David Jones’ You & Mr Jones hits the big time with majority stake in global on-site network Oliver

David Jones’ “brandtech” venture You & Mr Jones has bought a majority stake in Oliver owner Inside Ideas Group for an estimated $200m.

Oliver, set up by Simon Martin in 2004, provides on-site agency/studios to a range of advertisers. Its biggest client is Unilever for whom it set up the global U-Studios network.

Oliver now has 1500 staff working in 146 in-house teams in 36 countries with annual revenues of about $150m.

Former Havas CEO Jones raised $350million in 2015 to build an industry-disrupting technology group that would “help brands do their marketing better, faster and cheaper using technology.” Oliver is You & Mr Jones’ biggest deal to date. It also owns a majority stake in creative agency Gravity Road and stakes in Pinterest, Mofilm and the AI Foundation among others.

Oliver founder Martin (below with Jones) says: “We’re excited to be joining a group that enables our clients to tap into a broad range of amazing tech-led products and capabilities. We already offer brand marketers a totally new in-house creative model – now they will also be able to access a wider spectrum of the most advanced and innovative marketing technology solutions.”

“We had a great deal of interest in our business, but for us the opportunity to be part of a brandtech group and to connect our in-house model to the world’s leading marketing technology platform, was by far the most interesting.”

Jones says: “When we launched in 2015, we set out to disrupt marketing using technology and to create a brand-new model for clients. Simon is a brilliant talent and with Oliver he’s created an equally disruptive model that’s delivering brilliant creativity in-house and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for global brands.

“Plugging Oliver’s in-house model – and its sophisticated content creation and management technology platform – into our You & Mr Jones tech ecosystem is a very powerful combination. Together, we can create enterprise-level marketing solutions at an unprecedented scale and transform profoundly how a brand does its marketing.”

Keith Weed, who’s stepping down as Unilever chief marketing and communications officer and who struck the deal with Oliver, says: “We were an early convert to the radically different approach that Oliver takes in partnering with its clients and we have also seen the great advantages of working with the You & Mr Jones ecosystem of technology companies. This is an exciting deal and it will deliver significant advantages for brands looking to deliver better, faster, cheaper marketing at global scale.”

So it looks like a win-win for all parties, not least for entrepreneur Martin (who’s staying with the company) but also You & Mr Jones which now has a big client market to sell its services into.

With more conventional advertising forces including WPP with its Wunderman Inside operation and The&Partnership with its onsite network for Toyota and others also in the game, it looks as though advertisers will be seeing a lot more advertising folk on the premises.

You & Mr Jones, with its tech armoury, may also be able to challenge the tech-based consultancies like Accenture, currently driving into advertising.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.