Q&A: three perspectives on Vivaldi’s acquisition of Gravity Thinking

Erich Joachimsthaler, Richard Rolka, Stephen Firth, Agathe Blanchon-Ehrsam, Tom Ajello and Andrew Roberts of Vivaldi.

Earlier this week, brand strategy specialist Vivaldi acquired digital performance marketing agency Gravity Thinking, with Waypoint Partners acting as consultants to the deal. The Drum Network spoke to leading figures from all three organisations for their thoughts on the acquisition.

Andrew Roberts, managing partner, Gravity Thinking

How long has Gravity Thinking operated as an independent?

Gravity Thinking was founded in 2007 by Stephen Firth and I, following our time working together at Chemistry Communications, which later sold to Publicis.

Had you fielded any acquisition enquiries prior to this one?

We worked with Waypoint Partners from 2017 to develop the proposition and business growth strategy – as part of this process we identified different routes for future growth and as a result of this process Waypoint introduced us to a number of different potential partners – Vivaldi was the most exciting opportunity for us to realise our ambitions.

What made this approach from Vivaldi so attractive to Gravity Thinking?

We have always worked to keep the agency at the forefront of developments in the industry. Integrating a growth consultancy offering with best-in-class market activation disrupts the current agency model and offers clients a huge opportunity to take advantage of a different approach.

Will you retain the Gravity Thinking brand?

Gravity Thinking offering will eventually live under the Vivaldi master brand with the migration plan details being ironed out in the next few weeks.

What does joining Vivaldi add to Gravity Thinking’s offering?

It enhances our business, brand strategy and data analytics offering and offers the opportunity to work with Vivaldi on their flagship platform business models, offering our clients the next chapter in brand-building.

Erich Joachimsthaler, founder and chief executive, Vivaldi

What skills/capabilities were you looking to bring in house with this acquisition?

We were first attracted to Gravity Thinking’s leading-edge social and digital marketing capabilities, in particular, their world-class customer journey analytics and brand funnel optimization. This complements Vivaldi’s business and brand strategy, data analytics, creative and technology capabilities very well. Having now worked together for the last few months, we’ve also been really impressed with the quality of the leadership team, their broader business and marketing acumen and the entrepreneurial, impact-focused spirit that we share.

What market challenges motivated the decision to acquire Gravity Thinking?

The sheer size and importance of the UK consulting market was a key motivator, and the acquisition is a commitment to the growth of our presence in the UK, making London a beachhead from which Vivaldi can serve clients across key global markets. The acquisition also fits into a broader vision of expanding our creative capabilities across Europe.

Most importantly, given the shift in clients’ needs and the changing consulting and agency landscape, the acquisition is part of an ongoing strategy by Vivaldi to extend its creative and UX capabilities into measurable social and digital activation in order to better unlock opportunities for clients.

What first brought Gravity Thinking to your attention?

We had been in touch with Waypoint when they introduced us to Gravity Thinking. We were intrigued and open to conversations given the strong overlap in client relationships (e.g., Hyundai, Allianz, Philips, Disney) and the common point of view on the future of building brands.

What does Gravity Thinking add to Vivaldi’s offering?

Gravity Thinking further enhances Vivaldi’s ability to help business leaders create exponential growth and demonstrate market-proven impact by delivering impactful market-proven strategic recommendations to clients, by strengthening our strategy-to-experience approaches and by introducing new in-market testing and optimization capabilities.

The deliberate integration of strategy expertise, award-winning creativity and in-market activation is the new model of building strong brands and the only way in today’s market to sustainably drive growth and impact.

Does Vivaldi expect to make any further acquisitions this year?

We have acquisition targets deliberately built in to our strategic roadmap, in addition to organic growth. We are in talks with a few other firms but are mindful of the need for the right fit at a strategic, operational and cultural level and so don’t have a set timeline for these acquisitions.

Otto Stevens, Partner at Waypoint Partners

What was the original brief Gravity Thinking brought to you?

Gravity Thinking were looking to find a partner to help scale their proposition to new geographies and clients, and where their service offering would make a strategic complement to the group’s offering (i.e. leveraging in-market activation and data-driven media).

What brought Vivaldi to your attention as a potential candidate for acquisition?

Vivaldi offered an exciting opportunity to evolve Gravity Thinking’s business by forming a group at the leading edge of the industry. Vivaldi’s access to the C-suite of some of the world’s largest organisations, undertaking transformational projects, opens new opportunities for the Gravity Thinking team to drive marketing execution and ultimately tangible results.

Both parties share a similar vision of where the industry is heading and how to best add value to clients, with a laser focus on data as a means to impact change.

What process do you go through to ensure a good personality/culture match between acquiring companies and their targets?

A strong cultural fit is the bedrock of any transaction, and at Waypoint we put this at the top of the agenda. We work with parties on both sides to facilitate the development of a mutual understanding and shared vision.

This is especially important when groups emerge from different backgrounds and business models, as is the case with Vivaldi and Gravity Thinking. In this case the two groups found themselves converging in both culture and vision, making for an exciting and transformative transaction.

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