S4 Capital hires more ex-WPP execs to bolster international growth

Spirit will also sit on the board as a director, and will be joined by fellow former WPP alumni Elizabeth Buchanan

Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital has tapped ex-WPP exec Scott Spirit as chief growth officer to focus on clients, mergers, acquisitions and investor relations out of its newly opened Singapore office.

Spirit will also sit on the board as a director and will be joined by fellow former WPP alumni Elizabeth Buchanan – who will take up the role of non-exec director in July.

Spirit joined WPP as Sorrell’s assistant and he told The Drum he was looking forward to “reuniting” with his former boss.

Having served 15 years with the holding group – most recently as chief strategy and digital officer – Spirit left WPP just three months after Sorrell’s shock resignation from the business. Since then he has been working at artificial intelligence firm Eureka AI where he will continue to serve as a board member and advisor.

“One of the exciting things about joining S4 is that it’s a new company and it’s starting from day one in a way. I’m looking forward to the fact it’s fully staffed by entrepreneurs who are ambitious and focused on growing S4 into a global network," Spirit said.

Buchanan, meanwhile, has 25 years’ experience in technology, marketing and advertising including founding her own full-service digital ad agency, The White Agency. She has also held senior roles at WPP, OMD Worldwide and most recently martech innovator Rokt.

Sorrell, who announced the hires in a statement timed to land on the same day as WPP’s annual general meeting, said he was “delighted” to work with Spirit again and welcome both him and Buchanan to the team,

“I know that Scott’s proven knowledge of global markets will be invaluable as we continue to expand the business technologically and internationally,” he added.

“Elizabeth has rare global experience at the forefront of innovation in the industry and that makes her an obvious choice for a disruptive, purely digital business like S4Capital.”

This isn’t the first time the advertising luminary has tapped talent from WPP. Last year, he hired Michel de Rijk to run S4’s APAC operations.

Driving growth in APAC and beyond

Earlier this year, S4 Capital posted its full-year results for 2018, reporting pre-tax profits of £7.6m and a revenue bump of 58% to £135.9m.

Mergers and acquisitions (which will form part of Spirit's responsibilities going forward) have been a major part of Sorrell's strategy. Acquisitions so far have included digital production outfit MediaMonks and programmatic consultancy MightyHive, which has since picked up business from the likes of EA.

In February, MediaMonks won Avon’s global content business and MightyHive helped Sprint bring media in-house – giving a flavour of the different services S4 is pitching to clients, in a manner Sorrell told The Drum earlier this year was “faster, better, and cheaper” than what traditional holding groups could offer.

Spirit acknowledges that in-housing will also be a major focus for him when working with clients.

“If you look at the major trends in the industry just now, in-housing is one of them – particularly on the content and production side as well as on the programmatic media side, which is an area S4 is very well positioned in thanks to MediaMonks and Mighty Hive.

"It’s very difficult for traditional agencies, who are very defensive about this idea of in-housing because it’s destructive to their current business model – where I think [those two agencies] don’t have that 200-year history that some of the big ad houses do. They’ve been set up in an environment where in-housing was always a concept and they’ve adapted their services towards."

Though Spirit will work out of S4's Singapore HQ – a market he is familiar with having already been based there for seven years - his remit will be to drive S4's global growth.

Asia will still be a major focus for him though. His appointment dovetails with MediaMonks' hire of former APD Singapore chief executive Tobis Wilson as its vice-president of growth in APAC, with S4 having earmarked the region for further investment.

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