Common Interest

If you spend long enough watching the agency sector like we do at Waypoint, you get to see all manner of innovation and new entrants. In the last decade, the networks have given away ground to the management consultants, then started to win it back again; challenger groups like Stagwell and S4 Capital have appeared offering a response to the ‘modern marketing brief’ and chipped away at the holdcos in the process; private equity meanwhile has continued to grow its influence.

This means that we know potential when we see it and when Campaign recently heralded the first acquisition by a new holding company we were intrigued. Common Interest is that new holding company and its founder credentials are impeccable.

Is there room for a different kind of group that isn’t simply about more of the same done digitally, better, faster, cheaper? What if someone were to build an agency offer that genuinely comes from a different starting point?  If what Common Interest deliver in the months ahead in any way matches the launch splash and expectation they’ve created, I suspect there’ll be pretty decent appetite for their new approach.

Their most striking point of difference is that they are funded and led by nine individuals. That’s really unusual. In the agency world it’s normally one or two people with a very clear, personal vision and take on things. In comparison, nine senior people with a wide range of experiences from the connected fields of “film, entertainment, tech, media, gaming and advertising” represents a much broader set of skills and opinions and the potential to build a vastly more interesting kind of business.

You also get further clues that they might be unusual when you look at the language they use to describe themselves and how they talk in terms of culture and society rather than services and disciplines.

And they have big ambitions, claiming to want to buy ‘between eight and 10 businesses in the next 24 months’. That’s hard work! It’s also why the first acquisition out of the blocks needs to be one that strikes the right note. And TwentyFirstCenturyBrand makes a big statement because of the names within it, Neil Barrie and Jonathan Mildenhall.

The kind of exposure Common Interest secured in Campaign and other media will have been designed to target ambitious owner-managed businesses who want to come in early doors and be part of something that’s pretty unique, where they can make their own impact. When you’re cashing in your personal equity to another business, you’ve got to really believe in the people running it and that’s why big names with a track record are such an important play here. Common Interest are telling a pretty compelling story with these early headlines so we’d expect plenty of traction!

Jim Houghton

Post by Jim Houghton

Partner at Waypoint Partners

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