Adam&eveDDB: Marmite and the £110m money mountain

Whether or not something is “Marmite” has entered the language – you love it or hate it – thanks to a campaign from DDB London some years back. Now new incarnation adam&eveDDB has produced one of the stunts of the year, getting scientists to “prove” that whether or not you like the yeast extract depends on your genes. So you can get a gene testing kit to find out which group you fall into.

A&E at its best; out of its Harvey Nichols songbook of faux dramatics.

At the same time Campaign has been doing some digging into DDB Europe’s accounts and discovered, it says, that A&E’s final earn-out from DDB (up to the end of 2016) amounts to £110m, £25.2m was paid in 2012 to buy the agency – not bad for 50 people in Covent Garden – and subsequent profits (reckoned to be somewhere north of £12m annually) have added a further £85m on a multiple of about eight.

Shares in the agency are owned 25 per cent each by CEO James Murphy and CSO David Golding (the Marmite campaign is very Golding), 22.5 per cent by CCO Ben Priest and 12 per cent by media/communications head James Forsyth who’s now left. So we know who’s buying the drinks from now on in. 15 per cent was owned by others, presumably staff.

Are they, as Dame Helen might put it, worth it? They probably are as, for the time being anyway, they’re staying on. A&E is spreading its wings to the US with a big slice of Samsung.

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The A&E founders were advised on the deal by accountants Kingston Smith, who specialise in ad agencies, and corporate boutique Clarity. So they deserve a drink too. For some reason Omnicom chose not to cap the deal – maybe the adam&eve-ites refused – so the original estimate of its worth – £60m – has been comfortably exceeded.

It’s probably not the biggest pay-out ever for such a deal; Saatchi & Saatchi used to splash the cash back in the day, paying $400m or so for Bates, most of which went to boss Bob Jacoby who promptly left. Interpublic is said to have paid something like £100m for Lowe Howard-Spink, most of which went to Sir Frank Lowe.

But Omnicom has, possibly, a shiny new network for its money and A&E is, arguably, the best big creative agency in the world: certainly up there with BETC Paris, Droga5 and Wieden+Kennedy.

An issue for DDB might be some of these bulging bank accounts: there’s always a temptation to rest on your laurels, or quit, in such circumstances.

As for Marmite: MAA creative scale: 9.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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