Four Comms restructures, reveals 2019 revenue growth and acquisitions plan

Four Communications has undergone a restructure, with 17 practices reorganised into seven business units - as the firm reveals that revenue grew eight per cent in 2019. It is also looking at making "targeted acquisitions" this year.

(Clockwise from top left): Rachel O’Sullivan, Anne Clarke, Kath Ludlow, Paul Dalton-Borge and Tonia Savchenko
(Clockwise from top left): Rachel O’Sullivan, Anne Clarke, Kath Ludlow, Paul Dalton-Borge and Tonia Savchenko

The agency, which employs more than 370 staff in six offices in the UK and the Middle East, said it has "restructured to push forward its digital, data and innovation-led strategy".

The new integrated business units are: corporate and financial, health, lifestyle, property, social purpose and PACE (performance, activation, creative and engagement).

Four said the move builds on its 'power of together' philosophy launched in 2018, which has seen it become a "truly integrated agency" in which 61 per cent of work is now digitally, creatively or data-led.

The previous 17 practice areas have been merged into the new units. For example, the lifestyle unit includes the former brand, travel, culture and retail teams.

A new executive committee of the board has been created. Joining agency founders Nan Williams (group CEO) and Andrew Jack, Einir Williams and Ray Eglington (group MDs), are:

  • Anne Clarke, chief executive, social purpose
  • Emma Statham, chief executive, Four Health
  • Kath Ludlow, chief customer officer
  • Paul Dalton-Borge, chief executive, PACE
  • Rachel O'Sullivan, chief innovation officer
  • Tonia Savchenko, chief executive, PACE

It will include two new, central roles from March. Ludlow will be responsible for developing the group-wide client offer, while O'Sullivan will focus on developing new digitally and data-led services and products.

Four said it has also strengthened its central strategic planning unit and created three taskforces: a creativity taskforce, led by the agency’s creative directors; an innovation taskforce, focused on new product and service development; and a place taskforce, to "harness the agency's expertise in placemaking across a number of sectors".

The London-headquartered company said its fee income will be about £34m in 2019, with turnover of £83m.

A new 'super unit'

Nan Williams said of the restructure: "This is all about creating larger, integrated units in our key sectors, and creating a 'super unit' which houses experts in paid, performance, digital, creative and social to better meet client needs in an increasingly integrated environment. We also want to offer our staff bigger and better career opportunities where digital and data skills and innovation are at the heart.

"We grew organically by around eight per cent in 2019, our ninth consecutive year of growth. This has been fuelled by our 'power of together' philosophy, which combines a wide breadth of services with deep sector expertise. Massive growth in data-driven work has been driven by Four's proprietary social analytics methodology, Mapper360, while digital performance marketing has been another key area.

"I am very excited about the new executive committee, who will help us take our vision and growth strategy forward by developing even larger and deeper sectors, or creating new revenue streams through innovation and enhanced client service."

Four received a £10m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015, which was followed by a period of agency acquisitions until about 18 months ago.

Asked whether there were plans to return to the acquisition trail, Eglington told PRWeek: "We are looking at further targeted acquisitons, where we think there's either a particular capability that we can add into this structure or a particular team that we can bring in."

He said Four is in "various discussions", but cautioned: "I doubt we will [make purchases] to the same extent that we did in 2015, when there was quite a big rush of acquisitions, but we're looking at a number of focused areas at the moment."

He said the focus would be on the "UK, and potentially elsewhere".

"There are some areas, for example, within this new structure where we're already doing quite a lot of international business, so having additional capacity in some very specific markets will help."

Acquisitions in the Middle East are not being sought, Eglington said, because that's a "very robust organic growth market". Four has offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Riyadh, in addition to its UK sites in London, Cardiff and Aberystwyth.

Eglington said there is "no time pressure" regarding BGF as an investor. "They're very supportive of us just continuing to build and grow as we are."

There are no redundancies associated with the restructure, Eglington added.

John Harrington recommends

Nine UK PR agencies to watch in 2020

Read more

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in