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News February 27, 2019

Dept: Challenging the Advertising Network Giants

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As the digital industry continues on its rapid evolution, traditional advertising agencies have faced challenges from larger consultancies and IT firms all wanting a piece of market share. As digital channels become more ubiquitous in consumers’ lives, advertising networks, such as Omnicom and WPP, have bought up specialist digital marketing agencies. However, they haven’t managed to keep out the competition. Consultancies such as Accenture, Deloitte and PWC have also tapped into the sector, growing and acquiring capabilities to scoop a share of the $15 trillion digital economy.

Now, there’s a new challenge on the horizon; Dept, that started small in Amsterdam, now has over 1,000 employees across eleven markets and is set on global domination.

Since launching in 2016, Dept has continuously grown; founding agency TamTam and eighteen other agencies have so far merged to form Dept. In just three years, the agency has grown from 150 to 1100 employees across eleven countries, generating a revenue of 125 million euros last year.

And the agency is showing no signs of slowing down; in January, it announced the acquisition of Manchester-based digital agency e3creative. With e3creative joining, Dept UK strengthens its service portfolio to match client demand, namely creative and digital marketing. Listed as a top 100 Independent Digital Agency by the Drum, e3creative has scooped over 80 awards for projects delivered for the likes of Sony PlayStation, O2, Royal Ascot and Carphone Warehouse.

Dept also has its sights set on the US, where it already has a small scale presence in Boston and New York. In 2019, it is seeking to take a major step in expanding its North America presence with an agency acquisition.

One Dept, One Team

Unlike its consultancy and advertising network competitors, Dept does not operate under separate names and subsidiaries. “There is only one logo on the door,” according to Dimi Albers, CEO. “We work as an integrated, full-service team. As a result, clients spend less time and money on managing multiple agency relationships.”

According to Albers, with the first acquisition of Expand Online it became immediately clear that customers would benefit from the merging of multiple, specialist agencies. “If you know how to build a website, and then know how to use digital marketing to optimize the potential of the website that you just built, clients can only benefit. The specialisms totally complement each other.”

 

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Dimi Albers, CEO

Although the names of merged agencies such as Expand Online, Building Blocks and superReal have disappeared, 90% of the founders of these agencies are still on board. “Dept exists because of those people,” says Manuel. “They all wanted to offer their clients integrated services and could see the potential of joining forces with other leading agencies. That was really something magical.”

Dept is increasingly expanding to offer a complete range of digital services, enabling the agency to help clients not only with digital technology, but also with data, strategy and creativity. “We have become Bol.com’s most important agency, and are working in integrated global teams for brands like Triumph Motorcycles,” says Albers. “That, I think, says everything.”

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Bart & Paul Manuel, Co-founders

Focus on next generation talent

Manuel is not afraid that Dept, with more than a thousand people on the payroll, will become just another corporate conglomerate. “We’re big enough to cope but small enough to care. Our culture means that clients feel that they’re working with a local office with forty or fifty people. That’s only possible because 90% of the founders are still on board. As a result, our clients can still have a personal relationship with someone who is a partner.”

Moreover, the organizational structure is very flat, says Manuel. “The company is built on trust and on the quality of people. A managerial position doesn’t earn you automatic respect or extra rewards. If Dimi does not do well, he will not get anything done here!”

Dept tries to keep employees happy to retain talent. “We focus heavily on next generation talent,” says Manuel. “Everyone here must be busy nurturing the next generation of leaders. Who will succeed you in three years?”

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2019 is an exciting year for Dept as it sets its sights on strengthening itself in terms of creativity and data, and expanding further in Europe and North America. “At the start, Accenture would laugh when they heard Dept’s ambition plans,” says Manuel. “They don’t find it so funny anymore.”

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