Robert Sawatzky
Jun 13, 2019

Why former WPP executive Scott Spirit is reuniting with Martin Sorrell

Spirit speaks about joining S4 Capital as chief growth officer based in Singapore.

Scott Spirit
Scott Spirit

Martin Sorrell's S4 Capital is tapping former WPP chief strategy and digital officer Scott Spirit to be its new chief growth officer, based in S4 Capital's new Singapore office.

Spirit spent 15 years at WPP working closely with Sorrell but left last June after the WPP founder's abrupt departure. Spirit told Campaign Asia-Pacific the chance to be part of his new venture was too good an opportunity to pass up.

"It was something I really couldn't turn down," he said. "I really enjoyed working with him in the past and I'm looking forward to another 15 years ahead."

S4 in itself has got some scale and resources but in the grand scheme of things it's a startup itself, so I think I'll take that scrappy attitude to S4 as well.

Spirit joins S4 from Singapore-based artificial intelligence firm Eureka AI, where he will continue to serve as board member and advisor. Working at a startup was something Spirit always wanted to do, and the experience has taught him a lot, putting him in good stead for his new role, he said. 

"Going to a startup was a complete culture change and reversal of everything I was used to at WPP. You learn a lot about agility, about dealing with much less resources. In a startup you have to do everything yourself and rely on your wits a bit more," Spirit said. "S4 in itself has got some scale and resources, but in the grand scheme of things it's a startup itself, so I think I'll take that scrappy attitude to S4 as well."

Given that it's relatively early days at S4, Spirit figures his work will be varied and he'll be picking up a lot of different things. But his main focus will be on facilitating growth with clients and investors, as well as expanding S4's capabilities and geographies, including more mergers and acquisitions.

"I think there are huge opportunities for growth, particularly in Asia," Spirit said, referencing promising early quarterly results, the ambitious goals of APAC chief Michel de Rijk and recent hires at MediaMonks, including the former CEO of APD Singapore, Tobias Wilson.  

"We're staffing up and looking to expand into other markets here as well," Spirit said. "There's a lot of demand from clients for the kind of services we offer so I think Asia will provide it's fair share of growth but there's plenty of growth to be had in other regions too." 

While based in Asia, the role is global, and Spirit expects to be travelling a lot, spending much time in Europe and the US.

"I know that Scott’s proven knowledge of global markets will be invaluable as we continue to expand the business technologically and internationally," Sorrell said in a statement.

Despite much doom and gloom in the ad industry, Spirit says S4 is in a more promising position thanks to its strategic focus on data, content and programmatic media planning and buying, all of which he argues are high-growth areas. Plus, Spirit feels S4 is better positioned to capitalise on brands bringing marketing services in-house.

"I think this whole trend around in-housing is really interesting," he said. "It's something that traditional agencies find really challenging because their business model and history. Within S4 we have Mighty Hive and MediaMonks, which from day one have seen that as an opportunity and have a business model which lends itself to clients wanting to do that." 

Meanwhile, S4 Capital also announced Elizabeth Buchanan will join the board as a non-executive director in July. Buchanan has 25 years’ experience in technology, marketing and advertising, including founding digital ad agency, The White Agency, and holding senior roles at OMD Worldwide and most recently martech firm Rokt.

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