This summer the collective attention of the global advertising world focused in on a different sort of company than usual - the Dutch-headquartered digital production company, MediaMonks.
Rather than a creative agency or lumbering Hogarth-style production operation, Sir Martin Sorrell had made something of a statement about his vision for the future of the industry by deciding to begin building his new holding company, S4 Capital, with a creatively-led company with a production heritage and a passion for digital storytelling.
Martin Verdult had only been in his job as managing director of MediaMonks’ London office for a few weeks at the time of the acquisition. But suddenly the ambitions he’d declared to grow the office into a creative digital hub, tripling the size of its team over two years, were of more interest to the global advertising community.
Martin has worked for Sir Martin before. His former role was managing partner at WPP-owned Ogilvy & Mather Shanghai, where he ran the business and managed client relations across Asia since 2014. Before that his focus was on digital advertising and business management, collaborating with digital-native agencies LBi Lost Boys and Razorfish.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Martin to find out how this new age for MediaMonks is shaping up and how he’s settling into London.
LBB> What was it about MediaMonks that made you want to come to London and lead the office there?
Martin> Couple of reasons. First, I was impressed by Victor’s vision and ambition for MediaMonks to break out of the traditional agency model and help move the industry forward. Coming from a four-year stint in Shanghai, the pull to live closer to my family in the Netherlands was pretty strong too.
LBB> You accepted the job before Sir Martin Sorrell's S4 Capital came in. What are your feelings about how that will affect the business?
Martin> It’s an exciting time to be a Monk and part of the MediaMonks growth! Sir Martin is an industry legend who knows exactly how to build a successful network.
LBB> Does your former WPP experience give you any insight into how you expect his leadership to affect the company?
Martin> My previous experience at Ogilvy, Digitas and running my own agency gave me the right insights into how agencies and platforms should be run these days. Working in China is always going to give you a crash course in managing fast-growing and changing environments, too.
LBB> You've said your ambition is to grow the company with more producers. How are you getting on with that? Any what is the strategy behind that decision?
Martin> Getting on very well! We've grown the team substantially based on how we can best serve and service our clients from London. We’ve seen a boom in our capabilities across smart content, assets at scale and tech especially. In the next few months, we’re looking to further harness London’s creative potential into one digital hub by attracting the best talent and equipping the office with all the necessary tech tools.
LBB> You were previously based in Shanghai and, before that, Amsterdam - how have you found your first few months living and working in London? What are your biggest impressions?
Martin> Love it, London is just buzzing with cultural and musical influences. Of course, there’s always Brexit discussions bubbling away in the background too, which makes things interesting. Being part of one of the biggest creative communities in the world feels very inspiring. The talent is here and the push for better and bigger is fascinating.
LBB> What are the major ways in which you see the role of production companies (digital or traditional) changing in the coming years?
Martin> The industry is well and truly being disrupted, and it’s not just production companies feeling it. In-house/on-site agencies have gained a lot of market share. Only the agencies that are the best (and the fastest) at understanding and adapting to the ever-changing environments and consumer behaviour will survive. Don't forget that the ‘traditional agencies’ will also adapt and change. The only question is if they can they keep up the pace.
LBB> Finally, how will MediaMonks London be different in a year's time, beyond what you've already said?
Martin> Well, by then we should be very well settled in to our new, bigger digs in Clerkenwell, and have grown the team by a third. Otherwise, we’ll still be doing what we do best – providing clients with digital services that are agile, efficient, and of tip-top creative quality.