by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) LONDON: Day 1 of the AdForum Worldwide Summit London, 22-25 September 2019, continued with one of the highlights: meeting with Sir Martin Sorrell, who left WPP less than 18 months ago and has been forging ahead with his bold new entity, S4 Capital, ever since. As always, he had some interesting comment on the industry.

1. AdForum Worldwide Summit logoS4 Capital

We learned a few facts:

  • The group is being built to deliver faster, better, cheaper solutions for clients
  • S4 is only interested in digital companies
  • It’s already working with the 10–14 global digital companies ie Google, Facebook, Amazon etc
  • Current staff component is 1 500 across the globe
  • S4 believes in the “holy trinity” of digital (data, content and programmatic) and with one profit and loss account for the group — no silos!
  • S4 is growing at about 60% annualised; the traditional agency groups (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis etc) are growing at 4–5% pa

S4 Capital believes that clients are taking back control of their data and their working processes, and that this will continue to accelerate. A portfolio of work was shared with us.

2. Accenture Interactive

With the recent acquisition of Droga5 and the earlier one of Karmarama, we pitch consultants were very keen to see how this process is working and how these hitherto independent and highly creative agencies are faring in the new “dispensation”. What was very encouraging was to see the leadership that is being created through these acquisitions in order to drive growth and, indeed, further acquisitions in the creative space.

Positioning itself as providing unified brand experiences for marketers, Accenture Interactive is providing more than just advertising by moving into the areas of business design, user experience and production.

Case studies for Karmarama such as Bo (banking) and KFC (gaming) in China, along with Harley Davidson for Droga 5 and IHOP, illustrated the areas that the agencies have moved into and will continue to drive from a creative perspective and with real business results.

3. Rankin

A photography and publishing company, Rankin has moved strongly into content areas with editorial, film production, and a positioning of “Cultural Provocateurs.” It has 87 people, a strong track record and works consistently with other agencies, as well as clients, and this was illustrated through a Rolls-Royce case study.

Adding in some fun with photos of the consultants, Rankin told us that it would like more clients in the areas of fashion, beauty, hair and automotive plus travel — indeed, any brand that wants to be connected with culture.

4. Merkle (Dentsu Aegis Network)

Now with the Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN), its point of view is about moving to people-based marketing and making advertising more “addressable”. This means a more customer-focused strategy using people-based marketing technology.

That all sound feasible but the problem is integration. Marketers and brands have bought too much tech — that they don’t need —in the hope that this can be integrated into their existing systems. Where Merkle can help is to assist in the alignment of brand KPIs and value drivers.

Merkle was acquired by DAN in 2016, having started out as a data agency some 32 years ago. Huge growth is predicted in the next five years, with the business expected to double from the previous figure that it achieved over the 32-year period.

5. mccarrybowen (DAN)

The global CEO of the agency has been in place for the past for months and is committed to building the next-generation creative agency with big organising ideas that will harness the power of data. Case studies for American Express were used to illustrate what is possible by partnering, in this case, with New York City taxis.

And, so, Day 1 Part 2 came to an end and, with more than 10 agencies ahead of us on Tuesday 24 September, it was time to go and rest!

See also


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. She will be presenting detailed and in-depth reports and case studies on each agency from this 2019 AdForum Summit at her masterclass presentation in Johannesburg in October 2019.

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