Throughout the last financial year, ending on 30 June 2020, the Serviceplan Group has maintained market stability despite the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and its impact. At EUR 448 million, global agency fees were slightly above those of the previous year (EUR 442 million).
Market predictions are as sombre as they are realistic. In light of this, the Serviceplan Group’s balance sheet is all the more gratifying. As Europe’s largest owner-managed agency group, the Serviceplan Group has succeeded in finishing the financial year in a stable position, despite the difficult overall economic situation.
Florian Haller, CEO of the Serviceplan Group, says: “I am proud that we have managed to buck the industry trend and maintain such stability during the first few months of the global Covid-19 crisis. This is a unique team effort that we have only been able to achieve through the strategic vision and flexibility of our colleagues in Germany and our Houses of Communication around the world. Thanks to our international orientation, our focus on digitalization, our integrated mindset and our partner-managed structure, we were able to further cement our status as Europe’s leading owner-managed agency group, rising to the challenges posed in a difficult market environment.”
International Houses of Communication as Beacons
With 24 of its own locations and around 4,200 employees worldwide, as well as further partner locations, the Serviceplan Group has now established itself in 35 countries. The agency’s “House of Communication” model plays a central role in this, and a wide variety of specialist agencies are included under this umbrella. In locations where the Serviceplan Group is represented by several of its agency brands, it operates as a “House of Communication”. This makes Serviceplan the only agency group that combines all communication services from a single source into an integrated and holistic concept across national borders. This concept is constantly being expanded at all locations, most recently in Vienna and Amsterdam. Through the merger with Mediaxplain* and the establishment of the new “House of Communication” in Amsterdam in July 2020, the Serviceplan Group is sending strong signals into the Benelux market.
Promoting Digital Innovations through Personnel and Content
The fact that the Serviceplan Group concluded the last difficult financial year in such a confident position is due not least to the sharp increase in demand for digital services. The fee volume of Mediaplus and Plan.Net was EUR 217 million in the past financial year – the increase over the previous year (+ 7%) is mainly due to growing digitalization in the media sector.
In spring, the Serviceplan Group also formed a new global agency division for digital production, known as thehubz.com. With more than 1,200 employees in six Hubz on three continents, TheHubz.com supports the agency group as an internal production services provider by increasing the productivity, effectiveness and speed of client projects. Some of the Hubz are based in Brussels.
An agile Group in difficult Times
One of the Serviceplan Group’s keys to success, which has proved effective particularly in periods of crisis, is the owner-managed partner model. Each company in the agency group is run by one or two managing directors, who also share materially in the company’s success. All the partners are involved in the day-to-day business and look after their clients personally. Florian Haller says: “We are a speedboat, not a tanker. During this period, our unique partner structure has helped a lot in the sense that everyone pulls together. As an independent agency, we are more agile, faster and more flexible in our decision-making, as we do not have to take account of the short-term, ROI-driven interests of shareholders”.
2020/2021: Extraordinary Market Conditions create a challenging Year
The 2020/2021 financial year, which began on 1 July 2020, will continue to be impacted by the effects of the previous months of crisis and the resulting global economic recession. CEO Florian Haller explains: “Our clients and their expectations of us as an agency partner are evolving. Keywords such as consolidation, efficiency, cost pressure and data-based communication will continue to gain in importance. We are adjusting to this by being flexible, thinking and acting progressively and consistently pursuing the digitalization push of the past few months”. He continues: “At the moment, no one can forecast growth. But I assure you that we in the Serviceplan Group are taking and have already taken many steps in pursuance of a common goal – we aim to stabilize the agency group, making it reliable and future-proof for our clients and our colleagues”.
Serviceplan Group in Belgium
Serviceplan Group Belgium is one of the five most important international agencies of the group and is managed by the Belgian CEO Peter Vande Graveele. The company currently employs about 70 people and has a turnover of almost EUR 25 million, while the income for the financial year 2019-2020 is slightly less than EUR 8 million.
The House of Communication Brussels, totally renovated 3 months ago, is located in a tiny alley in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre in Brussels, where it has colonised the former tramway station, is just like the others that the group is setting up all over the world: a vibrant and agile beehive, with a permanent exchange between the different services. This hub brings together six specialised agencies: Serviceplan (creation and strategy), Plan.Net (digital and technology), Mediaplus (media solutions), Mediascale (programmatic and data), Solutions (marketing intelligence) and Neverest (motion design). WW (Weight Watchers), Torfs, Lactalis, Shell, Fédérale Assurance and others are among the longterm customers. "We work autonomously, with a horizontal structure, but benefit from the advantages of an international group. Without the Solutions software, for example, we would not be able to carry out all the adaptations of L'Oréal's campaigns for the Benelux markets, i.e. more than 6,000 assignments per year. For this luxury giant, this represents an important reduction of the costs associated with these localised versions", Peter Vande Graveele explains.
Data management is another strength of Serviceplan. Mediascale, the programmatic and data agency, is organising "House of Data", thematic lunches with internationally renowned experts in data science. In cooperation with the market research agency GfK, Serviceplan also presents the "Best Brands Awards" every year. Best Brands is an annual survey (with 5,000 respondents and 350 analysed brands) that combines two aspects of marketing: economic success (share of wallet) and the emotional impact (share of soul) of a brand. An unique concept that relies exclusively on the consumer to choose the winners.