David Blecken
Jun 3, 2015

The thinking behind Dentsu Aegis Network’s purchase of John Brown Media

GLOBAL - Dentsu Aegis Network, and in particular iProspect, hopes the recent acquisition of John Brown Media will give it an edge in the high-demand, yet also highly inconsistent, content-marketing space.

Ben Wood: Sees 'heady' APAC growth potential
Ben Wood: Sees 'heady' APAC growth potential

Search and performance marketing agency iProspect led the buy of John Brown, a company founded in 1987 that now has 225 staff spread across London, Hong Kong, Dubai and South Africa.

In an interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, iProspect’s global president, Ben Wood, said the motivation for the move was simple: search and content marketing are “two sides of the same coin”.

“You can’t talk about one without thinking of the other,” Wood said. “What brands are realising is that it’s all very well spending money to drive people to a website, but it’s the content experience that those individuals have that’s important. If it isn’t engaging, consumers won’t transact with that brand.”

Wood noted that Asia was a “big part of the momentum” in looking to create better content that ties in with search. “While we [iProspect] had a good idea of the kind of content people are looking for, what we didn’t have were any real depth of capabilities when it came to the creation of that content—the journalistic art of creating video or written content.”

iProspect recently made limited investments in staff with a journalism background, “but we felt that was paying lip service, so we set out to find a global asset to add credibility to our digital publishing,” Wood explained. “We are looking to scale John Brown aggressively across the region.”

John Brown’s Asia presence is relatively small, with a team of 10 in Hong Kong. Wood sees “huge opportunities” to expand across markets such as China, India, Japan, Singapore and the broader Southeast Asia sub-region.

Wood said iProspect would embed some of John Brown’s capabilities and work to build the company as well as a dedicated content team for iProspect. At the same time, he made clear that John Brown would remain a standalone brand that would ultimately help strengthen resources across the Dentsu Aegis Network. In turn, he said, iProspect would “help John Brown understand what content consumers are looking for and help them come up with a strategy to amplify that content so it’s not just sitting on a client’s website, but is being pushed out into the wider world”.

He listed the three stages of iProspect’s approach to content as being understanding consumer motivations and what content is going to deliver business returns for clients; content creation and production; and the all-important distribution.

The fact that John Brown was “not particularly digital” would not be a problem, he added. “John Brown creates content that sits in any channel,” he said. “Very often that channel is a magazine. People questioned whether iProspect should buy that sort of company, but we believe it gives credibility. Where content lives is driven by the consumer, and they are omni-channel in the way they produce content.”  

The first piece of business to result from the acquisition is Hannaford, a US supermarket chain based in Maine. But Wood described the growth potential in Asia as “heady”.

“Leveraging content will help us change gear ahead of the competition,” he said. “While John Brown is small [in Asia] today, it’s at the forefront of our growth ambition.”

Separately, iProspect continues its diversification efforts in Asia. Dentsu Aegis Network today announced (press release) its acquisition of a majority share in Flexmedia, a Thai digital advertising agency, which is to become part of iProspect Thailand and the largest performance marketing agency in the country, according Dentsu Aegis Network. The company will rebrand to iProspect Flexmedia.


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