Omnicom Group’s recent decision to close the international offices of Flamingo, a respected UK research consultancy it acquired 10 years ago, is a reminder of the precarious nature of smaller firms under big holding companies. But in Tokyo, two former Flamingo directors are making a fresh start with a new company based on similar principles.
Aya Kanda and Chiharu Negishi are this week launching Salt, a consultancy that is essentially an independent continuation of Flamingo’s activities in Japan. Kanda said a number of Flamingo clients “expressed shock” at the office’s sudden closure and indicated they wished to continue working with staff for consumer insights and strategy. Flamingo Tokyo had a staff of around 30 and was led by Deanna Elstrom.
Kanda was not able to name the clients Salt will work with, but said they operate in the FMCG, beauty, healthcare and technology sectors. While Flamingo Tokyo predominantly served non-Japanese clients, Kanda said she saw an opportunity to work with Japanese companies under pressure to grow internationally.
Salt will open with a staff of four including Eriko Kaneko and Yongtae Park as consultants alongside the co-CEOs. Kanda noted that the staff members are multilingual and have lived and worked in a number of countries including the UK, US, Netherlands and South Korea as well as Japan. She said the company is also working with freelancers.
She explained that in a continuation of the direction Flamingo was trying to take, Salt would aim to be more “end-to-end” in its service offering, rather than simply generating insights. She said Salt would partner with other agencies where relevant and that its deliverables would range from services to campaigns and products.
Campaign understands that Salt is the first offshoot from Flamingo’s former international network. The company retains its office in London, but no longer has a presence in New York, Shanghai, Singapore, Jakarta, Mumbai or Sao Paolo. Kanda said she expects more ex-Flamingo staff to launch their own ventures and that she hopes to retain a strategic alliance with them.
Kanda explained Salt’s name as being down to the notion that “everything tastes better with salt, and salt is always a deciding factor of any dish”.
Flamingo was founded in 1997 and expanded in Asia post-acquisition. It is understood that the international network failed to meet Omnicom’s business expectations. Observers in Japan have suggested that the closure came at short notice, surprising both staff and clients.