Union buys Trapeze

Is there something in the water? Another MDC pair have merged, this time under the Union banner, giving the team the scale to go after bigger clients.

Here’s another MDC merger for you: just one month after news broke that Capital C folded into KBS+, sister agencies Union and Trapeze are merging into one, under the Union banner.

The merger of these Toronto shops will create a 100-person team, bolstering Union’s creative capabilities in digital and social media.

“We’ve begun to do more digital work,” says Subtej Nijjar, partner and president, Union. “We used to partner with a bunch of vendors, and a bit of [the decision to fold in Trapeze] was to ensure we have creative and quality control throughout the entire process. It made sense for us to bring that competency in house.

“[Trapeze is] at that stage where they need to take the next steps as far as what their future is going to hold,” he adds. “And we’re in the same boat where we needed to make an investment on where we think we could potentially grow.”

Union is just a year-and-a-half old, forming in late 2012 in the wake of CP+B’s dissolution, and is headed by Nijjar and Lance Martin, ECD and partner.

Trapeze was formed in 1999 on the cusp of the internet boom by Mike Kasprow (VP/ECD) and Rob Balfour (president and CEO).

At Union, Kasprow will take on the role of partner and executive director of innovation, while Balfour will transition out, working with the agency over the next 90 days to help integrate the two shops. “I think he’s ready to do his next thing,” says Nijjar on Balfour’s decision to leave.

Though Nijjar remained mum on specific financial details, because MDC owned a minority share in Trapeze (with Balfour owning the majority stake), he says this deal is a full acquisition of the agency.

The 60 Trapeze employees will head over to Union’s office on Richmond, taking over another floor of its building. Nijjar says it’ll be a tight fit for the agency for now, but they’re currently looking for new digs for early 2015.

The added bodies will give the agency an opportunity to compete for bigger account, he adds, admitting that a 40-person team made some potential clients weary on whether it had the size to compete.

He adds they plan to break down the barriers for the shop, integrating digital into everything and ensuring there are no silos between departments. “Having an integrated team of 100 people allows us to compete with most agencies in the country,” he says.

That being said, it hasn’t stopped Union from picking up other sizeable accounts recently, including Kraft Dinner and Hotels.com.

The pair already shared a number of clients, including Kraft (though each agency worked with different brand’s under the company’s banner) and Axe and have worked together before on the latter. And the merger will bring new clients, such as Shoppers Drug Mart and Revlon, under Union’s purview. Nijjar says there were no client conflicts, which was a big factor in the decision to merge. (In the past, while under the CP+B banner, client conflicts out of the U.S. prevented the agency from competing for business in Canada.)