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2021 set to be big M&A year – will new-style creative agencies be back on the menu?

2021 may well see the mergers and acquisitions market take off in what used to be adland after a quiet 2020 (for obvious reasons.)

But it doesn’t seem to be creative agencies or media independents being snapped up, rather digital agencies which have so far remained under most people’s radar – apart from the private equity boys (and girls.)

Such agencies are hard to rank because billings aren’t relevant (with ad agencies they at least give an impression of size) so I have no idea if PE firm IW Capital’s buyout of “sector agnostic” digital agency Olive Jar Digital heralds a move up the ladder for Olive Jar, armed with PE money. But the deal is worth £6m so there must be something there.

Olive Jar founder Rajesh Thakrar (left) says: “I am truly excited about our new partnership with IW Capital, where we can build on Olive Jar’s great achievements and take it to the next level, whilst maintaining our passion for all things digital. This is a super opportunity for us to grow what we do well; transform digital services intuitively.”

There are deals outside the sector too. also today it’s announced that acquisitive marketing group MSQ has bought MBA, the one-time Maher Bird Associates, a long-time leading light in below-the-line.

Will PE or other buyers come knocking for the new generation of creative agencies? After all, there is talk of big clients turning back to branding after their immersion in digital. Trouble is, there aren’t that many established creative agencies who can still do it. Too much talent has been lost, often to the tech giants.

New-style creative agencies like the UK’s Uncommon (left) and even newer New Commercial Arts could find themselves high on the menu. Not just to add to someone’s trophy list but to head big, more flexible creative operations.

So is it chequebooks at the ready? Might well be.

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