Ptarmigan Media, a UK-based global media agency that specialises in financial services clients, has sold to Omnicom after three decades as an independent.
The agency has more than 150 staff, billings of more than $160m and international scale with seven offices, including London and New York, plus five across Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei and Tokyo.
Ptarmigan said its clients would benefit from the “scope and scale” of Omnicom, particularly when it comes to expanding in new “priority” markets such as Greater China, Latin America and the Middle East and adding new technology capabilities. The US-based agency holding company said it will gain “deep category expertise” in financial services.
Ptarmigan’s specialist areas include asset management, banking, fintech, insurance, pensions and wealth management.
The agency, which is based in Bermondsey, south London, will remain a standalone brand and sit within Omnicom Media Group, the media-buying division.
The two companies said they have already worked together for many years and have some shared clients, including HSBC, which is in the middle of a global media agency review. Other Ptarmigan clients include Barclays, Franklin Templeton, Invesco, Royal Bank of Canada and Standard Life.
Matt Ball, the chief executive, Tim Jones, the chief executive of APAC, and Matt Woodford, the global client services director, are the three largest shareholders in Ptarmigan, each with a shareholding of more than 25%, according to Companies House filings in the UK. It is understood they will retain a minority stake in the agency following the sale.
Financial terms were undisclosed but the most recent annual accounts show profit after tax rose 58% to $5.5 million in 2021 and companies typically sell on a multiple of profit.
Ball said: “Ptarmigan has always put clients at the centre of everything we do — and becoming part of Omnicom Media Group continues that commitment.
“Combining our expertise with the scope and scale of Omnicom Media Group’s industry-leading tools and technology will have an exponential impact on the value we deliver to the world’s leading financial brands, bringing next-level purpose, planning and performance to the challenge of connecting our clients to the world’s financial decision-makers.”
The sale comes just 10 months after a management buyout, when David Wiggin, the founder, who set up the agency at the end of 1992, sold and exited in September 2022. Ptarmigan did not comment on that but the senior management team have all worked at the agency for two decades or longer and are staying with the business following the deal.
Deep category expertise
Financial services clients generated about 8% of global revenues or $1.1bn for Omnicom in 2022, according to company filings.
Florian Adamski, chief executive of Omnicom Media Group, said: “Ptarmigan and Omnicom Media Group have a shared understanding of the complexities of today’s media marketplace.
“Together, we can help our clients effectively navigate the market to drive business growth by combining the global strength, tools and technologies of Omnicom Media Group, and the deep category expertise Ptarmigan has built over its three decades of working in the financial sector."
He continued: “The combined capabilities that will result from this acquisition will enable an unprecedented and singular depth of financial services industry expertise and media-buying scale, translating to better outcomes for our clients, increased professional opportunities for our people, and accelerated growth as Omnicom Media Group and Ptarmigan join forces.”
Before the sale, there were signs of growing closeness between the two companies as Campaign reported in March that they teamed up to pitch together for Fidelity International on its global media agency review, which was won by UM.
Ptarmigan and OMG said they could not comment on any specific clients but said: “We see many joint client growth and new business opportunities.”
Low profile in the UK
Ptarmigan has a relatively low profile in the UK compared with bigger independents, such as the7stars, because of its specialism in financial services and global scale. It was ranked the 47th largest UK media agency with an estimated $21.1m in media billings in 2022, according to Campaign’s School Reports rankings compiled by Nielsen.
Ball said: “We’re probably as much a part of the financial services industry as the media industry. Our growth has been driven by the fact that our clients have globalised and we’ve globalised.
“Financial services clients are extremely complex clients and we’ve built our business on understanding their complexity and servicing them really well and that’s been a huge USP for us.”
The sale to Omnicom was “testament to our staff and the expert insight and knowledge that they provide” to clients, Ball said.
Ptarmigan’s staff are split roughly equally between the UK, which is led from London and oversees Europe; the US, which is led from New York; and APAC, where the main office is in Hong Kong.
However, Ball pointed out it has been important to have offices on the ground across the APAC region because “you need local knowledge in each of the local markets”.
Ptarmigan has an entrepreneurial record and was an early investor in Talon Outdoor, in which OMG also subsequently invested, before its sale to private equity.
Omnicom, the owner of BBDO, DDB, OMD, PHD and TBWA, makes relatively few acquisitions compared with its rivals but has stepped up activity in recent months, buying UK sports marketing agency Dark Horses in April and German creative agency Grabarz & Partner earlier this month.