Dentsu Aegis acquires Grip

The deal is part of the network's move to increase its digital capabilities, while Grip looks to expand abroad.

Grip Executive Team

Pictured, clockwise from top: Rich Pryce-Jones, David Crichton, Randy Stein, Scott Dube, Bob Shanks and David Chiavegato.

Dentsu Aegis Network has acquired Grip Limited, continuing its strategy to have a more holistic approach among its agencies and improve its digital capabilities. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In many ways, the deal means business as usual, says Annette Warring, CEO at Dentsu Aegis Network Canada. Grip will maintain its name and branding and will operate as a specialist brand within the network.

Grip will also retain its senior leadership team of founding partners (pictured above), including managing partner Bob Shanks and creative partners David Crichton, David Chiavegato, Rich Pryce Jones, Randy Stein and Scott Dube. Founded in 2002, Grip – which took home Silver at strategy’s Digital Agency of the Year awards in November – now has about 155 staff members and revenues of more than $20 million.

“We guard our structure and independence pretty militantly,” Shanks says, which was a critical discussion for the acquisition. “They’re buying Grip and a big part of Grip is our structure. There was no pressure whatsoever from them to change that and certainly no consideration on our part.” 

Along with adding media capabilities to its offering, Shanks says that expanding Grip was what was attractive about the deal. Its strategic direction has been focused on how to expand, both in terms of client work and geographically, he says, particularly as the shop already has several global clients who can create potential opportunities in the U.S. and elsewhere. Among Grip’s major clients are Honda, Acura, Yum Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell), Expedia, Allergan, Anheuser Busch Inbev, McCain Foods, Dare, Lindt Sprungli and Royal Bank of Canada.

For Dentsu Aegis’ part, Grip’s partners and forward-looking mentality, especially in terms of digital being part of a more integrated approach, is what made it an attractive fit, Warring says.

Overall, the network has been shifting to a more holistic offering that can provide “omni-channel brand experiences,” she says. In other words, it’s working towards a vision of having media agencies think outside just media, and creative outside of just creative to work together.

Along with the acquisition, the network has been working towards that goal with its hiring as well. Earlier this week, Dentsu Aegis announced that former Lowe Roche exec Jeff Dack would take the president role at Carat. Dack’s background, which spans strategic and creative work, made him the “perfect hybrid of what we’re looking for,” Warring says.

“He has no shackles with regards to his background as to how he approaches solutions for brands,” she says. “He’s going to look at it completely with an open mind and those are the leaders that we’re looking for.”

Also this week, Dentsu Aegis brought on Philip Filippopoulos as its new CFO, with previous CFO Louise Gauthier moving into a newly-created role of EVP of group profitability management. Warring attributes the changes, and the network’s overall investment in its functional leadership, to its growth (its revenues are now six times what they were in 2011, she notes).

Dentsu Aegis Network includes Carat, DentsuBos, Dentsu Media, iProspect, Isobar, McgarryBowen, MKTG, Posterscope and Vizeum, along with its specialist brands, of which Grip is now a part. Other brands in that group include agencies 360i, Mitchell Communications Group, psLIVE, analytics firm Data2Decisions and an investment arm, Amplifi.