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TH_NK CEO and BIMA chair Tarek Nseir: ‘Out of consolidation comes immense opportunity’ for independent agencies

The vigorous acquisitions and resulting consolidation between agencies and consultancies is unquestionably shaping the industry, but it’s also a movement that spells “immense opportunity” for independent agencies who are able to offer clients a “different point of view”, according to TH_NK chief executive and British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) chair Tarek Nseir.

The advertising industry is in a state of flux. While traditional holding companies like WPP and Publicis have slowed the speed of M&A compared to former times(from the late 80s to early 2000s WWP acquired J. Walter Thompson, The Ogilvy Group, Research firms Millward Brown and Research International, Young & Rubicam and Grey Global Group) the likes of Accenture, Deloitte, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers have made huge global deals. In 2016 Accenture acquired advertising agency Karmarama, while Deloitte bought Heat to expand its growing digital practice.

According to Ad Age’s The 2016 Agency Report, which lists the top digital networks in 2015, Accenture Interactive, IBM InteractiveExperience, Deloitte Digital and PwC Digital Services are now among the world's 10 largest digital networks. At the same time clients are paring back the number of agencies that they work with to offset rising financial pressures and foster more effective strategies.

And it is in this shakeup that independent agencies stand to benefit.“The agency landscape has changed and the consultancies are consolidating the agency space quickly,” Nseir, who heads up independent agency TH_NK told The Drum. “And whilst there has been a huge amount of consolidation there is a huge amount of opportunity for the independent... A big part of what we see in front of us is an incredibly exciting time for a next generation of independents who stand apart from the behemoths that are forming in our industry.

“The challenge with these large organisations is they are often not as adaptive and they also have larger agendas that they are fulfilling and those agendas don’t always align to the needs of marketers or CEOs. So, the opportunity for some of the talent that has been consolidated to come together and create a new generation of independents that are more entrepreneurially minded is huge.”

Change is also afoot at BIMA, which is reshaping itself to better represent the digital industry as it stands today. Currently, the trade association is managed by an elected committee of leaders that support regional communities across the UK. Now BIMA is disbanding its Committee Executive and replacing it with a council, with each community having its own. Essentially it wants to become a “modern day community structure” that will focus on sharing knowledge, developing education and recognising achievement.

The new structure will help support people working in the industry through challenges such as the changing digital media landscape and the diversity issues that Brexit will bring.

Reflecting on the recent comments of P&G’s top marketer Marc Pritchard, who said that he would no longer be satisfied with the murky metrics it’s getting from Facebook in return for a multi-billion dollar media spend, Nseir said he “sympathised” with Pritchard’s stance but added that the likes of Siri and messaging interfaces will continue to give advertisers less control.

“I think we are about to see a whole new generation of digital media challenges, because as we move to experiences that are assisted like the Siris or Alexas or the messaging interfaces, those are going to be entirely new data driven mediums where advertisers and brands can connect with their audiences. However, those advertisers will not have the same level of control and choice that they have been used to and I can only see that situation continuing.

“Much like the agency space there is consolidation in digital media and I for one would say that it may not suit how P&G would choose to advertise but in reality that is where the world is going.

“If you are an integrated marketer I sympathise with that perspective because in integrated marketing you can create demands and deliver a very controlled execution, but these new mediums challenge that and challenge the ability for integrated marketing to exist in the way that it does today.”