New Year Honors Marketing

S4 Capital... for its soaring headcount: The Drum editorial team’s best of 2020


By The Drum Reporters, Editorial team

December 31, 2020 | 4 min read

It’s that time again, when we look back at the agencies, the brands, the organizations, movements and trends that have shaped the past year. In 2020 – a year so many of us would like to forget – our industry of problem solvers proved time and again that they have what it takes to muck in, help out, ask questions, shape cultures and change the world. It is them that we celebrate in our New Year Honors.


Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital has seen sales, profits and headcount soar

While much of adland is licking its wounds, Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital has seen sales, profits and headcount soar.

S4, which labels itself a tech-led, new age, new era digital advertising and marketing services company, has achieved significant results in its two-and-a-half years of existence. Per November’s Q3 earnings announcement: revenue was up almost 53% to the tune of £86.4m ($113.8m). Gross profit was up 79% to £75.3m ($100.6m). And headcount was up 26% compared to a year earlier – it now has 2,870 employees and is looking to continue to hire aggressively.

So, what will Sorrell’s recipe for success look like for next year? He told The Drum that S4 will focus on three things. One, establishing and developing the 2020 ‘whopper’ wins of BMW/Mini and Mondelez and further conversion at scale to reach its 20 squared objective [securing 20 clients that represent more than $20m revenues each]. Two, launching its unitary, one P&L branding. Three, concluding further mergers, which broaden its content, data and digital media client offers. To that end, Sorrell raised £116m ($146m) in a July stock offering so he can continue to put the pieces of his digital-first machine before our eyes.

After a spree of acquisitions in 2019, 2020 offered more of the same aggressiveness. In May, MightyHive merged with Digodat, one of the leading Latin American data consultancies. In June, it then merged with Lens10, a leading Australian digital strategy and analytics consultancy. In July, it merged with Orca Pacific, a market leading full-service Amazon agency and boutique consultancy firm based in Seattle. And in August, it merged with London-based Brightblue, an econometric and media optimization consultancy. In September, meanwhile, MediaMonks merged with the award-winning, Paris-based creative agency Dare.Win.

Sorrell says he is very bullish for the new year. “2021 will be a global bounce-back year from the pandemic, with worldwide GDP growing 5-6%, which we haven’t seen for many years. Tokyo 2021 and Euro 2021 will provide additional tailwinds to digital advertising spend, which will resume a 20% growth rate and will represent significantly more than 50% of total advertising spend for the first time. All in all, a very exciting year ahead after a very successful 2020.”

Updated: S4 got out of the gates quickly in 2021, announcing the acquisitions of Decoded and Metric Theory on Jan. 4. Read more here.

We’ll be celebrating all our favorite things about 2020 on between now and early January. Keep an eye on our New Year Honors hub to read more.

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