Media Buying Briefing: How a VC Vet Hunts Tech Startups with Martin Sorrell.


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Sanja Partalo is no stranger to wanting to cut deals and maximize investments for agencies. The former head of strategic development and partnerships at WPP worked with Sir Martin Sorrell and current CEO Mark Read until last November before setting up her own venture capital firm, S4S Ventures, in January.

As of S4, Sorel already looks like a new-age company, doesn’t it? As Sorrell is one of two major partners working with her to build the $100 million-plus VC investment fund, there is an indirect connection to Stanhope Capital’s Daniel Pinto, Partalo acknowledges. Partalo says S4S is not an arm of S4, but works with many S4 executives — not just because it’s willing to work with any technology platform or agency holding company.

Partlow, who knows her best from her time at WPP, which specializes in investing in the ad technology and mar-tech spaces, has wasted no time looking for opportunities. While she declined to name her first investment, Partallo said she has closed one deal and is close to closing two more, in Applied Artificial Intelligence and Mar-Tech. She said she believes the world of media has reached a tipping point with the easy access to technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Digiday’s interview with Partalo has been edited for space and clarity.

How did S4S Ventures come about?

I invested a lot when I was at WPP, and my favorite part of the job was… being in a position to think about the future and where the disruption is going to come from for our industry. It tends to be small companies where there is a lot of energy and energy. Sometimes the fact that they are not from our world means that they have a very compelling vision because they are not crushed by legacy thinking.

If you look at the numbers, only 2% of VC funds are led by women. I had no illusions that putting it together would be so easy. So when the opportunity presented itself with Martin and Daniel, it was a perfect combination from a professional perspective, an experience perspective and the alignment with S4 Capital.

How do you work with S4 Capital?

As Sir Martin sits on the investment committee and personally invests into the fund – as do a number of directors at S4 Capital – we have functional alignment with the business. At S4S, we all know the areas we work in together. What startups want is to find people who can play with their technology, who can use the technology, or give them an understanding of whether something is done the right way or given the right value. road. How are they? [S4 executives] Do you think the product will match the competitor’s collection? There is a lot of real-world symbolism. [S4S can deliver] It’s especially useful for early-stage companies considering developing their products for the broader marketing and advertising ecosystem.

What companies are you targeting for investment or acquisition?

We hope to support the leaders in mar-tech and advertising technology. We’re looking for technology-enabled companies – not service businesses or agencies. But there is one more pillar, which is content companies because we have a lot of experience in supporting those. The media ecosystem is constantly changing, with Gen Z in particular now hitting that age point where new entertainment and media platforms are making a meaningful mark in defining what they look like. So we’re in the early stages of finding out who the companies are that are getting their attention.

For Gen Z, content seemed different when YouTube star Mr. Beast opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant and saw 10,000 fans flock to it on the first day. What do you make of this?

It’s a great example because how does the industry categorize what’s going on there? It’s creative, to use industry jargon, which I personally feel doesn’t go very far. That means the creative economy is alive and well. It creates its own product, it monetizes the whole product, it’s a brand, it’s an advertising channel. It beats the bucket we’re used to.

I think that’s what’s so exciting about this season because Gen Z and the new breed of companies and creators as brands — the focus they’re attracting are business models that defy any structure that we’ve seen in the last 10 years. It’s about people and companies that are able to build communities – that’s the foundation of it all.

So is the democratization of content and technology emerging?

The next democratization of content development and influence building will be easier because creative technology tools are improving by the second. So if you’re talking about open AI or generative art or generative writing, or artificial humans – we’re still in the early stages of all of that. There are technologies that make content development completely expensive, and generally very demanding in terms of technique and skill. All of that means there will be more opportunities for the average person to develop content, to be more creative. To me, the content development industry seems very ripe for disruption.

Color by numbers

Obviously, if you’re not working for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Disney+, you might have a bit of a problem with your self-esteem. Kaltura, a self-described video experience cloud, that surveyed 200 streaming executives about consumer habits and technological advances and their findings in Go With the Stream, weren’t too confidence-inspiring. Some statistics:

  • Caltura cites other studies and points out that there are more than 5,300 streaming services worldwide.
  • When asked how they rate the quality and behavior of their service from a consumer perspective, most executives rated their service as “good” (43%) or “acceptable” (33%).
  • 20% of executives believed their service was as good as streaming giants like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.
  • 64% of respondents plan to improve their user experience over the next three years, with 32% planning to do so this year.
  • Only 25% of respondents said they had a good understanding of their audience and 47% admitted they had a limited understanding.

Taking off and landing

  • Independent mass media Following a review, he has been retained for Etihad Airways’ global media AOR duties and will take the account out of the London and Dusseldorf, Germany offices. Crossmedia has hosted media for the airline since 2019.
  • Havas Media Group He landed global media responsibilities for apparel licensor Wolverine Global (which includes brands such as Saucony, Sperry, Merrell and Keds) following a review to consolidate brand spending under one roof.
  • Omnicom Media Group Retained SC Johnson media business after review. CPG
  • Giant includes brands like Windex, Raid and Glade.

Direct quote

“It’s very plausible that Apple wants to build a mobile web-based DSP lock screen ad functionality. If this happens, it will certainly affect the user’s perception of privacy and the overall ‘Apple Experience’, considering the locked phone screen is one of the few places where users are not currently flooded with advertisements. Finally, Apple is making some tough internal decisions about where it can serve ads on Apple devices without offending the 50%+ of the US population that are iPhone users.

Alexa Kilroy, head of brand at ecommerce company Triple Whale.

Speed ​​reading


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