Are more collaborations the way forward for digital marketing?

Matt Thorne of Disrupt and Tina Judic of Found

Digital performance agency Found has acquired youth marketing agency Disrupt, with the intention of bringing a distinctive new approach to its digital offering. Known for its strong focus on creative and culture based content, Disrupt has worked with brands such as AG Barr, Absolut, Thomas Cook’s Club 18-30, as well as pioneering the Rated Awards, a new awards show for UK urban music. The Drum spoke to Tina Judic, chief executive at Found, and Matt Thorne, co-founder at Disrupt to find out more about the collaboration.

What first caught your eye with Found/Disrupt? Was it a natural meeting or more of an organised collaboration?

Tina Judic (TJ): I first met Matt just over six months ago when a mutual contact put us in touch. The initial goal of the meeting was to see if there was any value we could add to each other’s stories and services in a partnership form. However, from the moment I met Matt, I was hooked. I just knew there was something about the business that himself and Phil [Kemish] had created that could work so well as part of Found. Their knowledge of the way people consume media now, particularly millennials, and their ability to create content that touches these audiences blew me away. What I saw wasn’t just content marketing, it was engaging marketing for a connected generation.

Matt Thorne (MT): What struck me about Found was its approach to performance and data. As a designer and creative, I’ve always been fascinated by the data side of things and, with the current marketing landscape being very challenging to navigate through from an ROI perspective, I felt Found could help us bring a lot of data insight and precision to our creative methods. Already, Found is helping us become more rigorous in our approach to tracking and audience insights. The greater the understanding of audiences, the greater the hotbed to drive inspired and relevant content that will deliver a measured return on investment.

What are some of the characteristics you first look for in another agency?

TJ: Acquisition of companies are immensely delicate. The fit has to be absolutely right otherwise cracks will appear once the deal is done. Culture is probably the biggest thing for me. If the culture is similar to Found’s, then I know we’re starting from a sound base. Follow that with vision and synergy and you’re off to an excellent start. At Found, we’re on a mission to make digital marketing more engaging, connected and accountable. You need understanding, creativity and a sound numerical base to make this an actuality, so these are the elements we look for, and we found it with Disrupt.

MT: The characteristics that I would first look for is complementary services. What is a company strong at that can help us become better?

Matt, you call Disrupt a “youth marketing agency.” Tell us a bit more about the thought process behind this and why that particular demographic?

MT: We called Disrupt a youth marketing agency because it’s a real sweet spot of knowledge for us, and youth is the future. We’ve operated with this audience for quite some time, working with content creators, Youtube channels and platforms that have audiences in this sector. We know how to position brands to impact their lives in a non-invasive way. In the first iteration of the agency, we called it a culture marketing agency. When we talk about youth marketing we talk about the culture of the things that they’re interested in; their passions and their drivers. Understanding the audiences is the key to marketing effectively.

Tina, why did you feel the time was right for Found to acquire Disrupt?

TJ: Found has gone through a solid period of continued organic growth. However, our focus has very much been on performance, on servicing and optimising demand. It was apparent that using our legacy in ROI performance, coupled with exceptional audience insights, we could further enhance our services to facilitate creating and engaging demand. This is where Disrupt makes total sense for us. Connecting creative to performance through audience and data was as obvious a match as Bert and Ernie.

The two agencies are relatively different in their type of work. What are you both hoping the other agency will bring to the table?

TJ: Marketing is so much more fragmented in this day and age. Bringing together Disrupt’s brilliant understanding of how to successfully influence the social space with Found’s own passion for remastering ROI represents a major step change in how we can now elevate the way brands connect with their customers.

MT: In a nutshell, we aim to use and leverage culture as a platform for brands and audiences to communicate. Once you look at it this way, youth culture is just a facet. We can work with all audiences and cultures – it’s just about creating the right strategy and approach. By joining our entrepreneurial spirit, experience and talented people together, we believe we will be able to take what we've developed and super-charge it at scale to help our clients innovate and succeed in the rapidly changing disruptive digital era.

Matt, you are the brains behind the coveted Rated Awards, which took place two weeks ago at The Roundhouse in London. How does a tiny awards show in a church go from those humble beginnings to arguably one of London’s biggest and most famous venues?

MT: I can’t take sole credit for being the brains behind the Rated Awards – it evolved from an idea and an ambition that I had with my Disrupt co-founder, Phil Kemish, and an old business partner, Posty, when we worked together at Grime Daily. The growth of the awards has been down to the hard work of all teams involved, the culture (Grime) seeing the value in the platform and supporting it but, most of all, the embracement of a brand like KA Drinks who truly believe in the vision and invest in it as a credible platform to engage its consumer.

The grime culture has recently taken a massive spike in the UK with the likes of Stormzy and Skepta being plucked from obscurity and topping the charts. Why do you think this is? And do you think it will continue to go from strength to strength?

MT: These guys have been working hard and grafting for years so the determination was always bound to pay off at some point. The Internet has enabled this music to spread to all corners of the UK and, along with the current social economic and political nature of the music, and the fact Grime represents an outlet for these young voices to be heard, I have no doubt Grime music will continue to grow.

There has been a call of late for agencies to help each other out and collaborate rather than battle with each other and keeping ideas highly confidential. As is evident with your agencies, do you think this is the way the industry is moving?

TJ: I recently spent some time with the heads of an agency who you’d argue is a direct competitor to Found. We chewed the fat about a lot of things – the pressures, the challenges, the opportunities, the successes - and it was so helpful for both parties. There’s a lot of business out there to be won. Working closely with similar agencies or partnering with complementary agencies will undoubtedly accelerate the speed of advancement of digital marketing and that can only be a good thing.

MT: I think collaboration is really healthy. As the industry evolves and changes, more specialist people working closely with each other will undoubtedly lead to greater success.

Can you talk about any of the exciting work you have in the pipeline at all?

TJ: We’re already underway working on a consolidated Found and Disrupt account that is coming together really nicely.

MT: I’m delighted with how we’ve moved so quickly and effectively to demonstrate that we have great synergy working as one. We’ve also got some other exciting stuff in the pipeline for several clients, including Absolut and House of Marley but nothing I can announce just yet.

Read more about the evolution of digital performance marketing with Found's chief executive Tina Judic.

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