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.

Create a Commenting Account

Advertising Articles

Global ‘Missing Type’ campaign launches in Canada

After success in the U.K. last year, the blood services campaign has gone global

CRTC issues order for simsub removal

Regulator says no new evidence to suggest broadcasters can't benefit from ad sales

CNN launches Canadian sales effort

News company's long-time ad sales partner Adspace Sales opens Toronto office

Which Olympic ads won with women?

Harbinger study examines what it takes for ads to be memorable

Media.net deal ups the ante in ad tech acquisitions

Telecom firm to take on provider of contextual ads to Yahoo and Bing

Public Mobile encourages you to swap junk for SIM cards

Self-serve mobile brand shows customers how it's different from the big guys

Olympic Contenders: Do you buy Air Canada’s pitch?

Alan Middleton sees a sales push amid customer service concerns

Olympic Contenders: ‘First’ isn’t always best

A respectable showing, but Jamie King doesn't see Visa earning a podium finish

On the Move: Additions at McCann, Momentum and BoomBox

A weekly update of who's headed where in Canadian marketing and communications