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Marketing Agency Culture Mergers and Acquisitions

My sad, selfish love letter to Uncommon

Author

By Rob Campbell | Chief Strategy Officer

July 14, 2023 | 8 min read

Colenso BBDO's Rob Campbell spoke for many in the industry when he said he was "a little bit heartbroken" when Uncommon sold to Havas.

Uncommon

I really didn’t want to write this.

Not just because it has the potential to come out completely wrong, but because my sentimental, romantic, purist dreams have been cracked. (Story of my life).

Anyway, this is about Uncommon choosing to sell.

I – like many people – love Uncommon. I love the work, the people, the beliefs. But I probably took this love a little too far...

You see, I wrote about Uncommon… I sent Uncommon people I adore to hire... I introduced Uncommon to a mate who became a client... I bought friends copies of ‘Afterwards’, the brilliant book by Charlotte, Nils' wife. Hell, I even bought a painting by Nils mum... so to say I was emotionally invested in their success is an understatement.

Now the good news is they never had to get the police involved because as dreamy as their smiles may be, my adoration is only for what they stand for, what they do, and what they want to change.

In an industry seemingly aspiring to be business beige, Uncommon is like a comet shining fast and bright across the sky.

It forced the whole industry to look up and look forward. Its hunger to make things - rather than talk about making things - is both prolific and inspiring. And its love of undertaking projects that celebrate the power of creativity rather than just advertising is beautiful. My god, it even inspired global agencies to start adding the word ‘studio’ to their name.

It's so brilliant. But better than that, it’s true.

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Uncommon is hope. A symbol to the wider industry of what we can be when we choose to be. A reminder that ‘making’ and ‘craft’ are competitive advantages, not financial inconveniences. And that it’s all possible without being an asshole. Incredible.

So, with this all-in mind, I’m ecstatic they’ve reaped the rewards.

If the stories are true, that it's gone from zero to a £120m payout in just five short years. That’s better than even the most-questionable insta-currency FX ‘expert’ would promise. And they deserve it. Totally. Utterly. Undeniably.

And yet - and I appreciate I may sound a prick saying this - I’m a little bit heartbroken it sold.

I swear this has nothing to do with jealousy. I’m proper thrilled for them. Plus, it hasn’t escaped my attention their decision could help the entire industry, because once the bean counters see the value of the Uncommon sale, they may understand why creativity - rather than convenience – is the thing to champion.

But whether it’s because I spent so long at the brilliant, perma-independent, Wieden+Kennedy or because I’m a purist idiot with anarchist aspirations... but when I heard the news Uncommon had sold, it made me feel a little sad.

It was similar to how I reacted when one of my favorite footballers, Stan Collymore left my hometown club, Nottingham Forest.

Stan lit up my team. His goals fundamentally changed who we were and how we were seen. He elevated those around him... he opened possibilities and he let us challenge and change the natural order of the game.

Then he left.

And while his talent and skills never changed, he was no longer ours... which is what I think is the thing that has selfishly made me feel a little sad about the Uncommon news.

Because that agency made us care. It helped us believe. It represented a bigger and more exciting future. A future where we all mattered again and maybe could achieve more than many will ever give us credit for.

But now they’re no longer ours, they’re someone else’s. And while I totally appreciate this is a stupid and selfish view, it’s also a huge compliment.

Because Uncommon made the industry want them to succeed. To prove the impossible. To change it all for all of us.

Of course, we should never rely on others for our own futures. And the reality is, Uncommon isn’t going to suddenly stop being Uncommon – in fact, it’s the opposite given they’re going to use some of its bank-busting cash to spread the Uncommon ethos even further around the world.

But while I love the idea there are holding company CEOs smashing their heads on their desks for what Havas has pulled off... and that the brilliant CCO at Havas London Vicki Maguire – has something to smile about after witnessing her beloved Leicester City get relegated... there’s still a teeny part of me that wishes Uncommon hadn’t sold, albeit off-set by the undisputable (and rare) reality that the good guys won.

And if that’s not something worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.

Havas buys Uncommon - the whole story

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