Wednesday, November 30, 2022

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    Brave Bison's ‘radically different’ marketing company: just don’t call it an agency

    The Drum sits down with Oli Green, chairman and chief exec at media company Brave Bison to talk big ambitions, the “fragmented ecosystem” of modern marketing – and why his company is not an agency.

    Social and digital media company Brave Bison was founded as Rightster by entrepreneur Charlie Muirhead back in 2011, and first went public with an IPO in 2013. After renaming (as Brave Bison) in 2016, the company went through another evolution when brothers Oli and Theo Green, young veterans of tech shop Tangent, took on a minority stake in 2019. Today, the pair collectively own 45% of the company and sit as chair and chief executive officer (Oli) and chief operating officer (Theo).

    The duo’s tenure so far has seen a rebrand, major acquisitions, and a period of growth. Still public, Brave Bison released interim financial results last week. The first results since the full incorporation of performance agency Greenlight Digital (an acquisition first announced last year), they show year-to-date revenues of £14.7m ($15.9) and projected EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) for the year of £3m. Oli Green tells The Drum that his target is to bring the latter up to £15m over the next couple of years.

    They’ll do so, he tells us, through both organic growth and more targeted acquisitions – as well as Greenlight, Brave Bison acquired Adobe specialist e-commerce shop Best Response Media in April and snapped up IP and channels from social video producers The Hook back in 2020.

    That growth, says Green, will solidify Brave Bison’s position as “radically different” from competitors in the marketing world, since “we own and operate our own media assets”.

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    Brave for a new world

    There are two sides to the business: a digital advertising and technology services business incorporating performance, e-commerce, media buying and social offerings; and a “social and digital media network” which runs over 650 YouTube channels; 13 Snapchat shows and works directly with both in-house and exclusive social media creators. The portfolio also includes some distinctly new media, gen Z-focused assets like TikTok content creator hub the Wave House. Next, they have their sites set on gaming teams and podcasts.

    “We have a reputation for partnering with rights holders, media companies and companies that own content,” says Green. “Our reputation is a partner that helps to grow and scale on sort of digital and social and emerging platforms.”

    It’s that mix – “we’re a hybrid that combines media, marketing and tech” – that, says Green, sets it apart from the ‘agency’ descriptor. It’s also a mix of expertise, he says, that is becoming more and more necessary. “[It’s] what clients are looking for. Marketing budgets and the budgets of a CTO are coming together so much more. We understand platforms like Salesforce, SAP, BigCommerce, and Adobe – but we also understand content, creative, data science and media. The perfect brief for us is a brief where we’re responsible for generating traffic to a platform that we have built through content that we’ve created.”

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    “We’re interested in joining the dots around what is increasingly becoming a very fragmented ecosystem. You’ve got so many platforms, one pops up every six months; each platform itself launches a new product [every six months] too. Things are evolving so quickly that, to be able to do one job, we need to understand other jobs.”

    As such, Green variously compares Brave Bison to mega-groups like S4 Capital and Next15; publishing players like Vice and Buzzfeed; production companies like Unit9; and social innovators like Jellysmack. He insists that he and brother Theo are not looking to cash out any time soon – “we’re not looking for an exit. This isn’t some private equity-backed venture that needs to sell in three years’ time.

    “We’re a public company, so people can buy into our stock whenever they like; they can also sell out of our stock whenever they like. We’re in this for the long term. We want to build a much bigger company in the media marketing and tech space. We’ve got the basis of that now and we’re going to keep going… we’re building a media marketing technology company for the new era.”

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