John Doe and Wire merge to form agency to 'challenge brand irrelevance'

Agencies John Doe and Wire have merged to formed a consumer marcomms shop with an annual revenue of more than £3m.

Managing partners (L to R): Magin Trewhella, Pam Scobbie and Lee Beattie
Managing partners (L to R): Magin Trewhella, Pam Scobbie and Lee Beattie

The new entity, called John Doe Group, will offer PR, advertising, research, digital, planning, experiential and content production via an in-house content studio. It will have a 38-strong workforce and offices in London, Glasgow and Manchester.

There are three managing partners: Wire co-founders Lee Beattie and Pam Scobbie (chief executive and chief creative officer, respectively), and former John Doe managing director Magin Trewhella (chief strategy officer). There's an equal shareholding between the trio and chair Rachel Bell, who founded John Doe in 2010 and has been chair of Wire since 2019.

The agency also announced two client wins: Tesco Mobile and Anglepoise, with varied briefs that include developing brand purpose and advocacy campaigns, content creation and meaningful share of voice through PR. Existing clients include Adidas Originals, Instagram, Edinburgh Gin, Magners, Red Bull, DC Thomson Media, Old Pulteney whisky and Absolut vodka.

The group said its focus is "getting brands... talked about in a lasting way – both across channels and across the country". It plans to challenge "irrelevance by better communicating brands’ reason for being", promising "unwavering honesty, a truthful understanding of people and creativity that goes beyond the obvious".

John Doe Group has developed a platform, to be rolled out later this year, that it said helps brands understand the people they want to reach, including under- and misrepresented communities.

Unusually, the new group plans to introduce its own brands through a ventures arm. The first, Socialeyes, is a virtual venue hosted by well-known entertainers, with a percentage of all events' proceeds going to good causes. Other launches are planned for this year.

As PRWeek has previously reported, consumer PR agencies reported mixed performances in 2020, with some suffering downturns in the second quarter followed by recovery from late summer onwards.

Asked the extent to which the merger was linked to difficult trading conditions last year, Scobbie told PRWeek: "To no extent – both agencies have been on a significant growth path and this is all about accelerating it as much as possible. We had actually started the conversation quite some time before the pandemic hit. Lee and I wanted access to the national briefs that still seem to be locked in London, and for Gin and Rachel, they wanted to expand their in-house capability. It was like two pieces of a jigsaw fitting together."

Scobbie described trading in 2020 as "surprisingly positive" with "record new business wins" – 21 in the past few months. No redundancies have been made alongside the merger, and the group is currently recruting for an associate director and senior account director.

Scobbie said: “There’s an amazing energy in the agency that feels like part rebellion, part renewal. It doesn’t just come from the merger; it’s driven by the fact there’s never been a better time to build brands that genuinely matter.

“There are too many empty words and gestures flying around our industry and it’s killing brands. It makes them interchangeable and boring.

“Every single company has a reason for being – they exist because they’re somehow useful to people’s lives. But they aren’t always talking about it in a way that feels relatable. That’s what we are going to do: start our creative process by asking ‘who cares?’, spark honest conversations, and ground work in emotion and truth. Whether it’s with existing brands or the ones we’re going to build ourselves, we don’t just want to grab attention, we want to hold it.”

Trewhella, former head of marketing at Pernod Ricard who joined John Doe in 2018, said: “In the three years since I took over John Doe, we’ve achieved so much, but by coming together with Pam, Lee and the amazing team at Wire, we will refine, sharpen and scale that vision to take the John Doe Group to another level."

Wire was named Best Agency Outside London at the PRWeek UK Awards in 2019.

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