Announcement – Acquisition of Pros Agency fortifies presence in Brazil and greater Latin America. Read more.

Published Veröffentlicht 22/02/2024

Q&A: Catching up with the Managing Directors of Allison’s new U.K. Acquisition Sidekick

Allison’s push to grow across Europe has a new partner – a true Sidekick, in fact.

Stagwell has acquired London-based Sidekick to expand Allison’s footprint in Europe and introduce capabilities in the market that are critical for a new era of integrated brand storytelling.

The Sidekick Group launched in 2021, when experiential agency Kreate and content agency Many Makers came together, capitalizing on its collective expertise for clients. Kreate delivers “real-world” activations to clients, specializing in brand experience and live events. Many Makers is a video and brand content agency that uses digital storytelling including social media, video production, gamification and AR/VR content on behalf of the wider group.

We sat down with co-founders Duncan McCaslin, from Kreate, and Ollie Burgoyne, from Many Makers, to dig a little deeper into the company’s culture, its natural fit within Allison and the exciting opportunities ahead.

Q: Could you give us a peek into Sidekick’s culture?

Duncan: Historically, I suppose our motivation comes from feeling like we weren’t supported as professionals or individuals. Having worked for owner-operated companies that run as lifestyle businesses, we just didn’t think the investment in people was there for innovation, creativity or growth. It was all about supporting the individuals at the top.

We want to be the sidekick and not the hero, and that’s kind of our mantra. We went through a rebrand and we were pitched about being the “superhero.” But we were like, “No! That’s not what this is about!” It’s more the analogy of being there for our clients all the way, but also working to their time, their budget and their needs rather than it being all about us and our ways of working.

Ollie: We had another mantra that was: “We work with you, not for you.” We never wanted to be in a place with clients where everyone on our team was just barked at, looked down on or spoken to as if: “You’re just the supplier and it doesn’t matter.”I think it’s why our alignment with everyone whom we’ve spoken to at Allison has been so great, because they share the same sort of values that are very dear to us.

Q: The world somewhat recently experienced some of those bad times during the COVID-19 pandemic. How did Sidekick weather that storm? Any lessons learned?

Duncan: We didn’t make a single redundancy, even though commercially it might have made more sense for us to do that. We rode it out and we pivoted. We just worked out what our clients needed in that time of chaos and we supported them through it.

Ollie: COVID was a game changer, obviously. I remember agencies I’d worked with in the past and the moment the pandemic announcement got made, they just cut people left, right and centre – redundancies before things like furlough had even come into as a scheme. Their first thought was, “We’ve got to lose people straight away.” One of my biggest memories of COVID was a conversation with Duncan. He said, “We rode out the good times pre-COVID and we shared that with people. So, under no circumstance are we getting rid of anyone or making anyone redundant.” Whatever it costs us, we will look after people because those people have given us the most amazing start to our business and whatever it takes, we will support them through and through.

Q: Tell us more about the clients. 

Duncan: We do work with lots of different types of clients. We work with the likes of Amazon and Pfizer and some big Europe brands like BTEE and Vodafone, one of the big sports retailers in the U.K. called JD Sports, and the London Lions in the British Basketball League.

Ollie: There’s also Sipsmith Gin, which now has a presence in the U.S. We started working with them when they were a small independent business, and they make great gin and have a great history!

Q: Are there any client campaigns or wins you’re particularly proud of?

Ollie: We are grateful for Amazon because it’s kind of what’s brought us together as a business with Allison. We both worked on Amazon, and that allowed us to meet as two agencies and build a relationship. When we came out of COVID, one of our old clients had moved to Amazon and he dropped me an email early one morning saying, “Would you be open to creating a video for us?” We gave him the cost for one video and didn’t hear anything for a few weeks. Then he got back in touch a few weeks later and he was like, “Great! I think we’re in a position where we can go ahead. But we need to adjust the quote because what we actually need to deliver is 101 videos in 10 days!”

I think it sort of says quite a lot about how we’ve approached business in that we were like, “OK, we can do that. We’ll make it work and find a way.” And we did that. We always feel like we make the impossible possible. Where other agencies say no, we say yes.

Q: Why did Sidekick join Allison? And why now?

Duncan: I’m not going to say we’ve hit ceilings, we certainly haven’t. But having like-mined people around us who can be part of that next stage of growth is super important to us. I see [joining Allison] as being a hockey-stick opportunity to go again and really grow.

Ollie: From the moment we’ve met anyone who’s a part of Allison, the chemistry’s been there. For us, it’s been so easy getting to know everyone and realizing Allison has such like-minded people with similar values.

So, I just feel lucky that we’ve met each other through the work we’ve delivered, and I think we’ve also been able to see the work we deliver is to a high standard with both parties and the alignment just feels very much there.

And as a result, it feels like the right time – the evolution of our business in the next step of our business and the people in it.

Q: What are your goals after joining Allison?

Duncan: Revenue growth is always super-important, right? But I think the most exciting moment will be when we do that cross-pollination of clients, and we create opportunities that didn’t exist before. When we get that one opportunity where the Allison skillset and the Sidekick skill set come together, and we land that client because of that partnership. I think that’s the moment I look forward to the most. And I’m sure it’s not that far around the corner.

Ollie: I think one of the things we’ve always talked about with Allison is the European opportunity. That’s really exciting. We’ve delivered work in Europe. We have some great contacts in Europe. Collectively, we can open even more opportunities.

On top of that, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for our people to be part of a global business that has culture and values at the heart of it. You don’t often see that, in all honesty. That can often get lost when businesses get to a certain size, but I don’t think it does within Allison.

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