Nobody can be quite sure what form Sir Martin Sorrell’s new communications company S4 Capital will take, although clearly digital production in the shape of first acquisition MediaMonks will play a big part.
A seasoned soldier once observed that no plan survives contact with the enemy and, with a new entity like S4, the plan may not survive contact with opportunity. What if a big creative agency network or media agency came up for sale?
When Sorrell started WPP all those years ago he began by acquiring UK below-the-line and design companies but then spotted a dramatically undervalued JWT.
Speaking of MediaMonks in an interview with Campaign – and name checking the CMOs of Protecter & Gamble, Unilever and Mars, implying he was already talking to them – he said: “The question is: how can we harness all that energy, motivation and talent to make sure we deliver what clients really want? Because clearly clients are questioning how things are delivered and how work is delivered.
“They’re not questioning the creative product or the quality of the work – they’re questioning the way that quality creative product is delivered.”
Maybe they should be but there’s no doubt that cost and distribution hold sway in digital-focussed adland. Unilever has its U-Studios across the world in partnership with on-site specialist Oliver Group; WPP’s Wunderman, headed by interim WPP COO Mark Read, has announced on-site offer Wunderman Inside and Johnny Hornby’s The&Partnership has on-site agencies across Europe for Toyota and Lexus and operations in New York, London and Edinburgh for clients including the Wall Street journal, News UK and RBS. Sorrell himself praised WPP’s global production agency Hogarth as one of the company’s bright spots before he left.
So it’s not just about “the work, the work, the work” any more it’s about purported efficiency, speed and cost. Although some of MediaMonks oeuvre is undeniably striking.
It’s also about scale. Sorrell thinks big and he realises that even the biggest clients are unlikely to want to handle origination, production and distribution themselves. No CFO is going to want to hire hundreds of new people, supposing they could find them, even if there are big promised cost savings.
So Sorrell may have found his niche and it’s a pretty big one. He reckons £500bn at least is spent worldwide on digital advertising in its many forms. And he doesn’t have to reckon with those old-style pesky creatives, not as much anyway.
But the new ones probably won’t roll over either. Here’s MediaMonks founder Wesley ter Haar.
Doesn’t seem a Sorrell kind of guy – what’s all this fun stuff? – but maybe this is a new beginning.