Earlier this week Sir Martin Sorrell snapped up digital production group Media Monks, an independent Dutch outfit with offices in 11 countries, against competition from his former employer WPP.
And former WPP man James Morris, global chief executive of Stink, an independent digitally-focused creative agency, believes Sorrell can build an agile group around MediaMonks that he could not have achieved within his former network. He said Sorrell has "learned the lessons" about the need for a single operational structure and will be able to apply it in his new venture.
He said: “Content, data and technology is what Sorrell was talking about at WPP; it was the right strategy then and it is the right strategy now. Building a single P&L with one operational structure makes more sense and now he gets around WPP’s horizontality issues.”
The scale of MediaMonks (over 600 staff), paired with its production capabilities, would have helped solidify Sorrell’s decision, said Morris. “There is a need in the current world to be able to create high quality content.” Being grounded in production really helps you “be more agile and respond faster than the traditional agency model".
Morris said that production speed is "vital". Brands are keen to anchor themselves into cultural touchpoints in real-time. “When you have a product out there, and a cultural event happens, brands want you to be able to respond.
“[Stink] needs to be agile. Coming from a production culture, we are used to delivering on a timeline, so we have that in our DNA, we can deliver quality, but we do it against tight timetables.”
Morris has previously served as the global head of WPP agency MediaCom Beyond Advertising, where he helped manage around 800 people. But now he sees the scales tipping towards groups like MediaMonks and Stink, and away from the in-fighting, siloed talent.
Stink especially is increasingly working directly with brands, predominantly those in the tech, sports and fashion industry. Morris reckons the Monks may be facing the same trend.
To give an idea of the impact these agencies cause, you may well be familiar with Paul Pogba and Stormzy's Manchester United move music video from Adidas. This particular work was created in collaboration with social agency We Are Social. it changed the football transfer market, and how brands play in the space. One wonders just how long the agency had to turn around the work. Football moves are often fast-moving affairs.
Instead of going between an an agency partner, these firms are increasingly connecting with “in-house marketers who have a very clear steer of their brand and product”. These marketers “want to work with this new hybrid model with creatives that can deliver upon ideas straight away rather than a conceptual process”.
In-housing presents its own challenges of course; marketers run the risk of repeating the infamous Pepsi/Kendall Jenner debacle. Pepsi got the story wrong, it was not authentic, said Morris. His group only responds to briefs and brands they think will fit with the company culture.
Morris said: “How do you attach a brand to a cultural moment where people feel you have a genuine role and voice to play in it – and play a positive role as a brand?”
Sorrell will look to scale up his S4 Capital offering, and Morris stated that he will likely integrate digital buying, digital media and some form of data company to complement the Monks' offering. But it will face the inherent task of ensuring it maintains its unique psuedo-religious culture.
To do so, Morris believes in hiring smart, taking on the right briefs, and ensuring office environments are conducive to creativity. “Our office looks like a studio, it is a place where things get made and people look and are dressed quite differently from the often corporate environments of the big agencies. Talent is very attracted to those environments. To walk into a corporate office environment with thousands of people is very different.”