S4 Capital is the new marketing group launched by Sir Martin Sorrell following his shock resignation from WPP in April 2018. Unburdened by any no-compete restrictions, Sorrell was quick to plunge himself back into the fray. In the space of less than three months, he acquired control of publicly quoted shell company Derriston Capital, rebranded it as S4 Capital and completed his first acquisition: creative production network MediaMonks, reportedly from under the nose of WPP itself. Unlike the model of WPP and other traditional marketing groups, Sorrell is developing his new vehicle as a single integrated entity rather than a collection of separate companies. MediaMonks was not so much acquired by S4 Capital as merged into the umbrella group, with its principals joining the S4 board as directors. That company had revenues of approx €110m in 2018 and at the time of acquisition operated through 11 offices in 10 countries. Though it does develop some traditional advertising, it's best-known as a developer of digital content including VR and AR apps, and digital-enhanced experiences. It provides a solid platform for what Sorrell envisions will be a group offering "new era new media solutions embracing data, content and technology". A second major deal was confirmed in Dec 2018: programmatic media platform developer MightyHive, snapped up for $150m. A succession of other smaller purchases have followed, including Dutch production studio Caramel Pictures and Australian marketing technologists BizTech, specialists in Adobe Marketing Cloud. These and several more have been absorbed into one of the two original purchases to form two distinct divisions of content (centred around MediaMonks) and data & digital media (around MightyHive). The purchases have widened the group's footprint considerably. By mid 2020, S4C employed some 2,650 staff in 30 countries worldwide. Unlike WPP and other traditional groups, S4C still works closely with agencies as a non-exclusive sub-contractor as well as directly with clients. It secured what is arguably its first "agency of record" assignment in 2020 with the capture of BMW Group's European advertising, in partnership with Serviceplan. For its first full year of operations in 2019, S4 Capital reported revenues of £215.1m, an increase of 41% on a like-for-like basis, but a net loss of £10.0m as a result of acquisition expenses and impairments.
Capsule checked 23rd October 2020
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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.
Adbrands Daily Update 24th Nov 2020: S4 Capital's MediaMonks division secured another "whopper" assignment with the capture of content production across the entire Mondelez portfolio for North America, Latin America and the Asia-Middle East-Africa region, as well as global tech infrastructure and website development. Earlier this month, in its 3Q announcement, S4 had flagged up that a new major win was in the process of being finalised. It will share some of the spoils with a newly created Publicis Groupe entity Team Pop, which was given responsibility for content production in Europe. MediaMonks and Publicis competed for the brief against Accenture and WPP.
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Sep 2020: BMW is to consolidate its advertising across Europe for both the main BMW brand and Mini with Serviceplan, already its partner in several markets including Germany, and S4 Capital's MediaMonks production network. They will be supported by consulting agency Berylls under the shared banner of "The Engine". That partnership will replace third-party agencies in all other markets - for example FCB in several countries including the UK and Russia, SCPF in Spain and 180 Kingsday and TBWA in Netherlands, Belgium and other markets. It's not yet clear where this leaves Anomaly Berlin, which was awarded the global account for Mini earlier this year.
Adbrands Daily Update 8th Jan 2020: S4 Capital expanded its presence in Mexico and planted a flag in Spain for the first time with the acquisition (or merger, as Martin Sorrell likes to call it) of digital agency Circus. The new addition joins the group's content practice led by MediaMonks.
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