Tongue name to disappear in merger with sister WPP agency DT

Digital creative agency DT has merged with sister WPP AUNZ agency Tongue in a bid to boost its creative firepower, Mumbrella can reveal.

dt tongue logos mashupBosses of both agencies insist the merger has not been forced on them by management following the recent acquisition of STW Group by global giant WPP, but has come about as part of a natural evolution of the businesses.

The Tongue name will disappear from the market seven years after it was created, but there will be no job losses, with its 25 staff folded into DT’s Sydney office creating a national business of more than 220. Founders Jonathan Pease, John Du Vernet and Tim Sexton will take the roles of chief creative officer, managing director and a newly created national employee focussed role respectively.

New DT managing director: Du Vernet

New DT managing director: Du Vernet

Asked why the move was happening now, Du Vernet told Mumbrella: “It just felt right. It was the right time for us to take out proposition and put it on the big stage.

“The role of technology is only getting more important, it’s an arms race and DT is well equipped. It would take us a long time to get up to the scale DT is.”

He added there was a “natural” cultural fit for the two former STW agencies which had made the decision, which has been under discussion for the past six months, easier.

Brian Vella, who remains CEO of DT, the agency founded in 1996, told Mumbrella that from his perspective it was “about us getting back to our best self”, adding: “Over the years we have been very creative, but I think this will make that part of our business stronger.”

In a statement, WPP AUNZ CEO Michael Connaghan pointed to the merger tying in with the stated aim of STW to consolidate its agencies under a ‘fewer, bigger, better, stronger’ strategy.

“Both DT and Tongue are performing at their peak, with DT posting its most successful 12 months on record,” he said. “Similarly, Tongue has had its best year creatively and financially since inception.”

While the two agencies do not have a lot of client overlap the new arrangement will see an end to Tongue’s work with Telstra, with DT handling some of Optus’ digital business.

In recent years, Tongue has produced a diverse body of work including a social media hub for Audi, a Telstra-backed Jarryd Hayne documentary, above the line creative for the likes of the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and experiential work including Telstra’s Giant Selfie Stick.

DT, which recently opened an office in Singapore, has been more focused on brand experience work in the digital sphere for clients including Tourism Australia, Bunnings, Kmart, Caltex, Optus and Bupa.

Tongue staff will be “fully integrated” across the agency and there will be “no silos”, said Vella.


“Staying with the creative technology philosophy”: Vella

He added that the addition of Tongue’s diverse skill set in the DT business would help the agency to extend its core principle of focusing on brand experience. But he insisted: “we’re not trying to be a full service agency that does everything”.

“It’s not a sexy thing to say, but we’re a marketing agency,” he added. “But at the end of the day that’s what we’re doing, and putting ideas at the heart of it.

“Really, what we have always been about is having creative and technology in balance, and having the synergy between the two.

“We’re staying with the creative technology philosophy and having a customer focus.”

Du Vernet said the agency would continue to use paid media channels “when appropriate”, but added the core of the agency would be around owned and earned channels.

The merger takes effect from today.


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