Three is the magic number for Trinity start-up

LONDON - Digital, brand and direct are the foundations of Phil Nunn's, Amy Lennox's and Simon Timlett's new venture.

The latest media agency startup, Trinity Communications, is not so named because its founders are religious zealots on a mission to spread the message of divine revelation. It's because it has three partners, and is based around three core disciplines: digital, brand and direct.

While it is tempting to pigeonhole Trinity with the rest of the one-word communications planning companies (Naked, Rise, Goodstuff, Experience, et al), its founders are eschewing this positioning. They are calling Trinity a media planning agency, arguing that this will place them closer to overseeing the buying process.

As Phil Nunn, one of the three partners of Trinity, explains: "Strategic communications has become far too high end. Trinity is all about putting media right back at the centre of things."

Nunn, the former managing partner of Manning Gottlieb OMD, is joined in the venture by Amy Lennox, the former head of digital at OMD Group, and Simon Timlett, the former managing partner of Brand Connection, and, before that, a director at Optimedia.

Timlett and Nunn had been discussing the idea of a start-up as far back as five years ago, but the launch of Trinity has been under serious discussion for around nine months. Now, with Nunn and Lennox's notice period from OMD having come to a close, the doors have officially opened.

Nunn is the large vibrant one, with a background in direct and digital planning and an infectious enthusiasm for what he does. Lennox is more of a pure planner by background, but made a move into digital, eventually running OMD's digital operation, while Timlett has more of a background in media brand planning and he comes across as a thoughtful, almost brooding operator.

Trinity has had a better run-up to launch than expected. It has gained both financial backing and a client list (it was prepared to open its doors without clients). The direct agency Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw has made a minority investment in Trinity. The new agency is based in the offices of Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, but MCBD holds no financial interest in Trinity. Trinity says the Kitcatt Nohr deal will offer "freedom, but backbone for us".

Explaining the decision to invest, Kitcatt Nohr's managing partner Marc Nohr says: "Talent like this doesn't come around very often, and we recognised the Trinity proposition was very timely." Nohr, along with his colleague Jeremy Shaw, will join the board of Trinity.

So what will make Trinity tick? All the founders say they are passionate about linking digital, brand and direct rather than putting them in silos, as they claim most big media agencies do. Data will sit at the centre of the operation, and Trinity has an agreement with the data specialist Huw Davis Partnership to deliver the numbers.

Its approach, Lennox says, is genuinely different: "It will change the way we work with clients. For instance, we'll be able to work on forecasting with retailers on how rain could affect their business, which media planners don't really do at the moment. We'll be involved with things that will impact on clients' media performance."

Although the start-up will not handle execution of media buying, Timlett says: "Media buying will be right in the middle of it, we won't just be looking at channel choices, but producing workable media schedules with the media buying points. We want to build a spirit of partnership with buying agencies in order to create optimisation within channels."

Nunn concludes: "There is a gap for unifying everything, clients are terrified by the costs of silos. It's the market's time, and hopefully we can capitalise on that. Agencies get it, and we're just here to work alongside people to get things working properly."

The aim of Trinity is to evolve the process of media planners developing a strategy before going to the digital team and asking them to bolt on a relevant bit of digital.

Most people seem to think that Trinity has got what it takes to make a go of its business. Nick Manning, the former chief executive of OMD Group, knows both Nunn and Lennox well. He says of them: "Phil and Amy are great operators, and both are excellent at client service. They really do care about a client's business, almost to the extreme that they get so involved with clients, they have to be careful of not being focused enough on their own business. But I do think that they'll succeed because of their character."

Simon Mathews, the founder of Rise Communications, worked with Nunn and Timlett during his time as the managing director of Optimedia. He says: "Phil and Simon are suited as a team. Phil is outgoing and very client focused. He has always concentrated on direct and digital channels. Simon is equally smart, but thinks much more before he talks. He's thoughtful, and if you put Phil's vibrancy and Simon's rock solidity together, it makes for a good combination. Whether or not they are cut out to be entrepreneurs - to a degree you can never tell, but they want to do it. As long as they are committed, they have the talent to win through."

The agency is launching with three clients - New Look, the clothing retailer, Spin Media (which has developed the Slingbox system, which transmits TV signals to laptops and other computers without a wire) and the shirt-maker Charles Tyrwhitt. Granted, these are small fry compared with some of the brands the three have worked on previously (HP, SC Johnson, Sony PlayStation and Virgin Money), but they still represent a solid start.

If there is any criticism that can be levelled at Trinity's intentions, it resolves around the execution issue. Some observers feel that digital buying would help it to win more business because clients would buy into the "all under one roof" positioning.

However, Timlett says: "The networks are already very good at doing it, they have the resources, the scale, and they have built up their structures to suit buying. We see the Trinity opportunity not in buying the execution, but rather in unified planning and working alongside the buying agencies to deliver the best to clients."

Sounds good in theory, but now the Trinity founders have to live up to their aims and ambitions.

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