86: Astus UK

Astus’s business model sounds like it shouldn’t work, but with latest reported sales topping £22m and £40m expected next year, there’s no denying that it does. The idea, which developed first in the US, is called “media barter”. Astus sets up deals where clients pay for their advertising using (at least in part) their own goods and services.

“One of our clients produces a popular US lager,” explains co-founder Frances Dickens. “We take a negotiated amount of their beer and supply it to media agencies for parties, as well as special events such as testimonials for rugby players.”

The brand gets cheaper advertising, the agency gets beer, or cars, or whatever the brand is offering, and Astus gets paid. The business is one of only a handful existing in the UK, and demand for its services is fierce.

“In the early days, we turned down more sales leads than we accepted,” says Dickens. “If we couldn’t meet a clients needs, we admitted it. Now we’re a lot bigger and can serve a lot more clients, and they respect and trust us because of the honesty we displayed in the early days.”


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