Dentsu confirms iProspect will swallow Vizeum in new global media network

Amanda Morrissey: joined Dentsu last year
Amanda Morrissey: joined Dentsu last year

iProspect global president Amanda Morrissey insists that she wants iProspect to retain Vizeum's challenger spirit within new 'performance-driven brand-building' agency offer.

Dentsu has confirmed that it is shuttering the Vizeum media agency brand and merging it with iProspect, as the global performance media shop is reworked into an end-to-end media agency to complement Carat.

The Japanese-owned ad network has this week begun a step-by-step merger of Vizeum into iProspect, which it hopes to have completed by the end of March. This process formally began this week.

Amanda Morrissey, the recently appointed global president of iProspect, has been working behind the scenes on a plan for the merger, which has included running a series of workshops with clients to identify where the new agency could best fill a gap in the market.

Campaign revealed that Dentsu was planning to merge the agencies in the UK in November, but this is the first time the company has confirmed the Vizeum brand is disappearing globally. The first market to formally merge was Australia, where Vizeum was folded into iProspect in August.

How it will work

The new iProspect will comprise about 8,000 people working in 126 offices across 93 markets. EMEA is by far the largest region, with 5,130 people, of which 600 are based in the UK. There are also 2,100 people in Asia-Pacific and 1,550 in the Americas.

Morrissey would not be drawn on who would run iProspect in the UK, but Campaign understands it has completed the interview process for its internal candidates.

iProspect has chief executives for each of its North and South operations, which comprise 600 staff in total. iProspect North (Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle) is led by Steve Buchanan, and iProspect South (London and Stafford) is led by James Bailey. Vizeum, which has been led by chief executive Mike McCoy since 2019, has about 80 staff in the UK, with offices in London and Manchester.

Morrissey told Campaign that this merger is part of a company-wide effort that began in 2019 to merge Dentsu agency brands and simplify the business more generally. 

“For us, it’s about building teams and capabilities that are required to suit the business needs that client needs to achieve," she said.

During 2020, what we found was an intersection point between not just a need for performance, but content and culture and everything else.”

iProspect was chosen over Vizeum, Morrissey explained, because it is “more globally scaled” and better fits the “performance-driven brand-building” agency characteristic than Vizeum or a brand new agency name. 

She said: “The brand-building element, the storytelling that we get out, and the strategic leadership that we get out of Vizeum is a very important part of our proposition. And so, when we bring these teams together, we're not merging them, we're creating integrated teams and integrated hubs. So whether a brief comes in that is performance only, or if it’s a media and performance brief, or it's a brand-building brief, we've tested different ways of building the capabilities in the team to make sure that we keep that Vizeum essence right at the heart of what we're delivering.” 

The two agencies also share clients, such as Ikea, Sonos, William Grant and Shiseido. 

She added: “[iProspect] is a very connected network as well, which was really important to us when we're building this brand as a federal market-led brand. And then, when we think about performance-driven and really understanding audiences from a digital first perspective, we've got this award-winning business that has 25 years of delivering that performance-driven thinking.”

Dentsu's simplification journey

Morrissey would not be drawn on media speculation last month that Dentsu plans to boil down all its agency brands to just six globally. In the UK, some smaller brands are set to remain, such as Dentsu’s out-of-home specialist Posterscope, which still retains a large volume of non-Dentsu clients (despite a longstanding venture with Publicis Groupe ending this week). 

She said: “What we've seen at a Dentsu level is we want to simplify our organisation so that it's easier for clients to engage with us and get the best capabilities as quickly and seamlessly as possible. 

“What we're seeing from our [iProspect] brand is an end-to-end, digital-first media agency that is also a really simplified route into other capabilities from Dentsu, and it enables us to borrow and collaborate and build teams with different resources. So whether in the future all of our clients will be [served by] bespoke, totally bespoke teams? I don't know the answer to that question. Have we got the capability to do that? Yes, we have.”

Buhlmann's Vizeum legacy

Vizeum’s demise presents a further break with Jerry Buhlmann and the Aegis legacy at Dentsu. The agency had been known as the second global media network within what was Dentsu Aegis Network (now Dentsu International), after Dentsu bought Aegis network in 2011.

It presented itself as a challenger brand that would undertake more flexible or unconventional media briefs, as well as serving as a conflict shop for Carat. It was formed in 2003 after Aegis realigned several standalone shops, including BBJ Media in the UK. BBJ Media was founded in 1989 by Jerry Buhlmann, who defected from WCRS alongside Nick Brien and Colin Jeffs. Buhlmann later became Dentsu Aegis Network chief executive and left in 2018.

Morrissey admitted Vizeum had an “amazing” brand from a media planning perspective and is keen for the new iProspect not to lose it. 

She said: “As a newcomer into the organisation working with Vizeum, it's that absolute super focus on innovation, on not 'challenger brands', but 'challenger thinking'; the way that they can pivot around the digital world and what clients need in that world is absolutely astounding. And so we've worked really hard to make sure that we don't lose that.”

Morrissey joined Dentsu from Unlimited Group last year and was previously chief executive of Publicis Media UK for about 18 months until 2017. She also served as client services director and then general manager for UK at WPP's AKQA between 2011 and 2015.  

Given her experience at Publicis and its "Power of One" mantra to offer a simplified bespoke service for clients, does Morrissey recognise the same "power of one" philosophy taking hold at Dentsu now?

"The One Dentsu model was an existence way before I arrived and I think that's been part of the Dentsu transformation journey. And this simplification, and it's very much part of what [Dentsu International chief executive Wendy Clark's] goal is," she said.

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