DentsuMB merges with Manchester-based BJL to extend UK reach

Merger follows Dentsu's acquisition of BJL in 2019.

Denstumcgarrybowen (clockwise from top left): Pearson, Chadwick, Collins, Ainsworth, Lloyd, Lewis
Denstumcgarrybowen (clockwise from top left): Pearson, Chadwick, Collins, Ainsworth, Lloyd, Lewis

Dentsu International has merged Dentsumcgarrybowen and Manchester-based creative shop BJL into one agency operating across two UK hubs.

The merger follows Dentsu’s acquisition of BJL in 2019 and will see the BJL name dissolve by June. 

The newly combined agency will have two offices, one in London where DentsuMB has been based and the other in Manchester, and comprise more than 120 UK employees – half of which come from BJL. 

It will be led by Gareth Collins, UK chief executive of DentsuMB. 

BJL’s CEO Nicky Unsworth, managing partner Jackie Holt and finance director Iain Kerr will leave at the end of April after helping with the integration. 

Simon Lloyd, who joined DentsuMB in October as UK chief creative officer, will be the creative leader of the merged agency. He will oversee Sue Higgs and Paul Cohen, DentsuMB’s newly appointed joint executive creative directors, in London and BJL creative director Richard Pearson in Manchester.

BJL managing partners Julie Chadwick and Guy Ainsworth will work alongside DentsuMB managing partners Brendan Taylor and Aarti Kulkarni to lead respective client teams in the two locations. 

DentsuMB chief strategy officer Sophie Lewis will work with BJL head of strategy Tony Evans and head of commercial strategy Karen Kidd to lead that discipline. 

BJL has capabilities in digital, CRM, PR and social, and its clients include Halfords, Ronseal, The Co-operative Bank and Pets at Home. Collins said there would be no client conflicts between the two shops and that BJL would contribute about half of the combined revenue. 

“We want to be a diverse business and have diverse talent working across our clients and our agencies,” Collins said, adding that merging BJL with DentsuMB had been a long-term plan since the 2019 acquisition. 

“For a long time Dentsu has realised that we can’t just be focused on London and this is a natural part of that. It’s going to give us great access to talent across the board, give our people good opportunities and be good for our clients.

“This is part of our commitment to build a strong creative offering. We want the UK to be a hub of creativity within Dentsu and this turbocharges that effort.” 

Chadwick added: “People don’t necessarily want to move to London to work in this industry. Being able to do the best possible work from anywhere in the country is what we offer – it’s exciting to give everyone that opportunity and is important as well for the work.” 

Dentsu plans to move to six agency brands by 2022, with DentsuMB and Isobar operating in creative, Carat, iProspect and Dentsu X in media and Merkle in CXM. This BJL merger is the latest step in making DentsuMB and Isobar the heart of the creative network in the UK.

Wendy Clark, CEO of Dentsu International, has laid out a four-year growth plan to generate half of Dentsu International’s revenues from customer experience and to “transform” its creative offer while “evolving” its media capabilities. She told Campaign in February that “creative will be the place that undergoes the most change” by 2024.

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