DDB Needham Worldwide buys Robins Sharpe

In a move that brings to an end weeks of speculation, DDB Needham Worldwide (Canada) has announced the purchase of Robins Sharpe Associates, both of Toronto.Formed in 1988 by Chairman Brad Robins and President Bill Sharpe, Robins Sharp has 40 employees...

In a move that brings to an end weeks of speculation, DDB Needham Worldwide (Canada) has announced the purchase of Robins Sharpe Associates, both of Toronto.

Formed in 1988 by Chairman Brad Robins and President Bill Sharpe, Robins Sharp has 40 employees and claims annual billings of $28 million.

For weeks, rumors had been rampant that Robins Sharp had been placed on the selling block.

But principals Robins and Sharpe, while not denying their truth, had refused to confirm them.

Paul Carder, president and chief executive officer of ddb in Toronto, says the purchase of Robins Sharpe is consistent with ddb’s efforts to move away from the traditional agency structure and to find a way of doing business that is more appropriate to the needs of today’s clients.

Earlier this year, ddb’s u.s. Chairman Keith Reinhard told Advertising Age, the u.s. marketing trade magazine, that ddb had recently put in place a business renewal plan called ‘Agency 2000.’

Reinhard said one of ddb’s goals is to become more flexible, an end he hopes to achieve by adopting a business strategy known as clustering.

For ddb, this means forming or acquiring specialty firms that revolve around the central agency but operate as separate entities.

Carder says the idea is that clients would be better served by an agency structure that enabled the customization of services to meet particular needs.

According to Carder, Robins Sharpe brings to the table an ‘entrepreneurial spirit and a street-smart sense,’ noting small agencies are better at some tasks, while large shops are better at others.

Earlier this year, the Toronto office of ddb could be seen putting Agency 2000 into action when it signed a long-term contract with an outside creative shop Bruce & Myers Creative Directions of Toronto.

The agency, owned by art director Duncan Bruce and copywriter Brad Myers, handles ddb’s creative needs on one of its key accounts, Volkswagen Canada.

This year as well, ddb in New York unbundled its media department, establishing a separate media division.

It has also set up a separate unit responsible for gte, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, and one that handles the radio needs for PepsiCo.

In November of last year, ddb’s Toronto office bought Anderson Advertising, a Toronto agency with annual billings of about $30 million. Anderson continues to operate as a separate, autonomous division.

Other business units in ddb’s Canadian stable are: Heather Reid and Associates, which specializes in public relations and retail advertising; Hughes Rapp Collins, a direct response agency; Diversified Creative Services, a company specializing in collateral design and production; McKnight Brown & Associates, a promotions and special events agency; and a graphics production studio, AdRules Studio.

ddb also has working relationships with a pair of Montreal agencies, foug and Publicite Martin.

Carder says Robins Sharpe will continue to operate independently, adding Robins and Sharpe will maintain their current responsibilities.

Robins will also work with ddb international on new business ventures that will explore the areas of new media, programming and production innovations.

Carder says over time he would like to further integrate Robins Sharpe into ddb.

Robins Sharpe clients include Xerox Canada, Eaton’s of Canada, the Oshawa Group, Mr. Lube, Absolut Vodka, Standard Life, Sun Microsystems and Hazelton Lanes.