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Campaign UK

by Gideon Spanier

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Beth Sidhu

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The co-founders of Goodstuff Communications have sold their independent media agency to Stagwell, the US-listed “challenger” holding company.

Andrew Stephens and Ben Hayes, who set up Goodstuff in London in 2004, told Campaign the deal would enable them to add digital, data and technology capabilities and grow the agency’s business in the UK, as part of their strategic ambition to take their company from “Good to Great”.

Goodstuff – the UK’s second-biggest independent media agency and the 14th largest overall, with an estimated £208m in annual billings in 2020, according to Campaign’s School Reports – will retain its brand.

Stephens and Hayes have also committed to the company for five years as part of their earn-out.

The deal was agreed just days before Christmas. Financial terms were not disclosed but Goodstuff is likely to have sold for more than £30m on the basis that it reported profit before exceptional items, known as Ebitda, of £3.4m in the year before the pandemic, and typically an agency will sell for about 10 times annual profits.

Companies House filings show Stephens and Hayes controlled all the shares of Goodstuff Holdings but it is thought their combined stake ended up being closer to 75%, because eight other senior executives had share options that vest following the sale.

The eight partners are Simeon Adams, Bobby Din, Sam Drake, Paul Gayfer, Laura Moorcraft, Megan Stuart, Genevieve Tompkins and Simon Wilden.

Goodstuff employs about 130 people and has created a deal bonus pot to reward other staff with proceeds from the sale.

The agency will become part of Stagwell Media Network, the media arm, which has 3,000 staff and claims to manage close to $5bn (£3.7bn) in annual spend globally.

Mark Penn, a former Microsoft and WPP executive, founded Stagwell in 2015. It has since acquired dozens of agencies, including MDC Partners, the owner of creative shops 72andSunny and Anomaly and media agency Assembly. Stagwell has about 10,000 employees around the world.

Stephens and Hayes said: “Goodstuff’s unswerving mission is to be the world’s most inventive media agency, and to help accelerate our next phase, we wanted to join a network that could bring world-class capabilities in data, technology, and digital.

“In Stagwell, we’ve not only found these services, but also a partner that perfectly aligns with our culture of entrepreneurialism, invention, and progress. We’ve been hugely impressed by Stagwell’s challenger status and ambitions, their senior leadership team, and the breadth of world-class modern marketing brands in the group.”

Penn, who is chairman and chief executive of Stagwell, said: “We welcome Goodstuff as a critical part of our strategy to create a truly global and competitive media operation.

“When we created Stagwell Media Network [in September 2021], we set out to build a collaborative and coherent network of global media agencies that are on the leading edge of media, data, and technology. The addition of Goodstuff, with their unrivalled track record of innovation, continues to deliver on our vision of transforming marketing.”

It is understood that Goodstuff and Assembly worked together on pitching for at least one – unnamed – client last year, which encouraged both sides to consider an M&A deal.

James Townsend, global chief executive of Stagwell Media Network, said: “What attracted us to the agency were their world-class leadership and unwavering focus on people, culture, and the work.

“After a series of successful collaborations with Assembly in the UK, we see the potential for our network to build something truly differentiated, progressive, and exciting in the marketplace.”

Sale reflects Goodstuff’s need for digital, data and tech capabilities

Stephens, who is 50, and Hayes, 54, met in their twenties at Saatchi & Saatchi, before moving to Manning Gottlieb OMD, where they incubated Goodstuff – initially as a planning agency, before expanding into buying in 2011.

Omnicom, the parent company of Manning Gottlieb OMD, retained a minority stake until 2017, when Stephens and Hayes took 100% control.

The agency has won a reputation for its creative and collaborative approach, attracting clients such as Cazoo, OvoOn the Beach and Yorkshire Tea, winning Grands Prix at both the Media Week Awards and Campaign Media Awards in 2019 and 2020, and staging the annual Goodstuff Media Showcase, where media owners are invited to pitch ideas to creative agencies.

The founding partners have prided themselves on Goodstuff’s independent ownership, but there was speculation that they were considering a sale in autumn 2019 and the rumours resurfaced in the same period of 2021.

Their decision to sell now appears to be significant as clients increasingly look for one agency partner that can offer full-funnel, omnichannel planning and buying across both digital and traditional media.

Goodstuff is known for its expertise in communications planning and broadcast TV, whereas Stagwell’s media capabilities are chiefly in digital and performance marketing. Stagwell acquired specialists such as Forward3D and PMX and subsequently merged them with Assembly, a traditional media agency.

Stephens and Hayes explained the rationale for the sale in a company blog post, describing it as “a recognition that whilst we’re one of the UK’s leading media agencies now, the digital, data and technology industry around us is changing at such pace that, if we’re to realise our stated mission [to move from ‘Good to Great’], we must similarly change, and evolve our offering”.

Goodstuff initially talked to several “digital specialists” about the idea of an “informal” partnership, before moving to discussions about a sale, according to the blogpost.

Stephens added they were certain that they did not want to sell to one of the established agency giants or a private equity investor because that would not help Goodstuff to achieve its ambitions.

Headroom for growth in the UK 

Goodstuff Communications is Stagwell’s first acquisition since the merger of MDC Partners completed in August 2021 through a reverse takeover. The company is listed on the New York stock market.

Penn has talked about building Stagwell into “a digital-first alternative to traditional agency holding companies”. It is one of several “challenger” groups – including S4 Capital, You & Mr Jones and Dept – to have emerged in recent years.

He told investors at Stagwell’s Q3 results that “making sure that we have on[line] and offline media on a global basis” and winning “global contracts” were among his priorities.

Acquiring Goodstuff allows Stagwell to bring together offline and online media in Europe in the same way that it has already done in the US, Townsend told Campaign, stressing the growing need to combine brand building and performance marketing in a single offer that he called “brand performance”.

Stagwell Media Network will have nearly 500 staff in Europe. Assembly employs about 350 people, plus 130 are joining from Goodstuff.

While Goodstuff is expected to support Stagwell Media Network on work across Europe, Stephens and Hayes said their primary focus remains the UK.

There is headroom for growth as they look to compete with bigger rivals, they said, citing Publicis Groupe’s Zenith, WPP’s Essence and Manning Gottlieb OMD as examples of some of the UK’s top 10 media agencies that they rate.

Goodstuff was advised by corporate advisory firm Clarity, law firm Osborne Clarke and accountants Moore Kingston Smith.

Clarity previously worked on Adam & Eve’s sale to Omnicom’s DDB and M&C Saatchi’s sale of Walker Media to Publicis Groupe. Walker Media had a similar profile to Goodstuff and sold at a multiple of 9.2 times annual profits.

Stephens and Hayes stressed in their blog post that “all the good bits of Goodstuff remain unchanged” following the sale.

The post said: “Andrew, Ben and the partners are committed for the long term… our brand, our values, our culture and our relentless focus on inventive work will not shift an inch but as of today, we also have access to world-class digital and data talent, services and technology to bring omnichannel brilliance to the most progressive client brands.”

As part of the sale process, Goodstuff has exited its minority interests in Love Sugar Science and Sixteen By Nine, two agencies that it supported in a start-up initiative, called Startstuff, in 2019.

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Beth Sidhu

Global network appoints Jon Schaaf, Shannon Pruitt, and Rick Acampora to deliver an evolved future-facing strategy that drives innovation, scale, efficiencies, and differentiation across clients and partners.

NEW YORK, Dec. 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Stagwell Media Network, part of Stagwell (NASDAQ: STGW) Inc, today announced expanded leadership to further evolve the agency’s investment profile, with a focus on partnerships, innovation, investment models, and accountability to help clients navigate changes in the media landscape and fuel market-leading growth. 

Noted appointments include:

  • Jon Schaaf, Global Chief Investment Officer: With over 20+ years of experience at major holding companies (including Omnicom, Publicis, and GroupM), Jon has expertly led the development of omnichannel investment strategies for some of the world’s largest advertisers, as well as created cutting edge partnerships with the global publisher community. Jon will lead the creation and management of the investment group, overseeing strategy and activation across Stagwell Media Network clients globally.
  • Shannon Pruitt, Global Chief Content Officer: Shannon is a 20+ year industry leader with deep agency, publisher, and brand-side experience. Having been in former roles at Dentsu’s The Story Lab, Carat, Warner Brothers, as well as CMO of The Honest Company, she has helped some of the world’s leading companies connect with consumers in ever-and-rapidly changing economic, cultural, and media environments. In this new role, Shannon is responsible for developing innovative content, media, and publisher relationships that deliver integrated experiences across the network for Stagwell Media Network clients to drive measurable value and business outcomes.
  • Rick Acampora, Global Chief Client Officer: With experience across a plethora of agencies and brands, including GroupM, MEC/Wavemaker, UM, and Publicis, Rick has built, maintained, and applied the practice of client leadership for some of the world’s most recognizable brands. Rick led the product unification and transformation for the merger of MEC and Maxus to form Wavemaker and ensured expansion for both their clients and the agency resulting in the two most significant growth years in MEC/Wavemaker’s history. At Stagwell Media Network, Rick will collaborate across the client and agency teams to create indispensable partnerships that drive innovation and results while also enabling our people to continuously progress as leaders.

“This team has invaluable experience in creatively developing and activating forward-thinking strategies and partnerships that deliver meaningful growth for businesses,” said James Townsend, Global CEO of Stagwell Media Network. “Together, and with the expansive Stagwell community, they will collaborate with publishers and media partners to construct opportunities that our agencies can uniquely bring to our clients.” 

Stagwell Media Network is home to more than 2,500 experts with an expansive global footprint across 40 offices in 20 countries, managing close to $5 billion in media. The network creates an exciting environment for a new era of marketing talent, bringing together world-class omnichannel media, analytics, technology, and consulting expertise.

“The formation of the Stagwell Media Network was an intentional and proactive approach to ensuring we enable collaboration that helps deliver on our vision of being the challenger brand offering an alternative to the status quo,” said Stagwell’s president Jay Leveton. “Our continued investment in this team and community underscores the importance of how we intend to create new opportunities for our clients, partners, and the market.”

Additional leadership and organizational details will be announced in the coming weeks. These investments will drive increased collaboration across the entire media and creative portfolio in Stagwell. 

About Stagwell Media Network

Stagwell Media Network is a group of leading multichannel agencies including AssemblyMMI AgencyMedia Kitchen, and Grason, creative consultancy GALE, B2B specialist Multiview, transcreation agency Locaria, and travel and media experts Ink. The network offers marketers a more dynamic partner for global B2B and B2C solutions spanning data, technology, media, and creativity aimed at accelerating business growth for brands worldwide. 

About Stagwell Inc.

Stagwell is the challenger network built to transform marketing. We deliver scaled creative performance for the world’s most ambitious brands, connecting culture-moving creativity with leading-edge technology to harmonize the art and science of marketing.  Led by entrepreneurs, our 10,000+ specialists in 20+ countries are unified under a single purpose: to drive effectiveness and improve business results for their clients. Join us at www.stagwellglobal.com.

 

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