Matthew Godfrey stunned the industry when he left his Asia president role at Y&R Asia in 2017 after seven years leading the team, to join Singapore-based global food science start-up Nutrition Innovation as CEO. Godfrey (pictured) built his 21-year career in the industry entirely in the Asia Pacific region. As president of Y&R Asia, he previously oversaw in the region the operations of Y&R Advertising, VML and LabStore, which total 38 offices in 13 countries.
Since then, he has been enjoying his role at Nutrition Innovation and tackling issues such as diabetes and obesity. In the second episode of Marketing's new series titled "Life After Advertising", Godfrey shares what he does in his current role, whether he is relieved to have left the ad industry prior to the current disruption, and if he would return to his roots in the adland one day.
Listen to the full episode here.
Marketing: Hi Matthew. Thank you so much for joining us. So, tell us a little bit about where you're at now and what you're doing.
Godfrey: My pleasure, thanks for having me. I'm the CEO of a company called Nutrition Innovation. It's a company that's using natural bioactive plant compounds to fundamentally change the foods that we eat. A lot to do with some of the sugars we eat so that we could tackle some of the major problems of the world, such as diabetes, obesity, and all the way through to dealing with problems such as anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory illnesses. Fundamentally, we're trying to use BHAKTA compounds to change the world.
Marketing: We're all surrounded by the news of COVID-19. How has that impacted you guys? Do you feel that yours is an industry that has sustained through this period?
Godfrey: First of all, yes, the world has had these tragic, horrific stories everywhere. So nobody's not affected. It's sometimes on a personal level, sometimes on the corporate level. So, it is it is a tragic scenario that everybody, I think, is feeling the impact. In that context, however, I think it's no surprise that food security and supply chains were really deemed as essential services by governments all around the world.
The sector that we operate in, which is food services and sugar supplies, was deemed in the social service. And so, we're very lucky and blessed that all of our partners that we operate with in all those countries I talked about were deemed to be essential services to keep operating in all these markets. We're quite lucky and blessed in some ways because we were able to work on a 24/7 basis because of that scenario. As an industry, I think we've had more positive impacts than the negative impacts, although it's a whole raft of new ways to engage with people and in new ways to deal with things.
Secondly, if you're in a crop industry, which we are. The weather doesn't care what's happening in political circles or even covered circles. Crops are growing, so we've had some scenarios where the crop is starting, you have to keep your technology into that market, into operation for when the crop comes. There are some real challenges about how do you get that done remotely without going on site. How do you get access to that site while being safe? Because if you missed that deadline, then the next time you can do it is the following season when the crop comes.
Marketing: When you look at the industry now, do you find yourself breathing a sigh of relief that maybe you're not in it when there's so much turmoil?
Godfrey: To be honest, I'm not sure I'm following the industry well enough to have kind of an educated view on this. There are a lot more people who've got a better view than me. The sectors I spend my time in is primarily in things like food tech, which is a really exciting and fast-growing industry. Particularly in this environment, I think our strategy or strategy was to focus on all the things we could control and could manage.
Anything that is out of my control and I think that I'm not capable of managing that, then it's just noise. Let's not look at it.
I don't spend so much time, but I have the kind of a viewpoint which is obviously as an industry, it’s going to be difficult. I mean, it already is. You don't need to shape the stories of difficulty.
However, I firmly believe on a company level, it still could be the best year ever. And why I say that, if you are a communication agency and you win a new piece of business this year, that business is incremental to you. You still could have your best year.
The industry might be down, but each particular company has the opportunity to go out and find a new piece of business, a new service, create new opportunities for people, and that will be positive incremental growth.
You can control is the relationships you have with your customers and the relationship you have with new customers. Focus on that, get those good opportunities and still have the best you. That's irrespective of the gender you're in and everything from PR to programmatic solutions, irrespective of the gender you're in.
Regardless of whether you're in PR, eCommerce, retail, media, it doesn't matter what segment of communications you're in. Your segment could be 10%, 20% down, but if you set your mind to it, you find the right customers, provide the best solutions, you could still have positive growth in the best year ever.
Don't get taken down by an industry parameter because you're not in charge of the industry. You're in charge of your business, your customers, your solutions, so get out there and get it done.
Marketing: Would we ever see you re-emerge in the world of advertising?
Godfrey: I think it's the other way round. When I'm following my passion, we've got a pipeline of new products which extend out in the next few years. I'm a proud owner of this company, so I'm fully committed. But I think it's the other way around, which is I think the leaderships across Asia Pacific, the talent that's in the market, its inspiring and strong and its really good people creating their own business, their own path. So, it would be the other way round, which is what would advertising do with me, it’s doing very well without me. Thank you. I think it's win-win scenario.
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