Holding company Common Interest has launched CultureLab, an AI data platform for brands to help them understand and grow their cultural relevance.

The start-up platform uses AI to analyse more than 1.8 billion cultural data points daily, to find trends and “act as a cultural compass” for brands.

AI and machine learning are a key part of the platform and its capability to mine licensed and anonymised cultural data at scale. Future plans include incorporating generative AI into the tech with a longer-term view of vertically integrating the platform into tools that clients and partners are building.

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Creative and design agency Otherway has become the latest addition to the holding company Common Interest’s stable.

Launched by Anthony Freedman, former chair of Havas in Australia and New Zealand, Common Interest is on a shopping spree, aiming to acquire around 10 businesses during 2024-25. It began last September, when it bought global marketing consultancy TwentyFirstCenturyBrand.

Otherway’s clients include Unilever, Fortnum & Mason and Strongbow, whose branding the agency overhauled last year. Chief Executive Jono Holt, who joins Common Interest’s leadership team, said: “We really see the power of being part of something bigger than us, having done this independently for 10 years. We’ve got one eye on North America.”

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Last week, Common Interest’s entry into the advertising world didn’t shy away from poking a stick at its would-be rivals. Founder Anthony Freedman, former chair at Havas Australia, promised his new venture wouldn’t fall into the same trap as legacy ad networks that are “pursuing a narrowing focus on incremental performance gains driven by data.” It would not be focused on “short-term gains” or “shareholder returns” but would find a new way “to harness the power of creativity in culture to deliver growth in brand and business.”

The pitch: to deliver big, bold creative at the intersection of brand, entertainment, modern media and technology.

But it was the acquisition of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, the much-hyped trans-Atlantic marketing consultancy set up by ex-Airbnb CMO Johnathan Mildenhall and former chief strategy officer of TBWA\Chiat\Day Neil Barrie, that really gave the manifesto some gravitas.

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TwentyFirstCenturyBrand was founded in 2018 and is led by global chief executive and co-founder Neil Barrie and chairman and co-founder Jonathan Mildenhall. Campaign spoke to the duo about selling their business to the new kid on the block.

What made you decide to become part of a holding company, and a new one at that? What was it about the Common Interest proposition that attracted you?

Barrie: "The proposition of a collective specifically designed to help brands grow in popular culture is refreshing and necessary. While we knew from our earliest days that we might need to become part of something bigger to achieve our goals for TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, a traditional holding company did not feel right.

Common Interest has a unique ambition and Anthony is a unique leader. He immediately understood not only the work we do but our culture and our values. We are a people-first business and we'll do our best work by building on our values, not by diluting them. Anthony's integrity and ability to build progressive and creative teams is renowned among those he's worked with. Under his leadership, Common Interest will supercharge our offer without diluting what makes us special.”

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Anthony Freedman, the former chair of Havas in Australia and New Zealand, has launched a London-headquartered holding company called Common Interest and announced its first acquisition – global marketing consultancy TwentyFirstCenturyBrand.

Freedman, who has also founded businesses including One Green Bean, described privately funded Common Interest as a group with a "mission to build brands in popular culture", one that eschews a traditional paid media approach.

Common Interest is funded by nine investors (none of whom owns a stake greater than 20%), including chief executive and founder Freedman, from across the "worlds of film, entertainment, tech, media, gaming and advertising”.

Freedman described Common Interest's mission as generating "ideas that are bigger than advertising", that "aren't going to rely predominantly on paid media to reach audiences" and that are "fundamentally looking to build connections by tapping into popular culture”.

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