The hot trend of 2017 seems to be creative agencies being acquired by consulting firms, but there’s still a “massive” future for the independents, according to THINKERBELL co-founder Adam Ferrier.
It’s been almost three months ago that Ferrier and fellow former Cummins&Partners employees Jim Ingram and Ben Couzens established creative shop Thinkerbell.
Yesterday, after some speculation, consulting giant PwC announced it had purchased a stake in the agency, effectively taking away its independent status.
Unsurprisingly, Ferrier refused to reveal how much of a minority investment PwC had made in THINKERBELL when asked by B&T, but his response did indicate that he, Igram and Couzens would’ve considered a full acquisition had the right amount of money been put on the table.
“When we decided to start THINKERBELL, and once we’d resigned [from Cummins&Partners] and were out there, we had several people come to us wanting to invest in the business,” he said.
“The PwC offer was by far the most attractive one, so we decided to go with a minority investment in our business.”
But for an agency that still doesn’t have many runs on the board, how did THINKERBELL score this kind of a deal with a consulting juggernaut?
Ferrier said the fact that Ingram and Couzens had previously worked with PwC Australia chief creative officer Russel Howcroft was a major factor.
“Myself, Jim and Couz came together to start THINKERBELL as experienced practitioners, so there’s a bit of expectation in the nature of the partnership we’ve created,” he added.
Ferrier also noted that consultancies in general are very keen right now on establishing a footprint in the creative industry.
“The strategy of acquiring agencies in our space has been going on for some time now, both here and around the world,” he told B&T.
“Whether it be digital agencies, market research agencies, creative agencies, the lines are blurring and there are lots of different business models being formed as we speak.
“The interesting thing is PwC is making an investment in a new and emerging agency that’s going to grow, rather than trying to acquire an established agency holus-bolus and trying to work it out.”
Ferrier said there were a number of benefits of the partnership he was excited about.
“It gives us a good partner for a further spread of services as needed, and if PwC need a creative partner to help them with their marketing strategy, then they’ve got a good option in THINKERBELL,” he said.
The timing of the THINKERBELL-PwC deal is an interesting one, with rival (and more established) creative agencies The Works and The Monkeys handing over the keys to RXP Services and Accenture respectively in the last three-and-a-half months.
However, despite the recent run of independent agencies being snapped up by consulting firms, Ferrier said there’s still a “massive” future for ‘the indies’.
“Any reorganisation of an industry or industries creates opportunities, so it’s a great and interesting time to be in this industry,” he said.
As for THINKERBELL, the focus now is on delivering work for its existing clients, as well as finding a managing director.