At last: B2B is hot property! As confirmed by Ogilvy’s swoop for DNX
It was extremely fitting that the news of Ogilvy’s acquisition of DNX reached us just as my colleagues were putting the finishing touches to our 10th anniversary edition. As a single event or moment, it beautifully encapsulates the journey which B2B marketing as an industry has been on over the past decade, and in itself represents a level of recognition which would simply not have been conceivable ten years ago.
True, it’s only an agency acquisition, and previously there have been other significant similar deals for agencies over the past ten years. But without even having been given official confirmation of the sums involved, it’s clear that this acquisition is different. Ogilvy is about as close as it gets in the world of marketing agencies to being a household name, whilst DNX have ridden an almost unparalleled wave of success over the past five years, growing from well respected mid-tier player to the agency that sets the standard – and which everyone else wants to beat. DNX is only located in the UK, whilst Ogilvy has access to a vast international network. In this context, it’s a marriage made in heaven.
So what does this acquisition say about B2B marketing in general, or as an industry? It says that even the very biggest names in agency land (who were previously its biggest critics) are taking B2B seriously. It’s no longer a sideshow that can be tagged on to consumer accounts and be handled by the junior creative team: they recognise that it’s a genuine specialism, with genuine needs and requirements. It can’t be patronised or dismissed any more.
Prior to this deal Ogilvy did have B2B credentials, but this move signals its wish to dominate the market. It’s to be expected that the other big agencies will be hard on Ogilvy's heals, and further acquisitions will undoubtedly follow. B2B agency owners up and down the UK must be rubbing their hands together with glee.
As significant as this news is, as ever with agency acquisitions, the challenge for the newly renamed Ogilvy One DNX part in particular is to hang on to its optimal balance of being creative/innovative/effective and yet at the same time friendly, approachable and non-corporate-looking…. whilst also integrating with the larger group. This is not easy to achieve, and many have failed trying. Success, to a great extent, will hang on the personalities involved, and the management style.
We can also expect further consolidation within the B2B agency sector – if not within the UK, then on the International stage. Agency group MSQ has already signalled its intention to build a global B2B operator on the back of its former IAS operation – renamed SteinIAS following its acquisition of New York based Stein & Partners, which in turn followed a Parisian purchase. Stein MD Rob Morrice is brimming with enthusiasm, charisma and confidence, and further moves by them in this market seem a certainty. Watch this space.
But to close, congratulations must go once again to all at DNX, but particularly Drew Nicholson, Domi Pettifar (pictured centre and right, with Clare Lawson from Ogilvy One left) and Alex Brayshaw: what they’ve achieved over the past five years has been truly exceptional, and they deserve all the rewards and recognition that this will bring.