Gut founder on sale to Globant: “I’m nervous and uncomfortable. It’s great!”
Indie network Gut has been acquired by one of its clients, Argentine firm Globant. Co-founder Anselmo Ramos explains why it sold – and what’s next.
Nestor Nocetti, Anselmo Ramos, Martín Migo, Martín Umaran, Gastón Bigio and Guibert Englebienne. / Gut
Creative agencies aren’t places that smart, talented people want to spend their careers at. They’re not capable of fast commercial growth. They don’t compete at the same level as big legacy agencies. And they certainly don’t do those things from Buenos Aires or Miami. Or so the consensus goes.
For the last five years, Gut, the independent shop established by Gaston Bigio and Anselmo Ramos, has provided strong evidence to the contrary on each of those points. It tempted executives away from big American networks, such as DDB, opened seven offices, bagged a string of industry honors and last year doubled pre-tax profits to $7m.
Now its time as a standard bearer for the indie agency sector is coming to a close following its acquisition in a deal announced last week. The story could lead to the same place that so many proud indie names have gone: a spot as a cog in an unfathomably large corporate machine, subject to a slow decline and gnomic shareholder demands. This, too, though, could pan out differently for Gut. Its new parent firm, Globant, is not a Publicis or Dentsu but an Argentine IT services firm with dreams of world domination.
For Gut’s founding pair, the deal is a huge milestone. “It has been a roller coaster of emotions,” Ramos tells The Drum. “We feel accomplished, we feel relieved because now not everything is on our shoulders; we have help now.” The acquisition is also a reset. “Five years after founding Gut, I’m feeling those butterflies in my stomach again. I’m nervous and uncomfortable. It’s a great feeling to have.”
And it’s a deal that has surprised the wider advertising world. At five years old, Gut is a new name in the industry – so new that Ramos initially thought it was too soon to sell. “We’ve had a lot of fun. I thought that this might happen in a couple of years.”
Gut’s acquirer is part of that surprise. Globant is a large business in its own right but a relative newcomer to advertising. It’s a digital consulting and services business, not a holding company or private equity firm, with a real international footprint. Founded in 2003, Globant has operated outside Latin America for a long time – it has been in business in Britain for almost 20 years and in the US for over 10 and has a decent claim to be one of the first tech companies to do business in Antarctica, thanks to a 2012 project. Unusually, it has also been one of Gut’s clients for several years.
Wanda Weigert, Globant’s chief brand officer, recalls that by 2020, the business had reached the limits of referral-driven organic growth. “We are a B2B company and our growth was mostly done through word of mouth. There came a time when we wanted to start expanding our brand and our brand recognition, and that’s when we started engaging with Gut. It was our first advertising agency.”
In the years that followed, Gut’s creatives worked to produce campaigns that highlighted Globant’s role behind shifts taking place in society, as an enabler of digital payment processing, digital services or changing ways of doing business – and as a no-bullshit tech partner that wouldn’t try to bluff its way into around AI or the metaverse.
That shared history means that the two companies are building upon an unusual foundation. According to Ramos: “It might be a first but it makes everything easier because we know it and know it is a brave client. We know it cares about creativity, it cares about bravery, innovation and all that.
“We already had a relationship – now we’re taking it to the next level.”
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Weigert says that, despite the disparity in size and longevity, the organizations already shared common ambitions. “We have a very similar culture. Although we are now 27,000 people, we still have an entrepreneurial spirit, an energy and a way of doing things. We want to challenge the industry and be underdogs.
“Gut showed us that it wanted to do a similar thing – to conquer the advertising world from Latin America.”
Gut’s profile rose following this summer’s raid on Cannes Lions, where it picked up 35 trophies and Independent Network of the Year – a moment that vindicated its founders and reportedly led to a number of offers for the business. Those suitors were too late.
A year ago, Ramos recalls, a routine chat with Globant’s leaders had taken an unexpected turn. “We got on a call with Martín [Migoya, Globant’s CEO] and Wanda, and Gaston and me. And they said, ‘So, by the way, we would like to acquire you.’
“We kept talking, met in person, spent a weekend together in Patagonia. We asked all our questions and they had all the answers. The more we thought about it, the more it made sense.” To test whether Gut and Globant’s visions truly aligned, Ramos wrote an eight-page paper outlining what could be possible via a deeper partnership.
“We kept thinking, talking, asking questions, designing the partnership. Up until Cannes, I was still on the fence. But after that Friday night – when I was holding the Independent Network of the Year award in my hand and crying in front of the whole industry – at that moment, I said to myself that we need to do this because we’re closing a chapter here.
“We went from taking a second mortgage on our houses to Independent Network of the Year in five years. Let’s be thankful. Let’s close that chapter. And let’s build a new one.”
For its part, Globant’s plans for the future of Gut will be familiar to readers who’ve kept an eye on the client propositions of Accenture or Deloitte. Though Gut will still operate as a standalone agency, Weigert says that the two companies will soon begin selling together.
“We’ve always wanted to bring creativity and innovation together,” says Weigert. “At this moment, technology is everywhere but we need to find a way of bringing more creativity into the solutions that we have, into how we help our clients communicate better with their audiences and bring these digital products to audiences in a much more attractive, engaging way.
“The idea is to work together and create a value proposition that can bring the two companies into one.”
Gut will be the crown jewel in a growing agency network built up by Globant in recent years, including Vertic, Ad_Bid and KTBO. “We are bringing all of them together to create a more comprehensive approach and really have to find a way of blending technology and creativity,” adds Weigert.
She hopes that the door can swing both ways and that Gut’s market proposition will, in time, be enhanced by Globant’s services. “It can take the best of Globant and we can take the best of it.”
For Ramos, Gut’s new sister companies mean it can begin offering an “end-to-end solution” to clients – a long-term goal for the agency that he hopes can be realized much faster. “We had the idea of adding capabilities as an independent agency, but you can only do that little by little. We did that over the last five years; we kept adding capabilities and offering more things. But to get to this level, it would have taken us 20 years. Now, it’s possible for us to offer that overnight.”
Globant has already begun reorganizing itself around Gut. Previously, Globant’s business spanned dozens of practice-led studios. Now, it will present as just four networks offering strategy, enterprise services, consultancy and marketing and digital advertising, with Gut at the heart of the latter.
Ramos says he expects Gut to double in size over the next five years. He hopes to see its web expand to 12 offices worldwide, growth that should be eased by piggybacking Globant’s own international presence in countries Gut doesn’t yet operate in. “We want to be in strategic places where we can make our offer to local clients and get access to local insights to make a more influential agency, and a more relevant agency, in those markets.”
Amid its co-founders’ excitement for the future and their anticipation of change, Ramos and Bigio are “completely obsessed” with preserving the company’s culture – the single biggest factor, he says, behind its success to date. It’s not just the black T-shirts, but real investment in time spent together in spite of borders and time zones.
Gut staged a retreat for 100 staff in January of 2020 – a trip to Sãu Paulo. When lockdowns hit just weeks later, the team already had a web of international connections to draw upon, set by time spent together in the Brazilian metropolis. Those connections paid dividends during a period when many agencies struggled to keep talent from looking towards greener grass.
“As we grow in this partnership with Globant, our biggest challenge is to keep our culture strong. Our brand is powerful and it is what attracts clients to us, talent to us. It’s very important to keep that strong.”
It’s not the only challenge the company faces. Five years after announcing its ambition to be crowned independent network of the year at Cannes, Ramos has set a new goal for his team to chase.
“We want to be in the top three networks in the world. That makes me very uncomfortable because I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of time to get there. But if your dream doesn’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough.”