Boutique firm Stone Canoe has been scooped up by The CHR Group, an independent advertising and marketing services holding company based in New York. The 18-person digital agency will stay headquartered in downtown Toronto, but will also set up shop within CHR’s Manhattan offices. There are no immediate details of staffing changes.
The CHR Group is an employee-owned group of businesses that bills itself as a “next-generation agency network.” It’s headed by Peter Clark, previously managing partner at ClarkHuot and president of Clark Communications.
Founded in 2012, CHR is still in its startup phase, but its portfolio includes ClarkHuot (brand development), Neverstop (experiential), Vantage Productions (design, interactive and digital printing) and Stan Adler Associates (financial services marketing). Stone Canoe is the first digital agency to join.
The business structure allows its smaller outfits to team up and compete on a larger scale — without losing their creative independence. For agencies that don’t want to get swallowed up by a corporate giant, it can be a compelling alternative. “[CHR] not having public shareholders was certainly an attractive quality for us,” said Scot Bryson, president of Stone Canoe.
With experience in digital strategy, social media and other areas of new media, Stone Canoe has done work for clients like H&R Block, Five Gum, Moon Apparel, Yahoo! and Rogers. But expanding stateside has become increasingly important for opening more doors.
“There have been a lot of opportunities we’ve had to pass on because we didn’t have a strong physical foothold in the U.S. Now, being part of The CHR Group, we’ll have the ability to immediately work on projects with agency partners in the network. We’ll be pitching together,” said Bryson.
Like many modern courtships, this one started online. “We had followed their Twitter feed, and they reached out and wanted to know more about us. We started a conversation about a year and a half ago,” said Chris Clarke, founding partner and vice-president, Canada for The CHR Group.
CHR expects to acquire more businesses at a brisk pace. “At the moment we have 10 or 11 active discussions going on,” Clarke said. “We expect to have more announcements within a very short time.”