IProspect chooses James Bailey to run new-look UK shop after Vizeum merger

Bailey is tasked with overseeing merger across regional UK offices.

Bailey: previously iProspect South CEO
Bailey: previously iProspect South CEO

James Bailey, chief executive of iProspect South, has been promoted to run the new-look iProspect UK amid the performance agency’s merger with Vizeum.

Bailey was chosen as iProspect UK chief executive after an internal recruitment process and is tasked with overseeing the integration of the two agencies’ operations. Campaign first revealed this month that Dentsu would merge iProspect and Vizeum globally in a phased approach led by global president Amanda Morrissey.

He will report to Hamish Nicklin, chief executive of media for Dentsu UK and Ireland. “James has consistently demonstrated a collaborative leadership approach and ability to help clients solve their business challenges through performance-led media strategies,” Nicklin said. 

IProspect and Vizeum have a combined total of eight UK teams (six of whom are iProspect), comprising 800 staff across six offices in Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Stafford.

Dentsu would not elaborate on what future roles there are at the company for Steve Buchanan, chief executive of iProspect North, or Michael McCoy, chief executive of Vizeum UK. 

In a statement, Dentsu said: “[Bailey] will continue to work with the existing iProspect and Vizeum leadership teams, which includes Steve Buchanan and Michael McCoy, as the two agencies continue to come together.”

Joining Dentsu in 2016, Bailey held senior client roles at iProspect globally and in the UK before being appointed managing director in 2019 and then interim chief executive of iProspect South (London and Stafford), after Jack Swayne, the previous chief executive, left to join M/SIX that year.

Vizeum people will be 'liberated' in new iProspect

Bailey told Campaign that there is no intention to make job cuts as a result of the merger and that the current make-up of staff is ideal for what iProspect wants to deliver as a combination of performance marketing and longer-term media planning for advertisers.

He explained: “You've got 600 people, 80% of them are very specialist, digital performance marketers working in paid search and paid social programmatic, SEO or principal channels, but also in technical consultancy as well. We're bringing them together with 20% of our people who are communication strategists and media planners, so it feels like if you're going to build a big agency today, you would do it in those proportions. You'd have the vast majority of people provide a growth specialist or have very special skills, primary specialists out there. So 20% of your people are liberated to pull that together to make it work for a brand for the long term.”

Going forward, there will be three major steps towards integrating the two businesses: merging the strategy teams so all staff can communite what iProspect does "with one voice", merging the client-facing teams to offer both short-term performance marketing expertise with longer-term brand-building knowledge, and integrating communication strategy across different media channels. While "there is no playbook" for this sort of agency merger, Bailey said the business is drawing on Dentsu's own expertise in transformation for external companies, which includes consultancy on building operations in finance and HR. 

"Clients come to us feeling quite secure that so many of our people are focused on tomorrow's sales requirement or return on investment requirement, so that they can speak and create headspace themselves on the long term might look like," Bailey said. "And we're doing the same with our strategy team: giving them an 18-month horizon plus with clients and working with them on questions like, what technology should we be procuring? How do you better understand your brand health?"

Bailey admitted it is difficult during a pandemic lockdown to create a holistic agency culture. In particular, he is keen to integrate the "disruptive" identity of Vizeum in order to challenge clients to do things different with their brand's media strategy.

"[Vizeum's culture] robably comes from a background of always wanting to punch above their weight and be successful," Bailey added. "But they are also brilliant collaborators as well within the network; the entry point for some really significant clients are Camelot and Ikea, ABInBev etc. They draw the best out of Dentsu services, it could be iProspect, or Merkle, or any part of the  business, and make that work for that client in a collaborative fashion. And that kind of spirit is crucial for any holding group.... Clients just want  people that they cannot procure tthemselves, to deliver solutions that will transform their business."

Bailey was previously head of business development at Maxus (now Wavemaker) and has also worked at MEC (now also Wavemaker) and TradeDoubler.