Bertozzi and Forde launch consultants’ collective
UK media veterans Marco Bertozzi and Rachel Forde have joined forces to launch TheZoo.London, a “collective” that aims to democratise the advertising and media consultancy business.
The business model promises to divert advertisers and media companies away from a “who you know” approach to providing a more inclusive offer in which specialists are curated and promoted through TheZoo.London.
Consultants listed on the website, thezoo.london, are anonymised. According to Bertozzi, these consultants will be assigned to projects “based on their experience rather than their ability to network, thus making it the most diverse group of talent available at this level of seniority.”
Consultants are advertised but anonymised (Credit: thezoo.london)
The founders, who will share an equal stake in TheZoo.London, have over 50 years’ combined leadership experience in media and advertising, having first worked together in the TV-buying department at Publicis Groupe media shop Zenith in the late-1990s.
Bertozzi went on to become known as a digital advertising pioneer at Publicis and more recently has been a sales leader at Spotify and Whalar. Forde was most recently UK & Ireland CEO at Interpublic Group media agency UM and is widely credited with having led the business’ resurgence with a string of new-business wins.
The pair explained to The Media Leader that TheZoo.London is designed to offer a flexible services solution for both marketers or agency executives that want to tap into experience and expertise on a non-permanent basis. The model aims to help businesses solve a diverse range of complex challenges, which could be embedding artificial intelligence into daily working practices, building sustainable behaviours, or developing progressive people strategies and tackling technological disruptions.
In preparation for TheZoo.London’s launch, Bertozzi and Forde have recruited 12 “fully signed-up consultants” and are in discussions with another five.
Creating an ‘actual community’
The pair’s vision for TheZoo.London is to provide a service for consultants to not only connect with businesses but also forge “meaningful relationships” with fellow professionals.
Consultancy, or project-based work more generally, has grown in UK media and advertising in recent years as media consumption has migrated to digital channels and advertising strategy has become more reactive and short-termist in nature.
This has led to companies requiring specialised expertise, often on short notice. Bertozzi and Forde want to ensure that time-poor marketers or agency heads are not bound to hire people within their existing professional network or opting for the loudest promoters on social media.
Bertozzi explained: “There are people like me that have spent my life on LinkedIn and love chatting and talking. [But] there are loads of expert people who don’t like doing that and don’t want to do it. They still need to find work. So we’re going to help them.”
The consultancy also aims to mitigate the industry’s so-called “missing middle” talent retention problem in which experienced people below C-suite level have left for a lack of opportunities or as victim of company restructures.
“That’s a massive brain drain,” Forde said, after pointing out that just 6% of the advertising industry is over 50.
She added: “Being a lone consultant can give you your work life balance, but it can also be incredibly lonely, and also having to go out there are market yourself, go to conferences and events, it can take up a lot of time… The collective could, for example, say ‘hey, we’ve got these tickets for the Future of Brands, who wants to go?'”
However, the goal is not just to work with consultants who can lead on advertising or media strategy, Bertozzi explained. “It’s about whether you want to go on the road to B-Corp, it’s about whether you need to do a transformation from a diversity and inclusion perspective, it’s about the impact of AI and automation on your business. It’s the whole gamut of services rather than specialising in one particular thing.”
He added: “We want to give [consultants] an anchor. We want to give them support. We want them to collaborate with the other consultants. We’re going to use a platform that they would all register on, where they’re able to talk to each other, to share stories, information, ask questions, and that’s where we’ll bring them tickets and chances to meet in person as well. We’ll be an actual community, not just a theoretical one.”
And long-term, the aspiration for TheZoo.London is to create such a collaborative working practice among its consultants that they are comfortable referring each other for work.
Forde said: “Our big ambition is it just becomes one big group where [consultants] can explore the platform and say ‘I can’t do this, but I know somebody that can’. […] A lot of start-up companies can’t afford senior talent or non-executive directors, but could you just have a virtual executive board to help you in your first three months? There are so many kinds of ways that companies need specialist consultants but at the moment it’s a bit unknown. Where do you find all of them?”
Zoo are you?
The name, it turns out, is not inspired by any meetings held at a well-known amenity in Regent’s Park. Rather, Bertozzi reveals, it derives from an animal psychology test he was asked to complete by a previous employers.
“The zoo is a collection of lots of incredible different animals that, together, make up this amazing experience for people. Individually, of course, they’re nice enough, but it’s by being together in the zoo that you fully apprecaite they’re an amazing collection of different and diverse talents. And that’s how I saw all of these different consultants. And I’m like, Well, you know, let’s bring those together.
And, yes, Bertozzi insisted, there will by an animal psychology test available on thezoo.london to find out which creature your personality aligns with.