Fetch CEO James Connelly on £30m Dentsu Aegis deal: 'I want to grow something big'

Fetch’s estimated £30m acquisition by Dentsu Aegis will push the mobile agency to “a different level” according to its chief executive James Connelly.

James Connelly

He told The Drum that being part of a global network represented the best way for London-based Fetch to realise its growth ambitions in the US and Asia and expand its cross-platform services.

And he insisted that there had been no redundancies because of the deal. “It’s quite the opposite,” he said. “We’re going to be on a talent drive.”

Five-year-old Fetch received its first acquisition overtures in its second year of business, Connelly claimed, but it was at the end of 2013 that discussions about selling began in earnest.

“It got to about the end of last year and we drummed up a lot of interest. And I thought, we’re going to get to pick who we sell to here, which is great.

“We spoke to most of the agency groups and met some great people, but what I particularly liked about Dentsu Aegis was their scale in Asia and their intent in Europe and North America,” Connelly said after the deal was announced this morning.

He cited digital agency iProspect’s progress under Dentsu Aegis ownership as one of the things that attracted him to the network. “They’ve taken a brand and properly scaled it. This is a home where we’ll sit under the operating company rather than an agency, which means Fetch is still going to exist in five years’ time and hopefully we’ll have scaled massively – that was really important to me.”

Fetch is the second independent agency to be snapped up this week following SapientNitro falling into network ownership as part of Publics Groupe’s $3.7bn acquisition of its parent company Sapient on Monday.

Asked why network ownership appealed to Fetch, Connelly said: “If you want to be truly global, truly cross-screen and truly leading in your field it’s very difficult to do that organically.

“You can’t do that organically because you need to seriously upskill in all areas outside of mobile and you need to be global.”

Being part of Dentsu Aegis will now give Fetch the impetus to further develop its small operation in Hong Kong and open a New York office “very soon”.

“I think what you’ll also see from Fetch isn’t just going into new markets, it’s developing the service we can offer our clients,” Connelly said. “Now we’re connected to an agency group that can do search cross-platform, traditional media, digital...

“The words I’m using internally are: chapter one is done. And now this is chapter two. I want to grow something big. Right now Fetch is growing really well but I think it’s going to be at a different level now.”

Connelly would not comment on rumours that he and fellow shareholders are working towards highly-incentivised earn-outs. “That’s all speculation. It goes without saying that as the CEO of this business I was able to pick the right deal.”

And the 28-year-old, whose only other taste of corporate life came as “the most junior person in the building” at IPC Media aged 18, is realistic about the transition ahead.

“It would be silly for anyone to do a transaction like this and expect it all to be plain sailing and straightforward,” Connelly said. “Ultimately there are going to be a few challenges but they are very worthwhile taking on. I like new challenges.”

Earlier this week The Drum spoke to a range of agency bosses about what effect the 'big six' holding groups' acquisitions are having on the independent agency landscape.

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