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Dentsu Aegis’ John Brown buyout shows how the digital agency model is changing

Global advertising mega-conglomerate Dentsu Aegis has acquired content marketing specialist John Brown Media for an undisclosed sum of money.

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John Brown Media was established in 1987 and has 225 staff throughout its London headquarters and offices in South Africa, Hong Kong and Dubai. While the agency initially made its name producing magazines for a number of high profile retail clients, it has made solid advances in the digital space, where it offers digital publishing, content management, website strategy, SEO, SEM and digital media buying services.

According to a press release issued by Dentsu Aegis, John Brown Media will retain its brand identity. CEO Andrew Hirsch will meanwhile report to Tracy De Groose, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network UK & Ireland.

Hirsch will apparently also collaborate with Ben Wood, Global President of iProspect, Dentsu Aegis Network’s global digital performance agency, to integrate John Brown Media’s content publishing capabilities into iProspect’s performance-driven solutions globally.

“We have been producing brilliant content for some of the world’s most prestigious brands over the last 20 years. Now, as part of Dentsu Aegis Network, we will have the ability to work alongside some of the world’s leading strategists to deliver smarter content and drive even better results for our clients,” the John Brown CEO said.

“As one of the world’s largest content agencies, the acquisition of John Brown Media will add another dimension to our content offering across the group,” said De Groose. “More clients are asking for content-led strategies and we’ll now be able to develop more innovative, content-rich solutions for them, and also accelerate our growth in this space. We are excited to welcome the John Brown Media team to our business.”

“The digital communications market has seen some major shifts as the focus for communications strategy evolves from the world of bought media, to one where earned and owned media often play the lead strategic role,” said Wood, Global President, iProspect. “Successful search campaigns are increasingly reliant on the ability to drive audiences towards quality, editorialised content. By aligning publishing into our search and performance offering, iProspect creates real differentiation. The John Brown Media acquisition proves we are committed to a future that is driven by content, and brings us more depth in this space.”

The acquisition shows how important the content marketing space as a whole is becoming. Although it’s actually one of the older forms of advertising, it was neglected for some time (especially within large agencies) before undergoing something of a revival within recent years.

John Brown’s experience and focus on the space means that it most likely made a lucrative acquisition target, especially with the buying spree the big conglomerates have been on over the past few years showing no sign of slowing down.

At this stage, it’s not clear what the acquisition means for John Brown’s global offices. Given the extend of the Dentsu Aegis network though, it seems likely that the UK’s arrangements will be mirrored in those other markets.

We can however confirm that John Brown Media’s South African offices will fall within the remit of Dentsu Aegis Sub-Saharan Africa. As is the case with the UK operations, its identity and branding will remain in place.

Speaking to Ventueburn John Brown Media SA Lani Carstens also confirmed that the agency will remain in its Black River Park Offices. According to Carstens, most clients are “absolutely thrilled” with acquisition too.

“Where the relationship is working well is that they [Dentsu Aegis] play really well in the traditional media space, and we play in the content space,” she added when asked about the potential for collaboration within the network.

Carstens also told us that no staff would be affected by the acquisition.

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