Untold Studios and Artefact launch new-style UK agencies

While there’s much hand-wringing in UK adland over the demise of WCRS (and fears over whatever grisly fate WPP CEO Mark Read has in store for his creative networks) hope springs eternal among creatives. In particular the hope that they can combine things in a new way, especialy tech and creativity.

Interestingly there are a number of new “studios.”

Nils Leonard’s new operation is called Uncommon Creative Studio and former Channel 4 boss David Abraham has a powerful-looking Wonderhood Studios combining an ad agency with a programme company.

Now there’s another, Untold Studios, led by CEO Darren O’Kelly who was COO at upscale production house The Mill and his former ECD there Neil Davies who’s going to be CCO. It already has 25 people and is backed by Dorfman Media Holdings. Advertising is part of the mix.

And there’s another UK newbie in Artefact, an outpost of a French company that describes itself as Europe’s largest independent data-driven marketing group. This is even bigger with 120 UK staff across consultancy, in-house data technology and media activation.

Global chief activation officer Frédéric Joseph (not entirely sure what word du jour activation means apart from making things happen but never mind) says: “We bring something new to a market that’s crying out for a fresh approach. While there are businesses emerging that are now starting to challenge conventions, we don’t think anyone else has cracked it as yet.

“We describe ourselves as ‘marketing engineers’ because everything we do starts with technology underpinned by data and AI. In essence we bring an engineering mindset combined with a management consultancy approach to digital marketing.”

Sm more a rival to Accenture Interactive than Uncommon or Wonderhood but a new way of doing things that seems to work. Artefact now employs over 1,000 people in 26 offices in 18 countries and is quoted on Euronext.

UK boss is Tom Cijffers, latterly chief client officer at MediaCom US and a former MD of Zenith in the UK. Cijffers says: “We’re free of the constraints of the traditional holding groups; we work with a single P&L in complete transparency and trust. We also develop our own tech, with 10 percent of our annual net income reinvested into R&D. As such, we occupy a strategic middle ground between the networks and the management consultancies, and unlike some of the newer players, we are actually doing all of this now.”

(left to right consulting and data partner Ashish Sidhra, Cijffers, Joseph).

Actually Artefact looks more like the media analytics partner Sir Martin Sorrell’s MediaMonks is looking for and MediaMonks looks quite like Untold Studios.

So is there a gap in the market for these various offerings – yes, as the holding company agencies go into retreat – but is there a market in the gap?

Probably not for all of them but we’ll see.

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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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