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You & Mr Jones limbers up for battle against Sorrell’s S4C with new $250m war chest

There’s an interesting battle developing between David Jones’ You & Mr Jones and Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4Capital, both offering new-style solutions to the world’s big marketers.

You & Mr Jones, which calls itself the world’s first BrandTech group (it’s even trademarked BrandTech) has just raised another $200m from investors to top up the $350m it raided to launch in 2015. It claims it’s now worth $1.3bn (rather more than a “unicorn”) and has a war chest of $250m.

S4C is also enjoying a new-found $1bn unicorm status just over a year after Sorrell founded it, hard on the heels of his messy defenestration from WPP, the marcoms giant he founded. Jones (below) is the former global CEO of Havas.

Both employ the mantra “better, faster, cheaper” although Jones insists he got there first. Better, faster, cheaper causes much shaking of heads in conventional agency land where senior execs see the very mention of the world “cheaper” as akin to suicide at the hands of clients.

There are differences of course: You & Mr Jones is privately held while S4C is a public company. But their offer to clients is roughly the same: technology now rules the marketing world and we’ll help you navigate it. If that means assisting with in-housing, so be it. You & Mr Jones is further down this line after it acquired in-house studio operation Oliver (now ensconced in Unilever) which it now calls a digital agency.

Mr Jones says its compound annual growth (CAGR) since 2015 has been 135 per cent, which certainly sounds impressive. It now has 3,000 employees in 40 countries (including 50 cities) and clients include the aforementioned Unilever, Adidas, Microsoft, Reebok, PayPal, Hertz, Marriott, LVMH, Renault-Nissan, Danone, Google and RB.

S4C is smaller but growing rapidly around the world too. It too has recently raised extra money from shareholders (including SMS who invested £40m at the beginning) and will report its 2019 figures in due course, but they’re almost certain to show a profit.

Founder and CEO Jones says: “We launched You & Mr Jones in 2015 based on the strong belief that due to the mobile revolution clients needed a totally new kind of marketing partner: one that was expert in both brand and technology.

“Since then, we have seen a radical realignment of the marketing industry, with massive declines in the valuations of the established order as they have fundamentally failed to adapt, and the arrival of interesting new entrants – even including the head of the largest traditional legacy business who launched last year emulating our positioning (wonder who that is?)

“We are now moving to phase two of our journey. We’re strongly profitable, have no debt and a war chest of over $250MM. Our focus is to further scale our ability to use technology to deliver better, faster and cheaper marketing for our clients and to capitalize on the huge opportunity that the market disruption affords us.”

So it’s gloves off by the sound of it although Jones might be wise not to get into too public a fight with Sorrell whose relish for such gladiatorial combats shows no sign of abating with age.

But the fabled tectonic plates in advertising are, indeed, shifting and these two, along with the mighty Accenture Interactive and maybe some even newer contenders, are certainly hoovering up a fair share of income and changing the ground rules – certainly not to the advantage of the more traditional and for so long all-powerful holding companies.

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