A new strategy, a generation change, two new partners and several new clients have created an upturn at Sunrise, who no longer calls itself an advertising agency, but the Commercial Transition Agency.

Things are looking up at Sunrise after a couple of hard years. The bankruptcy of FONA and the closing of the KIWI discount chain lead to the sudden loss of two major clients and millions in revenue.

For the first time in the agency’s 20-year history, the financial statements for 2016 were in the red. Not anymore, though. The financial statements for 2017 show a profit on the right side of two million DKK.

“We are definitely moving forward again”, says Simon Hertz, CEO and Partner at Sunrise, and declares that the agency is on the offensive once again.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 15 new companies have been added to the list of clients. In addition, the agency has been hiring new talent bringing the headcount up to 35 employees again.

“We have more than rebuilt our client base, and I am very proud of the team, who have showed the will to rebuild after a couple of hard years. I am deeply grateful for the effort the team has put in”, says Simon Hertz.

A new strategy, a new Sunrise

In November last year, Sunrise completed a generation change, where the longtime CEO and founder of Sunrise, Michael Sølling, left the agency and handed over the reins to Simon Hertz, who brought two new partners in.

The new partners are Lars Egtoft, former CFO of Kunde & Co., and Mikkel Heideby, former Director of Black Rabbit and co-owner of Umwelt.

Two heavyweights in the industry, who have bought into the opportunity to transform the agency, explains Simon Hertz.

What has this meant?

“It’s no secret that all three of us have been at Kunde & Co. at some point in our careers. We have all had leading positions there and for several years. No doubt our time at Kunde & Co. has provided us with an indispensable marketing toolbox”, says Simon Hertz.

“We have worked closely together over the years, and we have always been aligned in terms of how marketing can create commercial impact. As a result, we have managed to create a management team with a joint objective.”

“Tuning the strategy came naturally for all three of us. Well, more than that. We’ve turned everything upside down, and our market-approach is now more clearly defined. Even more driven by knowledge, insights and effect, and less by execution as traditional advertising agencies.”

Goodbye ‘advertising agency’

Are you no longer an advertising agency then?

“No thanks. That is not how we want to position ourselves in the future. The traditional advertising agency is dead and has been for a long time. That’s not to say that we aren’t still passionate about powerful ideas and strong creative executions.”

“What it means, is that we will meet the market with a new attitude, offer more consulting services and that we want to change the perception of Sunrise.”

“We are working more and more with sales and marketing strategy, digital strategy, brand architecture, strategic and digital concept development and internationalization. All projects that support our existing and potential client’s transformation to the next level.”

“The fact is that a lot of what we do for our clients doesn’t necessarily result in a brochure, a billboard, a fun post on social media or a TV spot.”

CEO Simon Hertz: “We want to be the preferred partner among companies on the rise. Is your company facing a transformation of any kind, we can advise you from a marketing strategic perspective.”

What about creativity?

What do the creatives at Sunrise have to say about that?

“Powerful creative ideas remain central and will never lose their relevance, but it has to be a natural extension of the marketing strategy. And not vice versa.”

“The complexity has increased. From a commercial point of view, the requirements to think and navigate conceptually and creatively across channels, segments and borders are enormous.”

“In fact, it requires extremely skilled creatives to deliver in this intersection. And the creatives we attract are, and have to be, up to the task of working creatively from a business-oriented perspective.”

Are they then?

“Yes, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. We’ve set the scene, and left plenty of room for creative ambition and room to unfold. The creatives play a huge role at the agency. I’m also very aware of the magic that happens in collaboration between the creatives and our clients.”

But if you’re not an advertising agency, what are you?

“We have been working on defining a new category …”

What do you call it?

“Sunrise – The Commercial Transition Agency”

You will have to explain that.

“We approach the market as an indispensable partner when a brand or company wants to go to the next level. We want to be the preferred partner among companies on the rise. Is your company facing a transformation of any kind, we can advise you from a marketing strategic perspective.”

But do you sell consulting services or advertising solutions?

“We sell results. That’s all that matters”, Simon Hertz states.

New alliances

That sounds ambitious. How can an agency of your size provide that?

“We have streamlined our services and cut down to three main areas: Consulting & Strategy, Communication & Creative and Technology & Production.”

“We have come to the realization that we can’t master all disciplines. That’s why we have developed and established our Open Garden concept, which covers our strategic partnerships with specialists such as UserTribe, Caspari Media, Headnet / 1508, Aakjær, and others like them.”

“We believe in strong partnerships with competent, specialist agencies. Together with them, we can create the only things that matter to our clients: Insights and effect”, says Simon Hertz.

How do your clients react to these initiatives?

“We are experiencing a demand for our way of thinking. There is a demand for an agency that shows more courage than management consultancies, but more thoughtfulness than traditional advertising agencies. In any case, it has worked for us so far. Especially since we have zoomed in on a segment that matches our new “commercial transition strategy” very well.

Zooming in on growth-companies

Which segment is that?

“We want to work with medium-sized companies. Companies that have the potential and aspiration to become a leader in their industry and category.”

“In the past, we have also gone after prestige clients like Ørsted, DSB and Danske Spil, but not anymore. We would rather carve out a niche for the mid-level companies, who are on the rise or on a journey: A Commercial Transition.”

“We always line up a team of experienced people – often including one of our partners – so the CEO and CMO of the company receive high-level strategic sparring all way through,” he says.

“Our experience has told us that there are three things that matter in the relationship between Sunrise and its clients:

“It’s the chemistry between our team and theirs, our ability to understand their business and industry, and finally, our ability to create strong results for similar companies. We have to deliver on this every time. If we don’t, we are potentially out. It’s a motivational factor that permeates our entire organization and internal set-up,” says Simon Hertz.

Along with his partners, Lars Egtoft and Mikkel Heideby, he describes 2018 as a transitional year requiring significant investments, which is why all three will be pleased with a modest result.

“We are transforming the entire agency and our go-to-market strategy. We are optimistic, but it serves to have a good portion of humility and respect for the market along with our enthusiasm”, concludes Simon Hertz.

Key figures for Sunrise Reklamebureau A/S 2017 (2016 in brackets)
(million DKK)
  • Net sales: 26.3 (30.6)
Profit before tax: 3.2 (-0.9)
  • Net profit for the year: 2.5 (-0.7)
Equity: 0.6 (10.1)
  • Avg. number of employees: 28 (41)

Follow us here