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Heather Millar

Marketing Executive

“it was a really good technical fit, as in Epiphany excels in search and Jaywing is excellent at data science and brand communications.”

Epiphany and Jaywing CEOs Rob Shaw and Martin Boddy gave an exclusive interview to The Drum, talking about the acquisition and a shared vision for data science and search.

This interview was first published in The Drum magazine on 2nd April 2014.

"As the ink dried on the paperwork, The Drum Network’s Richard Draycott caught up with new best friends, Jaywing CEO Martin Boddy and Epiphany CEO Rob Shaw.

How did the conversation between Jaywing and Epiphany begin?

We started talking really seriously to people about a transaction towards the end of last year and we brought Clarity in as advisors. We then turned it into something formal and put some process and structure around it. They came in and outlined their proposition and we gave presentations on how we do things here at Epiphany. It was quite early on that we all realised that this was certainly a case of two and two equalling five.

Andy Gardner and I came back into the business two years ago and during that time we have been trying to refocus the business and move it into a space where we are using our data analysis specialism to differentiate our business. I’ve known Robin (Skidmore) for some time, but one of our clients asked us to organise a pitch to get a new SEO agency and Epiphany were one of the agencies. It was the client and us on the other side of the table and Epiphany just blew everyone else away. So we experienced what they are capable of first hand. I arranged to meet Robin for a beer with a view to trying to persuade him to sell the business to us and he said ‘funnily enough, we have just started a process’, so it was almost fate.


So, what was it specifically that made you think that this deal could work?

There were other companies involved in the bidding process and it was competitive, but we were very keen to be successful. Epiphany was a highly sought after business, but I think the key reason they came us in the end, and didn’t go elsewhere, was the chemistry between us. There is a really strong chemistry and we share the same view of the future in terms of the ever-increasing use of data in marketing in one form or another. Another factor is the level of ambition in both businesses. We have put two fast growing businesses together and now we have a great opportunity. It’s not just about money; it’s what you can create together and how you can work together.

Firstly, it was the right cultural fit. We've always talked about our culture and the importance of it. Meeting the Jaywing team and their senior managers, we felt that these where the kind of people we would normally work with so it would be easy to develop our offer alongside them. We have seen that now over the last few months. It has been painless - they're a great bunch of guys and we share the same values. Secondly, it was a really good technical fit, as Epiphany excels in search and Jaywing is excellent at data science and brand communications. Bringing those things together represents a leap forward for all concerned.


What excites you most about becoming part of the Jaywing Group?

Jaywing has an outstanding client base and there is little crossover, which means there are lots of opportunities to explore, with our complementary set of skills. There are two great client bases we can start to share, but it is the combination of Jaywing’s understanding of big data, insight and analysis and the high-end brand marketing, and our expertise in search marketing that is exciting, and which the market is asking for. Had we not been able to do this deal now, I’m sure we would have created all of those services anyway, as we believe all agencies will need to have those skills in their kit bag if they truly want to offer an integrated service.


Moving forward, you are retaining the two strong brands, but what will the business look like and how will it be structured?

We have a number of elements to the business now. We have a consulting element, which is all our data consultancy; our media element, which is very much what Epiphany brings to the party; we have an agency element, which is around brand marketing, digital marketing and customer marketing; and then we have our contact centre. Epiphany will carry on doing what they do so well with Rob running it, Robin will continue building Shackleton and Shane (Quigley) in Australia is taking on a broader role heading up product development. With Epiphany we now have access to a lot of online data that we hadn’t previously. Jaywing has the best analytical team in the UK – we have 50 heavyweight statisticians here – so our product development is going to be fuelled by putting the online data together with those guys so we can really innovate in that area. Strategically, that is a very important area for us.


What does the immediate future hold for you?

On a day-to-day basis nothing really changes with what we do. It is a cliché, but it’s business as usual. We have 140 people at work today doing their usual jobs for clients. What this gives us a wider range of offices to work out of, so now we have hot desks set up in all of Jaywing’s offices. There will be a whole series of follow-ups to come as to why we think this new set-up works. A couple of years ago, we produced a video about our new formula for search and ran a big campaign about our unique approach. We've already put the people in place here to begin telling our new story. We didn’t want to do the deal and then start thinking about what our new story is. That’s all in place, and will be revealed in due course.

We will focus on bedding this one down first and get busy working together, across our clients and maximising the opportunities. Then there is the task of creating the new product development area, which is all around data science, and pointing our analysts at that to develop genuinely innovative products. Beyond that, we are an ambitious business, so I suppose we will see what happens."