Former Havas AU/NZ chair Anthony Freedman launches new holding company Common Interest to build brands in popular culture
Aussie expat Anthony Freedman, serial creative industry entrepreneur, founder of Host and One Green Bean and former Havas AU/NZ chair and CEO has announced the launch of a new holding company Common Interest, bringing together investors from the worlds of entertainment, film, tech, media, gaming and advertising.
In a radical departure from the industry playbook of VC-led network groups, Common Interest is funded by a group of entrepreneurs united by a recognition that cultural connection represents the most compelling opportunity for impact and growth through the 2020s and beyond, creating a holding group for a new era of brand building.
While legacy ad networks are pursuing a narrowing focus on incremental performance gains driven by data, Common Interest is dedicated to driving brand growth through popular culture. The new group is committed to delivering big, bold creative impact at the intersection of brand, entertainment, modern media and technology.
Says Anthony Freedman, group founder and CEO, Common Interest: “Common Interest is born out of a gap that exists in today’s industry. We’re in an age where technology has radically transformed the media and entertainment industry, yet brand indifference is at an all time high. Moreover, as traditional advertising formats are diminishing in relevance, the stories behind brands matter more than ever.
“Our core focus will be to create positive change through the power of common interest. As a group founded in culture and privately funded by strategically aligned investors (myself included), it’s not about short-term gains and shareholder returns but about our shared ambition to change the direction the industry is heading. We’re here to find new ways to harness the power of creativity in culture to deliver growth in brand and business.”
This view is reflected in the company’s first acquisition: TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, founded by former Airbnb global CMO Jonathan Mildenhall with ex ChiatDay CSO Neil Barrie and led in the US by ex Redscout CEO Colin Chow. Renowned for its role in defining today’s iconic brands through the lens of culture, technology and purpose, the consultancy has built a cult-like following on the back of its work for category-defining unicorns such as Pinterest, Peloton, Instacart and Depop as well as established global giants such as Pepsico and Mars Inc., to name a few.
(Above L-R: Jonathan Mildenhall, Neil Barrie, Anthony Freedman, Colin Chow)
Says Neil Barrie, co-founder and global CEO, TwentyFirstCenturyBrand: “From our very first days huddled around Jonathan’s kitchen table, we knew one day we’d need an ally who would support, inspire and challenge us to achieve our ambitions. We’re a people-centred business and finding a partner who truly shares our values and understands our culture was not easy. That changed when we met Anthony. Anthony is a human-first leader with a pedigree of building progressive creative businesses, and he has a unique vision of what a new iteration of the ‘holding company’ can be.”
Says Colin Chow, brand managing partner, North America, TwentyFirstCentury: “Our ambition has always been to drive purposeful growth for both TwentyFirstCenturyBrand and our clients. Common Interest ensures our clients can access the world’s most diverse and creative talent as they build the brands that shape popular culture in the 21st century.”
On the acquisition of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, co-founder and chairman Jonathan Mildenhall concludes: “The impact of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand has exceeded my wildest expectations over the past five years. This deal will help turbo-charge our mission over the next decade. I couldn’t be more optimistic for our 21CB team and clients alike.”
With a trans-Atlantic footprint, this initial acquisition gives Common Interest an immediate presence in both Europe and North America from TwentyFirstCenturyBrand’s London base and San Francisco HQ, from which to further its growth with up to 10 acquisitions planned by the end of 2024, alongside backing smart founders with a proven track-record in start-ups.
Mildenhall, Barrie and Chow will each remain in their respective roles and oversee significant growth with new divisions soon to launch within their expanding consultancy.