Andrew Stephens and Ben Hayes

From Goodstuff to great stuff

At the very end of last year, Goodstuff was acquired by the US-listed "challenger" network Stagwell. But what does it all mean?

By Jeremy Lee

Ten years since reinventing itself as a full-service media agency (and 17 since launching as a pure-play comms planning agency), Goodstuff has begin the next stage in its evolution.

Having become a top 15 media agency by billings, Goodstuff has now become part of the Stagwell Media Network, the global media arm of Stagwell - with 3,000 staff and claims to manage close to $5 billion (£3.7 billion) in annual spend globally.

Stagwell was created in 2015 by Mark Penn, a former Microsoft and WPP executive. Its network includes Anomaly, 72andSunny, the media agency Assembly - and now Goodstuff, the jewel in its media crown.

Creative Salon spoke to Goodstuff's founders Andrew Stephens and Ben Hayes on what the deal means for its clients, its people - and for them.

Why have you decided to sell and what does Stagwell provide?

As very proud members of the independent agency community (having helped indies double share of the Top 100 in the ten years), the decision to sell wasn’t taken lightly. But, after ten very successful years of pivoting our business from a pure comms planning agency into a full-service planning and buying agency, we took the long-term view that to realise the potential of our brand, to remain at the forefront of UK media and deliver against our mission to be The World’s Most Inventive Media Agency, we would need to pivot again, and procure some serious firepower in digital, data and technology.

The world around us has, is and will continue to evolve. In recent years we’ve seen billions of dollars of holding company and private equity investment on the one hand, reviving of some legacy holding company brands and, on the other hand, accelerate the global growth of the digital specialists.

Stagwell provide us with two equally important assets – capability and culture. First and foremost, their capability and resource in digital, data and technology is properly world class and secondly, they bring the right entrepreneurial and challenger culture which aligns perfectly with ours.

What does it mean for your clients?

As much or as little change as clients want. Our brand, leaders and way of working isn’t going to change, so for clients who are happy with the Goodstuff service now, there is less need for change. For some clients, however, who can see benefit in our impressive new range of digital, data and technology services, there is huge scope for fully integrated omnichannel insight, planning and execution.

What does it mean for your people?

A unique opportunity to learn and develop their careers with the two best in class agencies in town. Goodstuff have just been shortlisted for Campaign Media Agency of the Year and Assembly for Campaign Performance Agency of the Year.

There can’t be many jobs in town that offer such a rich opportunity to learn and develop a media career from two agencies at the top of their game and a mutual ambition to be even stronger and more integrated.

Goodstuff has always been a vibrant, creative and interesting champion of independent agencies. How will you keep that culture alive?

Firstly, we are still 100 per cent a challenger agency. Whilst Stagwell is a ‘network’, there are the old networks and the new networks. On average the Big Six are 70 years older than Stagwell who position themselves as The Challenger network. So if WPP et al think we’re going to be any less ambitious, entrepreneurial or at their heels I’m afraid they’re in for a shock. And now, we’ve got some serious firepower in DDT talent and resources.

Secondly, we will double down on what’s made us, us - invention and creativity. Showcase will be back bigger and better than ever and we’re investing in more ground-breaking work this year than ever before.

You've mentioned the journey from "Good" to "Great". What does great look like?

‘Great’ is where we want to get to over the next few years and we define it as:

a) Continuing to be the leading challenger media agency to the Top 5 in the UK

b) To be as well respected for invention in digital performance as we are for invention in brand planning

c) Upping our game in diversity and sustainability to lead rather than follow

What's next for Goodstuff?

In the short-term, what’s next for us is focusing on our Goodstuffers, our clients and ground-breaking work, just like we always have done. We’ve also got some exciting plans this year to move on our diversity and sustainability commitments.

Beyond that, we will be working with clients and Assembly to create use-cases for best in class integrated omnichannel media activation.


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