Pete Robins and Rhys Williams, two of the co-founders of digital agency Agenda21, have joined the7stars, where they will head a newly created technology and activation hub.
Liam Mullins, managing partner at the7stars, said Robins and Williams will help Britain’s biggest independent agency boost its tech capabilities.
The new hub will launch new products and services for clients and help them on a consultative basis, particularly with in-housing and tech investments, according to Mullins.
"It aims to capitalise on the7stars’ position on transparency and neutral planning – in particular within the digital space," the agency said.
Robins, a serial agency entrepreneur who previously founded Media21 and Glue London, and Williams set up Agenda21 in 2005, before selling it to Be Heard Group in 2015 and staying with the company until this year.
Meanwhile, the7stars is hiring Monique Slater, who also joins from Agenda 21, and Mark Beckford, previously of Wavemaker, to join the tech and activation hub.
They will work alongside two of the7stars’ existing digital experts, head of biddable media Adam Chugg and head of programmatic Dom Blacklock.
Mullins said the7stars has proved its "digital, data and technology" credentials by winning clients such as First Rail, the owner of Great Western Railway, earlier this year but also saw the need to invest further in tech capabilities after taking part in L’Oréal’s UK and Ireland media review, which was won by WPP’s Essence in June.
"We want to refocus our team around tech and how we activate," Mullins said. "Our clients are asking us for more upstream, ‘up-funnel’ stuff and we want to make sure we are fit for some of those questions."
Robins, who is chairman of the IPA’s digital media group, said: "After 14 years of running then selling our own business, we were after a new challenge.
"And a challenge where the opportunity was all about future thinking and rapid evolution, not fixing something that was broken.
"The7stars, with its ambition and ethos, is perhaps the only agency suited for our next adventure. We're chuffed to be joining."
Williams added: "We see such a big opportunity to develop a range of expanded digital services and expertise fit for modern, forward-thinking clients.
"This could be new tech partnerships right through to evolving ways of working with clients. Our role is to lead this and build on the7stars’ fantastic reputation."
Mullins said recruiting Robins and Williams is a "coup" for the7stars, adding that they "form an important part of our groundbreaking plans to continue to build on that over the next decade".
He described Agenda21 as "a brilliant business", but said "our ambition is to bring that [thinking] into a full-service, all-channel world."
Mullins added that the7stars was creating a tech and activation hub, rather than a department or division, because digital is not a silo.
"We think [calling something] digital is almost pointless," Mullins explained. "It’s like calling things media. Everything will be activated in a digital world [in future].
"Having a digital department is counter-intuitive. It’s about how we reach customers in the best possible way."
Be Heard Group told investors ealier this year that Agenda 21's revenues fell after losing its biggest client.