Media Square boasts on its website that it’s the fifth-biggest marcoms company in the UK, but that doesn’t make it very big or successful.
The company, chaired by industry veteran Roger Parry (pictured), seems to lurch from one crisis to another and the latest is (another) profits warning which it blames, in part, on a conspiracy allegedly instigated by David Wright, head of rival communications outfit Porta.
“The board of Media Square believes that Mr Wright, in his role as chief executive of Porta, attempted to effect an unlawful conspiracy, as part of a project to allow Porta to back the acquisition of all, or part of the Media Square Group,” the AIM-listed company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange and published on its website. It announced it had launched legal proceedings against Porta and Wright “to recover a minimum of £760,000 in damages”.
Wright sold some businesses owned by another marcoms outfit Incepta to Media Square some years ago. Some minority investors in Media Square tried to instal him as CEO of Media Square in 2009.
Porta says: “The board absolutely refutes these claims as they are untrue and will defend them vigorously. Any losses which Media Square may have suffered are likely to be as a result of their own actions and failings.”
So it doesn’t look as though Roger and David will be sorting this one out over a friendly drink. Media Square’s AIM-quoted shares fell to 0.85p following the profit warning and announcement of legal action.
Does any of this matter to anyone apart from the principals?
Media Square includes some once quite famous marcoms names such as design firms Holmes & Marchant and Lloyd Northover and also Dave Trott’s ad agency which now trades under the unlikely moniker of csttg following the absorption of Chick Smith Trott into Media Square’s The Gate outfit.
Trott (left), who’s an advertising genius in many ways, doesn’t seem to be quite as good at branding his own companies as he is his clients. Csttg says its USP (I know, I know) is ‘Predatory Thinking,’ which doesn’t seem to cut it somehow.
The real failing at Media Square (and companies like it) is the belief that you can build another WPP by assembling a load of small players which just about cover the market and therefore compete for big slices of business. But it doesn’t work that way.
When Martin Sorrell quit Saatchi & Saatchi, where he was finance director, to set up WPP he moved aggressively into design, rapidly building up the UK’s biggest raft of design companies. So he had scale.
When he decided to move into advertising he bought J. Walter Thompson, then the most famous and one of the biggest agencies in the world. JWT had a solid base in the US with accounts like Ford and Unilever and a huge worldwide network.
So he started big and got bigger. The lesson is pretty obvious: start small and you stay…
Maybe Sir Martin (as he now is of course) will put Media Square out of its misery.