Balancing Risk and Reward in Ad Agency Global Expansion

Posted by Chris Hering, Vertical Marketing Lead for Advertising, Media and Publishing, NetSuite

Many advertising and marketing agencies are enticed by the prospect of going global. Firms can enter new markets and open new revenue streams with a presence in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia or Africa and the Middle East. They can service multinational clients and build a marquee brand image.

It’s not a new idea. The H.K. McCann Company, now known as McCann Worldgroup, expanded from New York to Canada in 1915, followed by Europe in 1927 and later Latin America, Australia and Asia. Compared to a century ago, today’s ultra-connected digital world makes it far easier for agencies to do business without borders.

But international business can be risky. Agencies face complexities in foreign currencies, taxation, reporting and compliance on a scale far greater than domestic operations. Unless properly prepared, an agency can face unexpectedly high costs, delays and time-consuming manual work that erode the payback from international expansion.

A Data-Driven Global Agency

DWA Media, the leading global media and marketing agency for technology companies, is a good example of effective global agency operations. Founded in 1996 by David Wood in his parents’ London garage, DWA began its global foray by opening in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, later adding offices in Singapore, Munich, Beijing, Bangalore, Boston and San Francisco.


Initially, DWA’s globalization was throttled by its use of six on-premise Sage Line 50 applications across global subsidiaries, as well as QuickBooks in the U.S. Without integration across those systems, London-based DWA lacked visibility into financials on a global and per-subsidiary basis.

Critical information was outdated and inconsistent. It took weeks for finance to manually consolidate and report on multi-subsidiary information, limiting DWA’s ability to forecast revenue. In 2014, DWA eliminated those problems by implementing NetSuite OneWorld to streamline financial operations from end to end and better serve such clients as Cisco, Lenovo, Rackspace, Toshiba, Red Hat and Western Digital.

With NetSuite’s cloud solution, DWA has real-time visibility into multi-subsidiary financials for data-driven forecasting. It manages finances in up to a dozen global currencies and easily handles 40,000 transactions a year. Reporting time has been cut in half, and monthly financial consolidation is complete in a matter of days, not weeks.

That means better, more timely data for strategic business decisions — and no more wasted effort moving data in and out of Excel.

“We now spend more time analyzing data to tell us what is happening and is likely to happen in our business,” said Patrick Knight, DWA head of finance. “NetSuite has given us confidence in our numbers, and that makes investment and expansion decisions much easier because you’re not taking a shot in the dark.”

If DWA adds more global offices, subsidiary setup can be accomplished in days with NetSuite, compared to the weeks needed to implement servers, software and connectivity with on-premise alternatives. As Knight noted, the NetSuite cloud provides anywhere, any time access to up-to-date data at the corporate and subsidiary level — an important advantage in global business.

“We feel there’s a massive untapped opportunity in the technology market for expanding our services and reaching new clients around the world,” Knight said. “With NetSuite as our cornerstone, we could double or triple in size in the next three to five years without any significant additional investment in core systems.”

To learn more about DWA’s growth with NetSuite, see the new DWA Media customer video.

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