As AI ‘resets’ adland, Serviceplan seizes the moment to expand into the US
The European agency network is launching an American full-service presence tying together Pereira O’Dell, Plan.net and L&C, telling The Drum the current wave of AI disruption gives ‘barbarian’ agencies an opportunity to steal a march on the establishment.
Serviceplan Americas consists of Mediaplus, Plan.net, Pereira O’Dell and L&C NYC / Serviceplan Americas
Having flourished in its German homeland, Serviceplan has expanded its creative network into the United States, with the expansion of digital agency subsidiary Plan.Net and the addition of a minority stake in independent creative agency L&C NYC, alongside media agency Mediaplus and creative agency Pereira O’Dell.
The network of indie shops has a chance to exploit the disruption caused by generative AI, according to Pereira O’Dell co-founder and new Serviceplan Americas chief creative officer PJ Pereira.
“Change rarely happens through the nobles in the castle. It usually comes from the barbarians breaking down the walls. We’re collecting all the barbarians together,” he says. “The bigger you are, the more afraid you are of change. You’re more nimble as a barbarian. And AI is just another weapon for us.”
Pereira says that technological changes shaping the industry – including the emergence of generative AI – mean the US agency market is ripe for a “reset”. The agency launched an ’AI lab’ in April with eight dedicated staffers.
“Everyone has an equal chance. It’s one of those moments where the gap between big and small shrinks dramatically. It’s actually the best moment possible in the history of this business for these things to happen,” he says.
“The technology on the media side, the possibilities for AI to change production and the creative process, or the strategy side – all those tools are not going to be very different if you have billions to invest as a big network or if you’re independent. That’s where the game starts.”
US expansion for Serviceplan
Alexander Schill, global chief creative officer of Serviceplan, said in a statement that “with our investment in L&C NYC, we are setting new creative standards in the US. This is an incredibly good fit for us and strengthens our position as a global creative powerhouse.”
The four agencies’ clients include Adobe, DeLonghi, Siemens and Braun. Pereira O’Dell co-founder Andrew O’Dell, who takes on the role of chief executive, tells The Drum that Serviceplan expects the American business to account for around a third of its overall revenue within five years. “It’s a big number. But there’s a path to get there, globally as a group. We have ambitious plans, we have a great team of leaders and collectively we’ll be able to get close to that.”
Pereira says: “We don’t see this as an umbrella. We see it as a catapult. It’s a way for us to deliver the way we operate, the way we work for our clients in the west, in a way that is global. For [Serviceplan] it is a final piece of the puzzle, to take them from international to global.”
He adds: “The biggest opportunity for us is that we now have a much broader range of services to offer. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for bigger or smaller clients.”
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O’Dell hopes the arrangement will allow the agency to pick up more packaged goods brands, for example. “L&C is going to be a real help there. There are no sectors that are off-limits. We want the widest lens possible.”
Former Razorfish execs Jennifer Steele and Todd Thiessen will lead Plan.Net in the US.
Serviceplan currently has around 5,500 employees across 34 countries. The German network is one of the most lauded creative businesses in advertising – its Munich office was the most-awarded agency in Europe, the Middle East and Africa last year, according to The Drum’s World Creative Rankings.
The company has form in leveraging partnerships and minority stakes to expand its business. Its stake in Pereira O’Dell dates back to 2020. An agreement struck in 2021 between its Mediaplus business brought Stagwell’s media business to Europe, for example.
As well as enabling expansion without massive capital expenditure, the approach means L&C and Pereira O’Dell will remain indie shops. O’Dell says it’s unlikely to expand the size of its stake in either company: “We’re happy having our independence and I know Serviceplan appreciates that and wants that as well; they respect that within us.”
Though O’Dell and Pereira say there are no further deals immediately planned, the company aims to build a full-service offering in the States. O’Dell says “if we see an opportunity… based on capability… I’d be open to it.”