Matt Isaacs, Exec Chairman and Co-founder, Essence 


Matt Isaacs 60ppx           

Above: Matt Isaacs of fast-growing digital agency Essence. Image: company.

Digital agency Essence has gone from under the radar start-up to industry star in just over a decade.

Having won US tech giants such as Google and HP as clients with its expertise in automated media buying and data science, the company - started by three non-advertising execs - has been on an international growth drive.

Essence provides the broad range of digital marketing from search to social media advertising, websites, apps, e-commerce and automated ad-buying. 

Its three founders conceived the idea for Essence when they worked together at Accucard, a credit-card company backed by Lloyds TSB, for which they developed an in-house digital marketing unit.

They launched on their own in 2005, with early endorsement from Carphone Warehouse boss Sir Charles Dunstone, who used the team to improve the telecoms retailer’s website.

In retrospect, the 2008 financial crisis appears a watershed as clients subjected budgets to greater scrutiny. Essence was well-placed because digital marketing is highly measurable compared to other forms of marketing and the company’s transparent approach proved popular with marketers.

The agency is now more than 500 people strong, manages over $850m in media spend and deploys campaigns in 71 markets via offices in Chicago, Delhi, London, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

Its rapid growth also caught the eye of WPP, the world’s leading communications services group, which took a majority stake in the agency in 2015.

This success has been built from its beginnings in London. The company reflects the capital’s status as Europe’s tech and cultural hub.

It attracts talent from across the globe, is conveniently placed for time zones between the US and Asia, and provides a test market with high smartphone adoption and sophisticated media networks.

Isaacs told the Evening Standard: “People talk about the importance of financial services. But the UK has always had extraordinary strength in creative industries — whether that is film-making, music or advertising and communications. It fuels innovation.

And despite the global competition for talent and client budgets which the UK capital faces, Isaacs is clear about its appeal for the digital industry.

In a past interview he has said: “London is a fantastic hub for the digital industry – there are places in Europe that are also strong such as Berlin, Stockholm etc. but London is one of the top places.

From here it is possible to hire people with international languages but most of all we have this huge crossover between technology and creative talent. These are two things that are essential in this space.”

Find out more at