These updates were added to Adbrands company and agency pages following the end of the Weekly Update.
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Dec 2021: English media tycoon Viscount Rothermere's Christmas present to himself and his family was the private buyout of Daily Mail & General Trust, one of the UK's most influential newspaper groups. DMGT is best known for the populist right wing newspaper the Daily Mail and its hugely successful online service MailOnline. In the pre-Covid age its events and exhibitions arm DMG Events was one of the world's biggest but performance has been hammered by the pandemic. Rothermere's family investment umbrella issued an offer to buy out public shareholders earlier this year, and announced this week that it had received the support of a majority of investors, allowing a full takeover to proceed. The deal values the business at around £885m.
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Nov 2021: Swedish telecoms infrastructure giant Ericsson has announced plans to acquire the US VoIP pioneer Vonage for $6.2bn. Founded in 2001, Vonage was among the first businesses to specialise in low-cost internet telephony, though much of its market was eroded by competition from the likes of Skype and WhatsApp. It now offers a variety of cloud-based communications solutions. The deal is Ericsson's biggest ever.
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Nov 2021: Private equity firms Hellman & Friedman and Bain Capital have teamed up to acquire healthcare technology firm Athenahealth for $17bn. The company develops software and database management solutions for medical groups and healthcare providers, including the digitisation of patient health records and electronic insurance claims and billing management.
Adbrands Daily Update 26th Oct 2021: Tesla is the latest member of the US trillionaires club after rental company Hertz placed an order for 100,000 electric vehicles to be delivered by the end of next year. That news caused Tesla's stock price to surpass $1,000 per share for the first time during Monday, pushing the company's market cap to $1,024bn by close of day. As a result, Tesla joins an exclusive club of US corporates whose other members are currently Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet. Saudi Aramco is the only non-US member. Facebook - which joined the club for the first time in July - is currently stuck outside again after its share price dipped (temporarily no doubt) following its recent run of negative media coverage.
Adbrands Daily Update 28th Sep 2021: In a further startling example of consolidation in the entertainment industry, top global talent agency CAA has agreed to acquire its smaller rival ICM for an undisclosed sum. The deal would close the gap considerably with industry leader Endeavor, itself formed from the merger of several talent agencies including William Morris and IMG. Only one "mini-major" talent agency remains, United Talent Agency, previously the #3 behind Endeavor and CAA. The latter's clients include Brad Pitt, Scarlett Johansson, Meryl Streep, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg among many others. ICM has a similar, though slightly less starry, roster of in-front-of-the-camera talent, but is also known for its roster of top-level producers, especially in TV, including 'Bridgerton' and 'Grey's Anatomy' creator Shonda Rhimes and Vince Gilligan of 'Breaking Bad'. ICM also has a major presence in the book publishing industry, as well as in sports. Following completion, the ICM brand will be retired, and the merged business will retain the CAA name.
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Sep 2021: US gambling company DraftKings, best known for its fantasy sports betting tournaments, is making a play for the traditional gambling arena with an offer to acquire UK-based Entain, owner of the Ladbrokes and Coral networks of betting shops and online sites including Bwin, Foxy Bingo, Party Poker and SportingBet. DraftKings' offer values Entain at £16.4bn in cash and stock. Earlier this year, Entain rejected an offer from casino operator MGM Resorts worth around £8bn. However, MGM is already Entain's partner in the US-based digital joint venture BetMGM. As a result, it claims it has a say in any deal offered by DraftKings."MGM will engage with Entain and DraftKings, as appropriate, to find a solution to the exclusivity arrangements which meets all parties' objectives," it said.
Adbrands Daily Update 13th Sep 2021: Software developer Intuit has agreed to acquire the email service Mailchimp for a whopping $12bn. It's an unexpected expansion for Intuit, best-known for accounting software TurboTax and QuickBooks. However the company has already broadened its footprint into other fields through the purchase of credit score service Credit Karma (for $7.1bn in Feb 2020). It has also enjoyed success with the financial planning portal Mint.
Adbrands Daily Update 5th Aug 2021: Like its peers, WPP reported a solid rebound in performance in the latest quarter. Like-for-like (ie organic) growth of 19.3% lifted reported net revenues to £2.56bn, more or less equal to the equivalent period pre-Covid in 2019. There were especially strong performances in the UK, India and Canada (all between 30% and 34%), while Italy achieved a staggering 53%. Germany hit 20% and the US 12.6%. The only weak result came from Greater China, with just 1.4% for the latest quarter after very strong growth in Q1. Net revenues for the half were £4.9bn with net income of £353m.
Adbrands Daily Update 1st Jul 2020: Netflix named Bozoma Saint John as its new CMO, taking over from Jackie Lee-Joe, who is leaving the company for personal reasons. Saint John is one of the global industry's most high-profile female marketers, having held a succession of key roles including head of marketing for Apple Music and chief brand officer of Uber. Most recently she was CMO of talent and entertainment rights giant Endeavor.
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Jun 2021: "Make Good Things Happen". No chance of boredom in Publicis.Poke's hyperactive campaign for UK supermarket Morrisons. What was that? 30 different set-ups in 60 seconds? Plus a healthy serving of digital wizardry. A great spot for the UK's too often overlooked #4 supermarket.
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Jun 2021: Stagwell Group sweetened the terms of its proposed takeover of MDC Partners ahead of the shareholder vote on June 22nd. It pledged to appoint three additional directors to give a majority independent board. The new directors will include former WPP CFO Paul Richardson. It also offered to surrender some of the MDC shares it would previously have received in return for "unquestioned and broad support from MDCA shareholders in the near term". That would give MDC shareholders around 30% of the merged entity, rather than 26% at present. That's less than the 37% to 40% that is being requested by key shareholder Indaba Capital, but might be enough to sway other doubters among the MDC investors. Stagwell also announced that the new name for the merged group would be Stagwell Inc.
"Let's face facts," said Stagwell & MDC CEO Mark Penn in his letter to investors. "This combination does a great deal for MDC shareholders. The company has awesome creative ad firms, but MDC is too concentrated in the areas of marketing that are shrinking. Unsurprisingly, in the last few years, revenue has thus declined... When in 2019, MDC for the second time in the last decade needed funds to keep going, who stepped forward in the face of market silence? Stagwell. It's Stagwell who invested $100 million. We are right here alongside you."
Indaba Capital was quick to write off the new proposals as "minor and very immaterial changes" and said it will still vote against the merger. It also said that the three new supposedly independent directors all have close ties to either Mark Penn or his principal backer, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Adbrands Daily Update 28th May 2021: MDC Partners' proposed merger with Mark Penn's Stagwell Group was thrown into disarray after almost a year of planning by a formal objection from shareholder Indaba Capital. This apparently follows months of unsuccessful negotiations behind the scenes between Indaba and the special committee created to oversee the deal. Ahead of a shareholder vote next month, Indaba - MDC's largest stakeholder with 12% of equity - argues that the merger proposal under-estimates the value of MDC compared to the much smaller Stagwell. The current terms would give MDC's shareholders around 26% of a merged entity; Indaba says they should get between 37% and 40%. "Although we believe that management has done an impressive job navigating through the pandemic and driving improvements at MDC," says Indaba in an open letter, "that is not a justification for the Special Committee to essentially rubberstamp the unfair terms desired by Stagwell and Mr Penn." It argues that the terms of the deal unfairly favour Stagwell, and Mark Penn in particular, who could "make a fortune" from the merger. Penn himself responded to Indaba's letter by urging shareholders not to be "misled by crafty hedge funds" and to vote for the merger. "The market has spoken: Stagwell and MDC Partners are better together"
Adbrands Daily Update 5th May 2021: MDC Partners was still in the financial doghouse for Q1, with net revenues falling by -6.9% on an organic basis to $280m. That's still the weakest performance reported so far among any of the marketing groups. Soon-to-be owner Stagwell Group declined by the same percentage, in sharp contrast to its spectacular growth in Q4 2020. A much-needed silver lining for MDC was a net profit of $5.0m, up five-fold on the year ago. See all groups' organic performance.
Adbrands Daily Update 30th Apr 2021: No doubt encouraged by its stellar results in Q1, WPP announced that it is withholding further payments due to founder Sir Martin Sorrell under his long-term bonus arrangement. It said that these payouts are suspended as a result of Sorrell's "disclosure of confidential information belonging to WPP and certain of its clients to the media during his tenure as a WPP director". This relates to the bitter war of words between Sorrell and WPP following his resignation in 2018. The withheld bonus is thought to be worth around £500,000. Always one for a witty comeback, Sorrell said it's "just another case of peanut envy" - he has previously described his new group S4 Capital as a peanut compared to WPP, but one that has now grown into a coconut. "It's a bit rich that they're accusing me of leaks, given their own over the last three years. They've had to go back several years to try and find an excuse to deny me what's mine. I've left it to my lawyers to deal with. It seems like blind rage is driving them, not peanut or even coconut envy."
Adbrands Daily Update 28th Apr 2021: WPP took everyone by surprise (not least arch-rival Publicis) with a very strong set of results for Q1 that put it at the top of the organic/like-for-like growth leaderboard for the first time in six years or more. The British group reported like-for-like growth of 3.1% for the quarter, beating Publicis by several points. Its four top markets were all positive, though the amounts ranged from just 0.7% in the US through 2.5% in Germany and 3.9% in the UK to 18.4% in China. Among other markets, India, France and Spain were all modestly negative; Italy, Brazil and especially Russia were strongly positive. Reported revenues for the period were £2.3bn. See charts of all groups' organic performance (subscribers only).
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Mar 2021: WPP's results for 4Q were better than some might have feared, placing the group firmly in the middle of the peer table by organic performance. Like-for-like revenues (WPP's version of other groups' organic revenues) declined by -6.3% in 4Q lifting the annual decline slightly to -8.2%. North America was still weak at -5.7% for Q4; the UK even weaker at -7.5%. Europe as a whole fared better at -3.9%, helped in particular by Germany where the decline was just -0.8%. Asia Pacific lagged behind at -9.8%. Reported net revenues for the year were £9.8bn, but a whopping £3.5bn charge for impairment and restructuring pushed the group into the red with a net loss of £2.9bn. Almost a third of the impairment hit was against Wunderman Thompson. However, there were also a few nuggets of positivity, not least growth in 4Q for VMLY&R - increasingly the star network within the group - with LFL of 2.9% in 4Q. Also, Russia was virtually the only major market to show not only positive growth for 4Q - of 5.3% - but also the year as a whole at 2.9%.
Adbrands Daily Update 10th Mar 2021: In a notable contrast to MDC Partners' challenged performance in 2020, its soon-to-be-acquiror Stagwell Group reported sparkling financials for the year, boosted by US election spending. In the final quarter alone, the group reported organic revenue growth at a staggering 60%, with full year growth of 29.1%, far above any other marketing group. Full year net revenues came in at $633m, up 13% as reported, while net income almost trebled to $71.5m.
Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Mar 2021: MDC Partners continued to sit at the bottom of the peer table for organic performance in 4Q (at least out of the groups to have reported so far). There was a further decline in 4Q of -13.7%, with the full year weighing in at -13.9%. Net revenues (less billable costs) slumped to $1.02bn, while net attributable losses ballooned to $229m (from $5m the year before). That figure included more than $130m of depreciation and goodwill impairments. Adjusted EBITDA, excluding those items, was up slightly year on year to $177m. CEO Mark Penn was optimistic about future performance nevertheless, forecasting organic growth for the current year of between 7% and 9%.
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Feb 2021: Publicis Groupe was first out of the gates with Q4 and full-year results, claiming "best-in-class financials" and a final quarter "ahead of market". An intriguing claim considering that no other groups have yet reported, but very much in keeping with the Publicis tradition of always finding the silver lining in every cloud. Organic decline for the final quarter improved to -3.9%, bringing the full year figure to -6.3%. The US was an important bright spot, with positive growth in the final quarter of 0.5%. Most of the credit was attrributed to data division Epsilon which alone delivered growth of 5.5%. The US performance offset continuing declines elsewhere. Europe was down -9.1%, with the UK and Germany both declining around -11.0% but France by -7.2%. Asia Pacific as a whole was down -8.6% but China did better than the average at -4.2%. On a reported basis, net revenue was €9.7bn, down only -1% year-on-year, but net income plunged by almost a third to €576m.
Separately, CEO Arthur Sadoun took the opportunity to squash any continuing specualtion that Publicis was considering a deal with private equity. "It took us 20 minutes to deny that story," he told media outlet The Drum. "Like every business, we receive lots of solicitation from private equity firms and bankers, but what is clear is that we have not entered into any negotiations with anyone. I do not want to leave any doubt: there was no conversation."
Adbrands Daily Update 28th Jan 2021: People are demanding more home entertainment than ever before in the pandemic, but all the growth is in streaming services, and traditional pay-TV is bleeding red ink. AT&T took a massive $15.5bn write-off against struggling satellite broadcaster DirecTV, resulting in a whopping for the final quarter of 2020 and a $5.2bn deficit for the year as a whole. That failed to offset solid growth in AT&T's own streaming service HBO Max, where subscriptions topped 41m at year's end. Despite subscriber growth in the mobile division, pandemic-related factors including the lack of international roaming revenues and weakness in the WarnerMedia content business caused a 5% slippage in group revenues to $172bn.
Adbrands Daily Update 14th Jan 2021: WPP scored a significant coup by poaching widely admired creative leader Rob Reilly to become its new global chief creative officer, filling shoes left empty since John O'Keeffe departed last year. Reilly will take up that role in May, moving from McCann Worldgroup where he has been creative chairman since 2014. Previously he spent a decade at Crispin Porter & Bogusky when that agency was at its peak. WPP said in a statement that Reilly will work with CEO Mark Read and the leadership of WPP's individual agencies to "champion creativity within and beyond the company, fostering a culture that delivers extraordinary work to WPP's clients. He is also tasked with attracting and nurturing the best creative talent, driving inclusion and diversity in creative work and teams, and working with technology partners to fuel the creativity needed for their platforms."
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Jan 2021: Publicis Groupe is reported to have held talks with an unnamed investment fund regarding the possibility of a partial or total private buyout. Campaign broke the news on Friday, prompting a sharp rise in the Publicis share price to its best level since late 2019 (though it has since slipped back). Needless to say, lips are tightly sealed over at the Groupe's Champs-Elysées HQ. However, it has been rumoured for several years that the controlling Badinter family might consider a sale in the wake of the failed 2014 merger with Omnicom.
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Jan 2021: A new week, a new deal for S4 Capital. Sir Martin Sorrell's fast-expanding start-up will more than double its size in China though a merger with Shanghai's Tomorrow creative agency. Tomorrow founder Rogier Bikker becomes managing director of the enlarged entity. "I've always been a raging bull on China's economy, its consumers and its brands," said Sorrell. "I'm delighted to welcome Rogier and his colleagues at Tomorrow to the S4 Capital family, in what is a priority market for us and one of several more moves in what will become the largest economy in the world."
Adbrands Daily Update 4th Jan 2021: S4 Capital jumped into 2021 with two new "mergers", as it prefers to describe its acquisitions. The latest additions are New York's Decoded Advertising, which joins the MediaMonks creative content division, and San Francisco's Metric Theory, which will become part of S4's Mighty Hive programmatic business. Along with other new hires, the latest purchases increase S4's headcount to 3,400 employees.
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