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Tracy De Groose Fortysix Advertising Week

'An exciting ingredient in the mix,' startup tips for Dentsu Aegis' Fortysix

By Jon Goulding , Founding Partner

April 21, 2016 | 4 min read

An agency that’s solely focused on diversity? Launching in today’s climate? Tough ask. But one which Tracy de Groose announced at Advertising Week Europe on Tuesday.

The latest creative addition within Dentsu Aegis sounds exciting; genuinely full of potential. When wanting to reach a youthful market why not hire fortysix and have one of your audience running the agency you employ? Makes sense from a client perspective. But starting out is never easy.

Curiously named due to the number of days from conception to unveiling and coincidentally the number of chromosomes in humans, it’s that uniqueness they’ll be looking to harness. But it’s refreshing that a network is making such a bold statement about diversity rather than simply paying lip service, by trying to encourage umbrella agencies to be ‘a little bit more balanced’ in how they recruit talent and run their businesses.

Let’s hope they have the space and support from Dentsu to create a clear client-facing proposition and don’t simply become the pitch sizzle for the other network shops. Managing director Lewie Allen and team will have a short window to cement a direct client proposition and reputation before being pulled into every pitch across the group.

Allen was given advice from panellists Dr Yvonne Thompson, Will Greenwood and his former mentor Gi Fernando. And as someone who has been in his position with Atomic London, I wanted offer my own thoughts too.

I am whatever you say I am

Fortysixhas such strong youth and diversity credentials within the team, I’m sure they can create a robust proposition for clients. If they get it right, they should be able to turn youth and agility into a compelling and profitable value proposition, so long as they avoid the pitfall of being the fast turnaround, cheaper alternative to more established agencies. Clients buy people first and vision second, so a real chance to differentiate here.

Forty six and beyond

Make sure you find a way to build a long term commercial relationship with clients, not just project work. You have to assume fortysix will appeal most to youth and diverse ethnic brands and so there’s an opportunity to be core to the client’s business as opposed to ’the modern solution to a brief appealing to younger people’. With such strong diversity credentials, they would probably be wise to make sure they don’t shy away from plugging in some other minority, dare I say it ‘older’ talent, to help them lead and shape the business. There’s still something to be said for using people who can teach some new dogs some old tricks.


The double-edged sword is that you’re often perceived as unable to tackle more traditional briefs. I’d love to see what they would do if they were given the Brexit campaign to work on, for example, or even the Labour Party campaign for the next election. Undoubtedly some fresh thinking is needed for both and the status quo is ripe for a new approach.

Could it be the future? Part of the future, certainly. But not let’s forget a vast number of brands still don’t target consumers under 30 as they simply don’t have the disposable income.

I don’t honestly think that a company like that is more a definition of the future than a modern advertising agency or a brilliant tech-led agency. It’s great to have them as an exciting ingredient in the mix but it’s how they work together that’s going to be key for big brands that appeal to a broad cross section of society.

I wish them all the success and especially the Lewie Allen who clearly has infectious energy. Anyone leading an agency start-up deserves more than their fair share of good luck.

Jon Goulding is founding partner at Atomic London

Tracy De Groose Fortysix Advertising Week

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