The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Agency Models Mergers and Acquisitions Marketing

Manchester-based BJL absorbed into DentsuMB UK’s creative offering


By John Glenday, Reporter

April 29, 2021 | 4 min read

Dentsu is to fold Manchester-based creative agency BJL, which it acquired in 2019, into DentsuMB UK. The move will unite over 120 UK employees under one roof as a ‘national creative agency’.

Manchester-based BJL absorbed into DentsuMB UK’s creative offering

Dentsu is to fold Manchester-based creative agency BJL, which it acquired in 2019, into DentsuMB UK.

The combined agency will operate under the DentsuMB brand, led by DentsuMB UK chief executive Gareth Collins.

Veteran BJL chief executive Nicky Unsworth, managing partner Jackie Holt and finance director Iain Kerr will step down from the business this week having successfully guided the integration.

What is DentsuMB?

  • The unification drive forms part of a broader Dentsu strategy to establish DentsuMB and Isobar as the one and only ‘creative heart’ of the network.

  • DentsuMB is itself the product of a merger, formed back in May 2020 by drawing together Dentsu brand agencies and creative house McGarryBowen.

  • The latest addition to the creative colossus is BJL, acquired by Dentsu in February 2019, drawing a respectable client base including British Airways, Asda, Ronseal and Halfords.

  • Dentsu positions the tie-up as a match made in heaven, with BJL’s domestic strength perfectly complemented by the international clout of DentsuMB’s borderless business, which includes well-known brands such as American Express, Asahi, DAZN and Generali.

  • Split between London and Manchester, the combined entity is positioned as a one-stop-shop for offering creative solutions to clients both at home and abroad.

  • With over 120 staff at its disposal, DentsuMB will also benefit from economies of scale with BJL’s particular skillset in digital, CRM, PR and social bolstering the overall offer.

What will the merger look like?

  • Continuity is the watchword of the day, with BJL managing partners Julie Chadwick and Guy Ainsworth, alongside Director Lucy Pritchard, remaining in post to work alongside DentsuMB Managing Partners Brendan Taylor and Aarti Kulkarni to lead their respective client teams.

  • Elsewhere Simon Lloyd, DentsuMB’s chief creative officer, will lead creative work in London in concert with BJL creative director Richard Pearson, who will oversee creative operations in Manchester.

  • Meanwhile, DentsuMB’s chief strategy officer, Sophie Lewis, will work closely with BJL’s head of strategy Tony Evans and head of commercial strategy Karen Kidd to round off the leadership roles.

  • Behind all these maneuvers has been long-term succession planning led by BJL chief Nicky Unsworth, who steered the tie-up. Unsworth said: “Having worked closely with the team at DentsuMB for many months, we knew this was the right cultural fit for BJL, and the best way of maximizing the capabilities and expertise we have built up over three decades.

  • “I’m very proud of our leadership team, which will now transition to leadership roles in DentsuMB and help to build a truly global creative hub in London and Manchester.”

Why does it matter?

  • The DentsuMB/BJL combination is the latest in a long line of consolidations in an industry where scale is now king.

  • Notable examples include a merger between Grey and AKQA, which brought together 6,000 staff across 50 nations in the name of a shared vision to establish itself as the world’s pre-eminent creative agency.

  • On a smaller scale, MediaCom has undertaken a merger of its data and creativity teams under the MediaCom Creative Systems banner to better integrate the previously disparate wings of the business.

  • Through all this, WPP’s voracious appetite for new agencies shows no sign of slowing following the merger of Geometry into VMLY&R to establish VMLY&R Commerce, a marriage of the talent and reach of both operations.

Agency Models Mergers and Acquisitions Marketing

Content created with:


Dentsu Inc. is a Japanese international advertising and public relations joint stock company headquartered in Tokyo. Dentsu is currently the largest advertising...

Find out more

More from Agency Models

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +