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News Analysis 14 Feb 2022 - 5 min read

Deloitte Digital acquires three indies that shunned agency holdcos, creates Australia’s ‘largest martech, CX firm’; more high-end and volume creative investments rekindle consulting-agency turf wars

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor
Venntifact headshots

Martech movers, clockwise from top left: Venntifact's Joey Nguyen, Steven Hann; New Republique's Stacey Isaac, Nima Yassini; Blended Digital's Damon McMillan, Adam Crow.

Deloitte’s Australian and New Zealand unit kept the heat on agency holding companies today after acquiring three specialist firms in martech and CX – snapping up Venntifact, Blended Digital and New Republique – despite interest from the global communications giants. Along with talent raids on big creative agencies and acquiring Mumbai-based offshore content studio, Madras, the consulting firm is pacesetting with Accenture for tech, UX, martech and creative services leadership.    

What you need to know:

  • Three independent martech and CX companies have been acquired by Deloitte Digital – some were approached by agency holding companies but opted for the consulting giant because CX and martech programs could be rolled in early through broader business digital transformation programs Deloitte manages.
  • They are Venntifact, New Republique and Blended Digital.
  • “The consultants are eating the lunch of the larger agency models,” per New Republique CEO, Nima Yassini, who created JWT’s Digital unit in the UK in the 2000s with clients like Qantas, Country Road and HSBC Bank.
  • Venntifact’s Joey Nguyen says the founders had approaches from other companies “which we explored… [but] their strategy was less clearly articulated than Deloitte. There were still some areas to be defined more clearly by others on why martech was important.”
  • It follows Deloitte Digital’s talent raid on creative agencies – former Clemenger BBDO CEO Nick Garrett, New Zealand’s Colenso BBDO Chief Creative Officer Dan Wright and Ahmad Salim joined the group late last year.
  • Deloitte is making a simultaneous play for high-end and high-volume lower cost creative work – in December it acquired Mumbai-based offshoring creative content firm Madras.
  • Per Deloitte Digital’s Lead partner Esan Tabrizi “When we combine the Madras offering, our multi-award winning creative offering, our martech business and our data and artificial intelligence capabilities, our clients will be able to access end-to-end creative and marketing services in a way that is unrivalled by traditional agency networks.”

As agency holding companies scramble to build out higher-growth martech and CX services businesses, Deloitte Digital has just wooed three indie firms into its 1100-strong team – with its credentials for conducting business-wide digital transformations that put CX and martech central to getting the deals over the line and pipping the competition.

Venntifact, started in 2018 by the founders of the now Publicis-owned 2 Data Fish, plus New Republique, founded by a former JWT Digital boss, and Blended Digital have been acquired by Deloitte Digital in a triple play the firm claims makes it Australia’s “largest provider of marketing technology and digital experience offerings”.

Martech and CX is one of the hottest growth areas for consulting firms and agency holdcos – but the companies acquired in today’s transaction said they opted for Deloitte because it was typically engaged by corporates earlier and higher up the food chain in business transformation projects.

Won over

“The consultants are eating the lunch of the larger agency models,” said New Republique CEO, Nima Yassini, who created JWT’s Digital unit in the UK in the 2000s and started his firm in 2010. “The agencies are scrambling to remain relevant. Deloitte have such a people culture – they spent months with us making sure our people felt safe and valued. That was a real breath of fresh air.” Deloitte, however, is not without form in clinical overhauls of its people and advisory services, hacking 700 jobs in 2020 over eight days, or seven per cent of its Australian workforce.  

New Republique hit pay dirt in 2016 when it reinvented itself from a broader digital agency offering to a specialist user experimentation design and optimisation consultancy which tests and refines digital customer experiences for the likes of Qantas and HSBC bank. Yassini said media and advertising had for a long time experimented, tested and optimised different channel mixes and creative messaging – think classic A/B testing – but little was being done in data-led digital customer and user experience design and experimentation.  

Yassini calls New Republique an accident that “went horribly right” and he now becomes a Deloitte Consulting Partner along with Managing Director Stacey Isaac, a former fashion designer in Australia and Europe.

Venntifact co-founder Joey Nguyen along with 2 Data Fish founder Steven Hann, now folded into Publicis Groupe’s Sapient, said the company had been approached both by agency holding companies and APAC private equity firms. But he said Deloitte provided the best option for Venntifact’s ambitions to properly design CX and martech strategies early in business transformation programs that equip companies to manage these programs internally rather than foster a reliance on external partners to implement and maintain their CX programs.

“We had approaches from other companies, which we explored,” Nguyen told Mi3. “Their strategy was less clearly articulated than Deloitte. When we looked at the role of martech for them versus Deloitte, we really believe in Deloitte’s strategy of hyper-personalisation – their partnerships with major martech vendors and their vision was really defined. With others, there were still some areas to be defined more clearly on why martech was important. Deloitte had that very well stated.”

There’s a huge amount of poaching happening and people are being promoted to positions, probably beyond their capability, but it’s out of necessity of client needs. We’re seeing agencies poaching from other agencies and consultancies and it’s not subsiding. There’s a huge amount of activity going on – but the crunch is who is going to do the work and who’s going to run it post-implementation?

Joey Nguyen, co-founder, Venntifact

Perverse incentives, capability crunched

Deloitte was named recently as Adobe and Sitecore’s “Partner of the Year” and Salesforce “Implementation Partner of the Year” although martech and CX tech vendors have been under pressure for several years now for overselling the possibilities of their CX and martech platforms, mostly to marketing teams naïve to the costs and resource required to manage them for the longer term. Corporate finance teams are increasingly looking at return-on-investment scenarios for their CX and martech outlays.    

Nguyen said the market was littered with CX and martech initiatives that had failed to properly scope the internal resources and talent required to manage them beyond systems implementation.

“There’s a perverse incentive there and it goes hand-in-hand with the skills shortage,” Nguyen said. “We know there’s a reliance on outside parties to keep doing the work while brands are trying to bring their capability internally. It’s not in the interests of agencies to help clients upskill – because they do themselves out of work.”

More broadly, Nguyen said the talent war was inflating concerns over capabilities. “There’s a huge amount of poaching happening and people are being promoted to positions, probably beyond their capability, but it’s out of necessity of client needs. We’re seeing agencies poaching from other agencies and consultancies and it’s not subsiding. There’s a huge amount of activity going on – but the crunch is who is going to do the work and who’s going to run it post-implementation?”

Per Deloitte Digital’s Lead partner Esan Tabriz: ”Brands are strongly focused on digital engagement. As a result, growth in demand for our marketing technology and customer experience business is relentless, and our growth to meet market demand will not be stopping here.”

Indeed, Deloitte Digital is also pushing further into creative agency heartland. It hired former Clemenger BBDO CEO Nick Garrett as a partner in Deloitte Creative, and New Zealand’s former Colenso BBDO Executive Creative Director Dan Wright as Sydney Chief Creative Officer. Wright was joined by Colenso BBDO’s Ahmad Salim who started as Deloitte Digital Creative’s Managing director.

Deloitte Digital Creative runs three studios across Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland with an ambition is to “bring together the world’s best creative talent”. And creative technology. The firm is squaring up against holding company agencies for lower cost, high-volume creative work using machines.

In December the firm acquired offshoring creative content studio, Madras, based in Mumbai. “When we combine the Madras offering, our multi-award winning creative offering, our martech business and our data and artificial intelligence capabilities, our clients will be able to access end-to-end creative and marketing services in a way that is unrivalled by traditional agency networks,” Tabrizi said at the time of the Madras deal.

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Paul McIntyre

Executive Editor

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