Grip deal shows Dentsu Aegis serious about diversification

Acquiring the creative agency signals shift for media-focused holdco

Grip Executive TeamToronto-based Grip Limited has been acquired by the Dentsu Aegis Network, a multinational holding company looking to make 2016 a year of transition and growth.

The 150-person Grip will operate among Dentsu Aegis’ “specialist brand” companies, which include 360i, Amnet, ICUC and Amplifi. It’s a relatively small operating unit within the Canadian branch of the London, U.K.-based network that mostly accommodates global agency brands that specialize in one discipline.

Generally, Dentsu Aegis is media-focused in Canada; while it does own DentsuBos and Isobar, the bulk of its staff sit in offices for the Carat, Dentsu Media and Vizeum media agencies. Grip is only its second full-service agency.

Annette Warring, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network Canada, told Marketing her network seeks to double its headcount by 2018 through smart acquisitions and business development — goals the Grip acquisition was meant to accelerate thanks to its digitally savvy staff and record of strong, award-winning creative work.

Warring said the network is not on a shopping spree and there are currently no more acquisition announcements in the pipeline. But, with two creative agencies now on the roster, Warring said Dentsu Aegis has identified a few key areas to develop next: CRM, experiential and data.

“Data is probably our single-largest and most important focus right now. All aspects of it,” she said. “We want to scale that as fast [and] as effectively as we can.

“We’ve talked to some agencies and we’ll continue to talk to others. But, we’re not aggressively approaching all agencies in a category. We’ve very strategic about it, very mindful, very aware of what we need and don’t believe in wasting people’s time. We don’t just acquire because somebody checks a box or can grow revenue for revenue’s sake.”

Grip will still be led by the existing suite of partners — managing partner Bob Shanks and creative partners David Crichton, David Chiavegato, Rich Pryce-Jones, Randy Stein, Bob Goulart, David Hamilton and Scott Dube — all of whom no longer own stakes in the agency and ultimately report to Warring.

Of key importance to those partners was retention of Grip’s name, structure and culture post-acquisition. While Dentsu Aegis has rebranded acquisitions in the past (such as Spoke in 2014 which merged with and rebranded as Isobar), Grip will not be made a part of DentsuBos or any other existing company.

Shanks told Marketing Grip’s partners liked the holding company’s offer because it would allow them to operate under the existing structure — a relatively large pool of partners without standard titles such as president or chief creative officer. Other benefits included a clear path to growing the business, something many independent agencies seek when entertaining buy-out offers.

“You always have that dream of extending the footprint of the brand outside the country,” Shanks said. “That’s always been a long-term goal of ours. And obviously, we’ve always had an absence of the media discipline; we’ve never felt we were in a position to build-out buying or planning in a way that was unique or different from the current offerings.”

The deal was worked out over approximately six months with help from R&D Venture Partners. It marks yet another large independent agency selling to a multinational organization.

Add a comment

You must be to comment.

Advertising Articles

Red Lion wins The Brain Project

Toronto agency gets a shot at driving research funding through Baycrest Health Sciences’ arts initiative

Cadbury brings joy back to the holidays

How the brand drives local relevance and trying to stay top of mind this December

Welcome to the sharing economy of advertising (column)

KBS Canada head Nick Dean reflects on agency talent and what's ahead for 2017

Marketel McCann rebrands, adds new president

Mylene Savoie takes the leadership position as the agency takes on a new name

The List: Leo Burnett breaks down borders

The agency expanded its assignments, leadership and influence beyond Toronto

The biggest stories in Canadian marketing: 2016

A look back at the most read and shared news items from MarketingMag.ca

DDB hires first North American CCO

Ari Weiss to lead 17 creative teams from across the continent

How we can close advertising’s biggest gap

AOL's David Shing on how companies can bring more empathy to advertising

Confirming speculation, Blammo and Extreme merge

Renamed as Arrivals + Departures, independents make a cultural match