Next Fifteen's Tim Dyson calls for digital rethink as Project Metal is launched

PR agencies will have to look beyond the lure of social media if the industry genuinely is to benefit from surging demand for digital services, Next Fifteen CEO Tim Dyson has warned.

Beyond social media: challenges of digital landscape
Beyond social media: challenges of digital landscape

Dyson's comments came on Monday as he launched Next Fifteen's digital consultancy, Project Metal. The outfit has been combined with data analytics firm Context Analytics, which was previously housed within sister agency Text 100.

The formation of Project Metal is one of the industry's most notable steps in creating consultancies designed to compete against digital, rather than PR, peers. In addition to integrating digital research capabilities, the agency will aim eventually to provide services including web creative, design and build, search and community building.

'There is a narrow view within PR in terms of digital,' Dyson told PRWeek. 'Social media are not the centre of our universe.'

Headed by former Bite executives David Hargreaves in San Francisco, and Nick Rappolt in London, Project Metal is also in talks to acquire a small web design and build agency with a presence across both the US and the UK, said Dyson.

'All PR agencies are doing is producing content. What you then do with that content is a goldmine,' he said. 'That is where we will bump heads with ad and digital agencies.'

Project Metal will not, added Rappolt, provide the kinds of digital PR services offered by sister shops such as Text 100.

'The skillsets are very different,' said Dyson, referring to the people the project is hiring. 'These are people we've never dreamed of hiring in a PR firm.'

Next Fifteen's experiment follows Edelman's 2008 acquisition of digital shop Spook Media. Edelman UK head of digital Marshall Manson told PRWeek the purchase had significantly improved his agency's digital offering, but questioned whether publicly owned companies were built to capitalise. 'They are too married to this structure where every time they want to do anything they have to call another agency in their family,' he said. 'But if PR firms aren't willing to invest and get more involved in these sorts of services, it is intrinsically limiting.'

Manson warned there were considerable challenges to this approach: 'It's an entirely different kind of business.'



- Project Metal Specialist digital outfit launched by Next Fifteen.

- Rabbit Spun off by Cow PR as a digital comms, creative and development arm.

- Magic Bean Lab Formed by Porter Novelli digital head Mat Morrison to focus on digital and integration.

- Bright Star Digital Launched by ex-USP Content digital director Pam Lyddon.

- Yabber Unveiled by Profero and headed by former MindShare social media head Carolyn Watt.

- Brew Created by Fishburn Hedges; led by managing partners Chris Reed and Mobbie Nazir.


£66.5m - Next Fifteen's revenue forecast for its 2010 fiscal year. Source: Edison Research

20% - Next Fifteen's target for digital revenue share by the end of 2011. Source: Next Fifteen

10% - Next Fifteen's like-for-like revenue decline for calendar year 2009. Source: Tim Dyson estimate

50% - Approximate growth in Edelman Digital practice since buying Spook. Source: Edelman.

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