Masters in Market Research at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. I initially planned to go into more of a creative role, but through the Masters, I gained such a robust understanding of Market Research and realised that there is so much opportunity to combine strategy and creativity through data-driven solutions.

I joined M&C Saatchi in January 2014 and since then so much has changed. When I joined, we were an internal department of just 3 people, predominantly serving the UK agency with insights to support brand strategy. Since then, we’ve grown into our very own, award-winning Data Consultancy. Everything we do is powered by data diversity and an incredible data science team that enable us to build creative solutions for the challenges facing our global clients.

Despite initially thinking I wanted to pursue a career in the creative side of advertising, I’ve found that creating strategic solutions to help build future proofed, data-fluent brands, is perfect for me, and allows me to leverage the strategic side of my brain in order to help brands make data-driven decisions.

What is one key challenge that you’ve experienced in solving problems with data in the USA vs the UK?

I’ve been lucky enough during my time with M&C Saatchi to gain first-hand experience of many different countries and cultures. I’ve spent time working in the London, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney and Cape Town offices, and this experience has given me a genuine insight into just how different people and markets can be.

So much of what we do is about understanding people and audiences and learning how to truly resonate with a specific target audience. One of the biggest challenges in the US is the sheer size of the country and the large variations in audience state by state.

There is far more nuance in a US national representation than in the UK for example, so when approaching US client challenges around audience for example, data diversity is so important. To cope with these geographical challenges, we plug into our $5m data stack to fully understand audiences using a range of claimed and behavioural data points.

What type of projects are you working on currently?

Some of the most exciting projects I’m working on at the moment are centered around three of our core products here at Fluency:

Total Experience Intelligence (TXI):

We have built a highly sophisticated product called TXi, which helps brands to manage upstream marketing strategy and downstream performance measurement. You can think of it as Brand Tracking 2.0, insofar as it remedies well documented flaws of traditional brand tracking, by leveraging diverse data to explain how people think, feel and behave, with respect to a brand’s experience. It integrates 1st party data too, meaning it becomes an invaluable single source of truth for a business, blending critical business and marketing KPIs across a total experience framework.

Living Segmentation:

We produce powerful segmentations for our clients that go far beyond just claimed survey data. Our segmentations are built to be truly fluent in nature, plugging into live databases, meaning they are powered by real-time data that can be easily refreshed at regular intervals, without having to incur huge project costs.

Brand Desire:

Last but certainly not least, Brand Desire is our revolutionary, AI-powered strategic decisioning tool, which helps brands to understand which desire attributes they should lean into to drive commercial growth. This highly sophisticated tool is powered by state-of-the-art AI and cutting-edge data science techniques, enabling us to analyse a brand’s digital ecosystem and determine the optimal Desire Signature for a brand.

It can’t all be data! What do you enjoy outside of work?

First and foremost, football (soccer, here in the US!). I play 7-a-side football at least 3 times a week, both as a goalkeeper and a striker! I’m also a dedicated, life-long Arsenal fan and never miss a game, even with the earlier kick-off times over this side of the pond.

It’s a cliched answer but I also love to travel. The earlier segment of my career afforded me the opportunity to travel all around Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, and South Africa. But in recent years, I’ve dedicated most of my spare time to exploring the US on road trips – I’ve hit 31/50 states so far.

And of course, no self-respecting Irishman would forget to mention Guinness as something I enjoy outside of work (though I’m very picky on which bars I’ll drink it from – US Guinness is a pale imitation of the good stuff from back home).

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