Why S4 Capital & MediaMonks proved to be the perfect marriage for creative-tech business

The captains of S4 Capital and MediaMonks speak about how the merger managed to scale up capabilities for the entity and helped it steer through the storms

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Oct 20, 2020 8:58 AM
media monks

One of defining deals of the last few years has to be advertising mogul Martin Sorrell’s swoop for MediaMonks. A creator of agile and dynamic digital content, MediaMonks finds itself in a sweet spot that potentially gives it an advantage over traditional ad agencies. The deal was believed to be the largest of its kind for a creative production and has been described by both parties as a merger. It’s been over a year since MediaMonks' 750 people strong global company came under Sorrell’s S4 Capital. And surprisingly, the company has highlighted profit growth throughout despite Covid hitting the biz. With both entities marking a year of the merger, exchange4media sat down across a virtual screen with S4 Capital's Michel de Rijk (CEO, Asia Pacific) Poran Malani (Director) and MediaMonks' MD Robert Godinho. They shared insights into how they managed to scale up capabilities for the entity, how the merger resonates culturally and more.

(L to R): Michel de Rijk, Robert Godinho and Poran Malani 

Beefing up 

The APAC CEO of S4 Capital, Michel de Rijk revealed that building the right services has helped the team grow from 50 colleagues a year ago to a team of around 250 in India alone. “We have developed a suite of specialist services around client needs. We have looked at the needs of the market first and built our services around this. Clients are looking for increased value. Our ability to understand and utilise technology helps build stronger consumer franchises for brands. MediaMonks has grown internationally by utilising the learnings of each market, the unitary structure with single P&L allows us to do that,” Rijk notes.  

Speaking about the India-scheme of things, Rijk observed that in terms of mediums, digital has predominantly grown over the years in India. "India is a huge market which has great potential in terms of business opportunities. If you look at the statistics for the Indian advertising and marketing services market, traditional media continues to grow because India remains one of the markets where traditional media is stronger than the average of the world. But the difference between traditional and digital growth rates is just as extreme in India as it is in any other market,” he said. Rijk revealed that currently digital is expanding at around 35-40% in India whereas traditional media is in high single digits or low double digits. “So, the focus on digital for growth is just as relevant in the Indian market as it is anywhere else. We also look at what India offers the world. It is a beacon for tech and creativity, working together this combination is fuelling a new and powerful force,” he remarked.

 Rjik terms the entity a tech-first, ‘get it solved right’ type of company, something that, according to him, has worked in the company’s favour. “Being able to deal with client’s pain points with expert solutions -- wherever in the world they may live -- gives us an extra edge. This is, of course, made possible by the fact that we operate a single P&L. But it is also due to the fact that this company is full of entrepreneurs. Collaboration is not a cliche at the company,” he asserted. 

Furthermore, Rjik shared that the merger has helped the company strengthen its roster with data services, innovation, production, film and deep platform tech capabilities. “Our creative content firepower is now extremely strong and we continue to add capabilities in other areas of the digital ecosystem that are essential to consumer, experience and engagement,” he said.

Culture, adversity and change 

Meanwhile, Malani exclaimed that this has not been an easy year for anyone with Covid making most things difficult. “Growing while in lockdown creates its own problems, it’s not easy to hire 150+ people whom you haven't actually met. The sheer pace of change and growth is also something you have to get used to,” he remarked.  

 Malani revealed that the company will continue eyeing on acquisitions to expand.

“The market will always be in constant flux, we are always going to be on the lookout for the new and the underused in the marketplace. The dynamics of change means that you can never believe that the solutions you have today will be the solutions needed tomorrow. Looking out for the next is a critical part of the culture,” he said. 

Speaking about the biggest cultural challenge in bringing together these two diverse entities together Malani contended, “Well, they were not that diverse, the products may be but we look for companies and people who share the same vision, the same drive, the same approach to solving and building.  A large part of the decision-making process is about attitude and culture, that way we've knitted together a very strong group from day one.” 

Conquering the Covid impact 

Robert Godinho, MD, MediaMonks India expounded on how the merger has benefitted clients. “The Indian marketeer constantly searches for partners who can digitally own the narrative and be accountable. Bringing singular focus to data-driven insights, which drive content creation, integrated production (ensuring mainline and digital assets live in harmony and yet have their distinct personality) and engagement is one of our key offerings. Tech too has broadly been used in marketing for media, placement and ROI analysis, it hasn't really been available on the creative front and that is where we are truly unique. Clients have seen how our deep tech understanding allows them to enhance their digital relationships way beyond the latest release of digital films. Understanding of the platforms and what they can do, allows us to go a lot deeper in helping the brands build experience,” he asserted. 

Moreover, Godinho said that the company managed to offset the Covid impact, owing to these capabilities. “We are entrepreneurs by nature, which means we survive, reevaluate and adapt.  The way we operate, we have had to pivot like everyone else, we have had to deal with change, ambiguity the same way everyone has. Despite the marketing challenges our growth teams have excelled by ensuring we developed solutions to the problems Covid created. From helping businesses migrate from physical to e-commerce, bringing people together via VR/virtual conferencing to continuing to tell brand stories via remote production, we came armed with our version of the Covid Cures for Businesses,” he remarked. 

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