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DMG's Ben Langdon: 20:20 London gives us creative 'sex appeal'

LONDON - Ben Langdon, the former Euro RSCG chief who built Digital Marketing Group by buying several regional agencies, tells Brand Republic why DMG is paying £1.5m for London-based agency 20:20.

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With just 15 employees, 20:20 London is dwarfed by Digital Marketing Group, which has grown to 550 staff since its creation in 2006 via the acquisitions of Bristol and North of England-based agencies including Dig For Fire, Cheeze, Hyperlaunch and Inbox.

Langdon was so attracted by the creative pedigree of the agency and its founder Peter Riley that he will use the 20:20 brand to unite DMG's entire creative offering, under Riley as chief creative officer.

According to Langdon, this will help address clients' questions as to whether DMG is truly one company or a series of individual companies where he is "the only glue".

Talks with Riley opened early in the summer, soon after a previous attempt to present DMG as "one coherent brand" by establishing umbrella digital creative agency DMG and adding the group's initials to the names of the individual agencies.

Langdon admits: "That was the first step and I think we probably recognise that it hadn't really done enough.

"It was time to add some sizzle, some sex appeal to the front of the business, and that's what we've got.

"Also the 20:20 brand on a very practical basis is much better than an acronym of three letters. It has some creative credibility in its own right."

The acquisition brings DMG clients including COI, Audi and Channel Five, and a second base in London in addition to its Tower Hill offices housing e-commerce agency CyberDMG and its corporate headquarters.

Though Langdon stresses Riley, a Mancunian, is "more like us than he is the London creative community".

"He's very grounded, although he wins creative awards. if you look at his website it's all about results as opposed to awards. And most of our companies, because they are based outside London, are a bit more like that."

Riley is in line to receive an additional £250,000 after completing three years with DMG and up to another £250,000 depending on performance over that time.

From Langdon's perspective, the five-times earnings multiple deal was "not that expensive but not that cheap either in the current environment".

"The most important thing was the talent level. I wouldn't have wanted to do an acquisition costing me £5m at the moment. This was a perfect size and the right price, because it's something I could afford from existing facilities within our business.

"I didn't have to go cap in hand to anybody."

A more detailed financ/newsManager/DMG’ial perspective on the deal would normally be supplied by Bob Willott, the marketing services sector analyst who blogs for Brand Republic.

However, Willott has found it difficult to track down the entity that DMG is actually buying, and Riley has declined to give him the name of the company through which his business has been trading.

Willott notes that several companies of which Riley has been a director, including two bearing the 20:20 name, have been dissolved.

In his opinion: "Digital Marketing Group appears to be paying quite a lot of money to acquire Peter Riley as chief creative officer for a large part of the group."

Whether the deal works out in the long run depends in no small part on the enthusiasm within the group for adopting the 20:20 brand, but if DMG does a good job of cross-selling clients between its new agency and its various other digital and data services it should be a powerful revenue driver.

Read more on Brand Republic

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