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'We think it’s a great deal' - I Spy CEO Jim Brigden discusses iProspect acquisition

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By Stephen Lepitak | -

August 1, 2012 | 6 min read

With the news that I Spy Marketing and it’s 40+ members of staff are to join the Aegis owned digital business iProspect for an undisclosed sum, CEO of I Spy Jim Brigden speaks to The Drum about the deal, how it came about and what timescales are in place to integrate the agency within its new parent company.

How long have talks been ongoing with iProspect?

"Over the last few years we have had talks with various groups and we started talking with iProspect a good few months ago and we’ve been planning it pretty carefully ever since then."

What about iProspect was it, if you’d had several approaches already, that sold them as the right buyer?

"When we talked about the first approaches and we tried to work out whether we should talk to the people or not, we drew up a list of criteria of the people we would sell to. We had to do a deal that was right on lots of different levels. It had to be right for our clients, it had to work for our team, it had to work for the board and shareholders and the criteria that we decided upon was ‘Is it a group that gives us scale internationally? Is it somebody that is passionate about digital marketing? Is it somebody with the right synergies? and most importantly of all Is it a team that we can get on with? Those were the four criteria that we focused on and as soon as we started talking to iProspect, we knew that we had a lot of client synergies through Vauxhall, Littlewoods and Shop Direct, BrandAlley and VisitScotland, we have a lot of shared clients and also a lot of shared experiences. We’ve worked with quite a few of the team at iProspect before, so there’s a really good chemistry there."

Why did they choose to buy I Spy Marketing then?

"They’re going through a huge growth themselves. They are one of the fastest growing marketing specialists out there and they are winning business and they are looking for a good business to merge with which can help facilitate their growth. Our reputation is rock solid. We do good work for our clients, and when they checked that out and looked at the management team, they said ‘it makes a lot of sense.'"

Will you become a division of IProspect?

"We will be merging in as quickly as we possibly can. The I Spy brand will disappear quite rapidly and we will become iProspect very quickly and our team are moving across to their offices so that we will become on business.

"There’s quite a few difficult things that we need to complete. The integration taskforce which Chris Whitelaw, myself and Ben Wood are driving to get everything integrated as quickly as we can. We certainly want to be in the offices by the end of the year with a new structure by then, be fully integrated with all client management and all processes and technology completed by the end of this year."

What do you foresee being the most complicated aspect of all that?

"There’s a quite a lot of client things to work through, including who’s going to manage which clients and how do we make sure that our clients get the best results. That’s always an opportunity and a challenge for both businesses. It’s important that we don’t stop doing what we’ve always done, which is doing great work for our clients and integrating a business is quite a complicated thing. It’s important that we don’t take that way away, that’s the last thing that IProspect will want if they want to keep I Spy’s performance growing as quickly as it is."

Have there been any issues with clients as a result of this deal?

"We got in early this morning and started calling our clients, as we’ve kept it deadly under-wraps until now. We’ve had a client presentation, and none of our key clients have any exclusivity and a lot of them are shared with IProspect and are excited about us joining forces. We’re hoping that there are no major client issues as a result of the acquisition."

How do clients benefit from this deal?

"We were attracted to IProspect because they are specialists as well. They have a heritage in search and direct response, as ours is. They also have got lots of other assets such as offline assets; offline media buying power, they’ve got a great research reputation, they’ve got an analytics and data team, they’ve got a much bigger development team, they’ve got a much bigger display media buying team, they’ve got so many assets that we haven’t got that we can hook our clients into."

What financial details can you reveal of the deal?

"We’re not disclosing details, but we wouldn’t have done the deal if it wasn’t worthwhile."

What is the length that the directors have in terms of being tied into remain with iProspect?

"Chris, myself and Ben will be leading the business but we’re not official on the board of anything and we’re not disclosing details around that. Chris and myself will be with the business for the next few years. There is something in place to keep us there.

"I’m really excited about joining the business. We wouldn’t have done the deal if we weren’t excited about it. It makes lots of sense for the clients, for the team, for the shareholders. Chris and myself, we think it’s a great deal."

The Drum understands that the average acquisition deal by Aegis ties in senior management for four-years afterwards.

The deal to acquire I Spy, which last year had gross assets of £2.9m, was advised by Clarity.

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