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Business on the Move Advertising Precedent

Digital agency Precedent liquidated after 30 years: 'We just couldn't pull it back'


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

October 15, 2019 | 3 min read

Precedent, once a powerhouse international digital agency that worked with the likes of the BBC and MTV in its prime, has been liquidated. The UK-based indie was one of the earliest movers in digital, launched 30 years ago by former Wolff Olins designer Paul Hoskins.


Corporate comms produced by Precedent / Precedent

The founder explained to The Drum that the agency had “over-expanded” as it grew to employ more than 150 staff across London, Hong Kong and Australia at its height. He also cited heavy losses and the reputational damage of being involved in Australia’s largest-ever data leak among the pressures it faced.

Hoskins traced the company's difficulties back to a 2015 tragedy. Agency managing director Hardip Bhamra, who had helped lead the business for more than 20 years, died from a heart attack in the London office. The industry issued an outpouring of condolences for a “gentle and honest” man.

Then in 2017, it shut its Australian wing after after it was involved in a data breach that became a national scandal. It had exposed the personal records of 550,000 donors to the Red Cross Blood Service. In the same year, its UK business entered administration.

After appointing a voluntary liquidator in January 2019, Precedent's London operations were finally shuttered for good in August 2019.

Hoskins said: “We just couldn’t pull it back. The overheads were too high and we damaged our reputation with the data leak. It has ended in failure – but it was incredibly successful at one point.”

Hoskins and some Precedent staff have now made the move to, Australia and New Zealand’s ‘fastest growing education consultancy’. He is also a non-exec on a few agency boards to “enable them do the things I did right and not do the things I did wrong”.

Reflecting on where Precedent fell down, he concluded: “The agency sector is changing, we were about digital design and build. We possibly hadn’t made the transition to become a full technical agency, and that is probably required now.”

Come 1 October, several clients tweeted about blackouts to their services. They were unaware of the group’s closure and found out from the liquidator.

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