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News UK forms in-house agency Pulse Creative in partnership with consortium of WPP agencies

News UK is launching an in-house agency in partnership with The&Partnership, Wunderman and GroupM that will create and distribute branded content on and off-platform.

Dubbed Pulse Creative, the division assumes control of all creative communications for the Times, the Sunday Times, the Sun as well as the tabloid’s newly-formed betting business.

Its staffed by a 70-person team from a number of WPP's agencies including The&Partnership (CHI&Partners, m/SIX and The Box) alongside Wunderman and GroupM's Mindshare. Their combined experience spans strategy, creative, design, digital content, social and user experience. Within the unit will be a specialist division for News UK’s fledgling betting and gaming business, which it has high hopes for opening up new revenues from its readers.

News UK had been exploring alternative agency models since the turn of the year when it moved its creative duties from Grey back to CHI&Partners.

A cross-discpline 'agency model of the future'

Pulse Creative will produce everything from news-led digital campaigns to targeted media strategies produced internally at the publisher, which has made fundamental changes to try and prosper at a time when the client- agency-publisher dynamic is becoming increasingly redundant in the shift to more native ad experiences. Such has been the breadth of the change at News UK that its commercial and marketing functions were restructured last month under The Bridge to explore new revenue models beyond advertising.

Chris Duncan, chief customer officer at News UK, said: “We've worked with a great team to design an agency set-up that can work alongside our business and accelerate our performance. The mix of on-premise and on-demand skills gives us a balance of immediacy and insight, and we can manage bigger ideas and better execution across so many disciplines. Pulse Creative allows our marketing teams to spend less time connecting diverse agencies with competing interests, and more time bringing great campaigns to life for our customers.”

The in-house hub will be steered by senior executives from all its stakeholders including The&Partnership founder Johnny Hornby, CHI&Partners’ chief executive Sarah Golding and chief strategy officer Neil Goodlad, m/SIX’s Global chief executive Jess Burley, Wunderman’s managing director Chris Daplyn and EMEA chief strategy officer Richard Dunn.

Danny Josephs, managing director at Pulse Creative, said: “The launch of Pulse Creative marks a very special moment – bringing together the cross-discipline expertise of each of these agencies with a number of individuals who have an exceptional track record in creating highly successful work for News UK. We’re all very proud to be involved.”

The publisher of the future acts like an agency

The cost of entry to compete in today’s ad game has collapsed and so agencies that once thrived because of their digital expertise now find themselves going head-to-head with publishers, while publishers find their insight into content production being challenged by agencies. As a result, publishers like News UK and agencies from WPP’s stable are more willing to collaborate in order to maintain the quality of their content for brands.

Jason Foo, chief executive at BBD Perfect Storm, added: “On the face of it, this [Pulse Creative] looks like a very exciting and compelling proposition for all parties. One P&L across the integrated team, means a completely aligned client-led approach with appropriate independence, integration, scale and flexibility. The client will benefit from this, whilst the respective agency owners have also created an entity that is likely to embed them into the clients’ business and foreseeably drive off other agency competition.”

In the last 15 years there has been a constant switch from integrated to stand alone in the world of advertising agencies. The interesting thing about this particular move is that it reflects the grown up state of the industry at this point in time, according to Phillipa Ellis, head of strategy and marketing at media agency December19.

"Great media ideas are no longer just the domain of the media agency, and the same applies to owners of creativity and brand strategy,"continued Ellis.

"Input is now invited from all agency partners across all disciplines, so in theory this collaborative approach should result in the best, most insightful strategies for News UK brands. All that remains to be seen is how this team plan to remain ‘creative’ and free from the restrictions or politics that might bound those that are working within the organisation (including existing marketing teams), as well as an idea of how they might work with their commercial colleagues to bring these wider opportunities to keen advertisers."

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