Eric Newnham, Founder of Talon Outdoor, on the Value of Active Partnership

Eric Newnham is the founder of Talon Outdoor, an independent and innovative Out-of-Home (“OOH”) media agency. Talon focuses on delivering smarter, creative, technology-led, and integrated OOH advertising campaigns. Since launching in London in 2012, Talon has grown to employ over 200 staff with global offices in the United States, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, and Singapore.

Can you tell us a little bit about Talon?

We founded our business in 2012 and have made it our mission to help our clients navigate their way through a sector undergoing rapid change. Digital technology has transformed how advertisers interact with consumers Out-of-Home and we ensure our clients take advantage of the opportunity to produce high-quality, innovative, and engaging Outdoor campaigns. We are independent of any media holding company and have a wide breadth of experience and technical expertise in OOH which allows us to build custom approaches for our clients.

Though we have accomplished much since Talon was founded, one seminal moment was in 2019, when we launched our own global OOH network, Plexus, which connects over 20 Talon and partner offices across 75+ markets. Plexus is the largest independent global OOH network, focused on delivering smarter, creative, and integrated OOH communications. This has been instrumental to our growth as we established our own data analytics capability which aggregates international OOH data sources for use in targeting and planning global campaigns. This greatly extended our global solutions offering for clients.

As you were looking to further expand and looked to investors, what made Mayfair stand out initially?

Before Mayfair, we had only worked with private and corporate investors, so private equity was a relatively new concept to us. Several private equity houses expressed interest in the business, but Mayfair caught our attention early in the process. One important element was that members of the Mayfair team had previous experience in our sector, meaning that they were familiar with our industry language and terminology, as well as how we operate. This gave us a sense of immediate comfort and allowed them to distinguish themselves from other investors.

Over the course of Mayfair’s investment, how did you work together to achieve Talon’s strategic-growth plans?

Throughout our whole journey with them from 2017 to 2022, we worked in partnership to grow Talon, whilst maintaining the integrity of our founding principles and vision. One of the reasons that we were able to expand significantly over the course of our partnership and build the foundation for future growth was that Mayfair invested far more than just capital and board-level counsel. Their team of dedicated Specialists ranging from Human Capital to Marketing Effectiveness to Technology & Data worked directly with our team to provide invaluable insight and hands-on support.

Can you tell us a little more about working with Mayfair’s Specialists?

There are myriad areas in which we worked together over the course of our Active Partnership. For instance, when we were looking for a CFO, Mayfair ran the recruitment process, including meticulous screening of candidates to ensure that we found someone who aligned with our values and strategic growth plans.

They not only found candidates who were aligned with our expansion objectives, but we also directly benefitted from Mayfair’s expertise in entering new markets, notably the U.S. With their support, we completed two strategic acquisitions in the U.S. and entering this market greatly accelerated both our growth and strategic value.

We constantly seek to innovate and challenge the perceived boundaries of OOH and our growth coincided with seismic change in the sector, led by digitisation, which continues to this day. As part of this and, in line with the sector’s rapid digitisation, we saw great value in using our own technology, as opposed to that of a third party. Mayfair and our Chairman, Murray Hennessey, supported in both the development of the technology and its subsequent deployment which has been transformational for the business.

One final point I want to touch on in terms of working with Mayfair is their fantastic partners. We worked extensively with Bertie and Daniel from entry to exit. When it came to exit, Bertie provided strategic counsel in addition to his strong connections and vast network which was invaluable across the deal process and speaks to the strongly positive reputation in his field. I would never hesitate to go to either one of them for advice in the future.

Having achieved such growth in the past five years, what do you see as the next step for Talon?

Talon is now in great shape – our partnership with Mayfair allowed us to surpass our original growth expectations and introduce the necessary structure and rigour to maintain our momentum long into the future. This led to us growing beyond my assumptions when we started our relationship in 2017. Whilst at our core, we remain true to ourselves and our original mission, organisationally, we have completely transformed.

Shifting consumer and corporate appetite for multi-channel strategies is fluctuating while there is a resurgence in trust in innovative Outdoor advertising. Outdoor remains a reliable, engaging, and innovative medium for brands that want more control of their ad placement. I am confident that we will continue our upward trajectory and look forward to the next stages of our growth.