JWT continues its growth with majority stake in digital agency Heyday

What do you get the 150 year old agency that’s got everything? A new digital agency, of course. After celebrating a big milestone last week, JWT has announced another large piece of news: it has taken a majority stake in Wellington-based Heyday.

The deal was announced to the London stock exchange this morning, but JWT managing director Simon Lendrum says he’s been in discussions with Luke Pierson, the founder and managing director of the 35-strong Heyday, for a couple of years about the possibility of officially combining forces. When asked how much JWT paid, he would only say it was an undisclosed sum and when asked how much of the company it purchased, he would only say it was a majority stake (Heyday’s Companies Office information has yet to be updated). 

Lendrum says the agencies have worked closely on a number of clients over the years, with various projects for Z and an interactive game for Ford Ecosport standing out recently. Heyday also works with ANZ, Trade Me and Ecoya/Trilogy (it also worked with Meridian until about a year ago). And it was behind the impressive history of the internet in New Zealand, Down to the Wire (the agency celebrated its tenth birthday on 10.10.10 by changing its name from Doubleclique to Heyday). 

He says this is about future proofing both agencies and creating a full suite of services for clients, rather than filling a hole in JWT’s offer (digital makes up around 20 percent of JWT’s revenue).

“It’s about extending our services to use their technology expertise and to enable us to imagine what’s possible.”

Let’s hope they can help JWT’s executive creative director Cleve Cameron build an inter-dimensional space portal for The Beop. 

He says the pair spent a lot of time talking about the future of comms and what it will look like, and, while he doesn’t want to be fortune teller, it’s “very obvious that digital in all its forms is becoming increasingly critical”, both in terms of the rapid shift to online advertising and also finding ways to use digital tools to augment the offline world.

He says there won’t be a JWT office in Wellington as a result of the acquisition, nor will there be a Heyday office opening in Auckland, but there will be humans from both agencies placed in each of the offices and he says it gives both companies “an opportunity to springboard off each other”. All up, there will be around 90 people across both locations.

As Lendrum mentioned on Friday in the story about its 150th birthday, over the past four years JWT has had a fairly major turnaround, with new business like Contact, Sovereign and University of Auckland taking it from 70 percent global clients to 70 percent local clients. 

“And that’s down to local growth, not global decline.” 

He says the acquisition strategy of WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell is no secret and when it finds the right opportunities, many of which have been in the digital space in recent years, it takes them. So this is in keeping with that philosophy and other acquisitions from the big networks, most notably Clemenger BBDO’s purchase of Touchcast. But he doesn’t think it would’ve been possible if JWT hadn’t shown “steady and ongoing growth” (while he didn’t want to divulge specific revenue figures, he says JWT has grown revenue by around 40 percent over the past three years, while Heyday has doubled its revenue).

Pierson, who was a finalist in this year’s Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award, will stay on as managing director of Hey Day. And Lendrum says it is currently working through the role he will have with the wider WPP network.

Here’s the release:

JWT New Zealand has acquired a majority stake in Heyday, an independent digital agency based in Wellington. The move, which allows both companies significant synergies and growth opportunities across Auckland and Wellington, is a core part of JWT’s on-going growth plan in New Zealand.

Heyday was founded in 2000 by Luke Pierson, who has built Heyday into one of New Zealand’s most comprehensive and respected digital agencies. The company’s services include digital strategy, visual design, user experience design, content development, digital film, smartphone applications and web application development.   Heyday’s key clients include ANZ Bank, Z Energy and Trade Me, New Zealand’s largest Internet-auction website. The company employs 35 people.

“We’re delighted to welcome Heyday to JWT,” says John Gutteridge, CEO JWT Australia & New Zealand. “Luke and the team have created a terrific business with big ambitions. Critically there is a very clear alignment from both Heyday and JWT on how we need to ready ourselves for tomorrow and the long term. The two businesses have quite different skills, allowing the group to deliver broader, faster, deeper and better solutions to existing clients and future prospects in both Auckland and Wellington. It’s exciting to be expanding to Wellington where we look forward to shaking things up with a more progressive model.” 

“Luke and I have been working in partnership for some time now. We’ve already stress tested the model, it’s incredibly compelling. We believe our clients will benefit massively from the constant evolution in thinking that this partnership brings,” Simon Lendrum, Managing Director of JWT Auckland.

For Heyday, the opportunity to join JWT- which celebrated its 150th anniversary this year and is one of the world’s most storied, respected networks – was irresistible.

“With 35 people in Wellington, we have reached a maturity that enabled us to think somewhat bigger in terms of our future. The ability to expand into Auckland with JWT and be part of a global network not only of communications experts but also some 1,200 digital specialists means we can provide even bigger ideas and broader services to our clients. That sort of depth and scale is, of course, extremely exciting,” said Pierson.

Pierson, who was a finalist in this year’s Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award, will stay on as Managing Director.

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