Vision7 acquires U.S. creative agency Eleven

The network takes a step towards U.S. expansion with a strategy to build campuses with multiple agency brands.

The leadership team of San Francisco-based creative agency Eleven. 

Vision7 International has acquired San-Francisco-based creative agency Eleven, a first step in expanding its presence across North America.

Growing in the U.S. has been part of the plan since Vision7 was acquired by Beijing-based BlueFocus International back in 2014, says Brett Marchand, president and CEO of Vision7. Without any particular timeline in mind, Marchand says the parent company’s goal is to eventually reach $1 billion in revenue in the U.S. market.

The acquisition of Eleven is the first step in a long-term plan that includes building out agency campuses in multiple cities across the U.S., starting with San Francisco and Chicago. He added that additional offices could eventually be added in New York, Miami, London, U.K. and cities in Asia.

Eleven has approximately 100 employees and is led by CEO Courtney Buechert, chief growth officer Michele Sileo, chief strategy officer Jarett Hausske, chief creative officer Mike McKay, co-founders and creative directors Rob Price and Michael Borosky and chief financial officer Ken Kula, who are staying on as the leadership team. As part of the acquisition, Vision7 will help Eleven open a second office in Chicago, and the network will establish agency campuses similar to those in Toronto and Montreal, with Eleven serving as the creative agency hub.

Eleven has been among AdAge’s “Small Agency of the Year” winner in 2017 and 2018 and won a pair of Lions at Cannes this year for client Google Cloud’s March Madness predictive TV campaign. It has worked with Apple, U.S. airline Virgin America, Lyft and California-based non-profit Dignity Health. The agency claims this will be its “most successful year ever” for business wins, with revenue growth of 30% for a projected US$ 29 million in revenue for the year.

“We don’t feel any less independent heading into this, just by the nature of the family that we are joining,” says Buechert. “So much of it is still about the entrepreneurial energy of each of the coalition agencies.”

Buechert says his agency has followed an integrated model since launching 20 years ago, at a time when it was uncommon for agencies to do so. Now that the industry has moved more towards that model, he says Eleven decided it was time to reevaluate how it could grow its geographical footprint. “We were looking for a way to take advantage [of that opportunity] more quickly than we could have on our own.”

Vision 7’s strategy for the U.S. is based on its Canadian model, which involves having a lead agency and smaller, secondary agency for each discipline working out of the same office, with Cossette and Camp Jefferson on creative, Cossette Media and Jungle on media and Citizen Relations and The Colony Project on PR. The agency campuses it hopes to build in the U.S. will also involve BlueFocus agencies outside of Vision 7, such as social agency We Are Social.

“We always believed that was the right strategy for the U.S., and it’s a very different strategy than most other holding companies,” says Marchand, adding that the tendency has been to set up different agencies in different buildings. “But we realized we needed more than one client and we needed an agency that had a reputation in the U.S., and not try and sell the Cossette brand in the US.”

The closing of Cossette Chicago in 2017 marked the network’s second failed attempt at entering the U.S. Back in 2010, Marchand helped close Cossette New York as he moved into the position of CEO of Vision7.

Eleven’s office has room to accommodate the model, says Marchand. It hopes to open a Citizen Relations tech practice in San Francisco, and down the road, may add a media practice or a local division of We Are Social.

“These aren’t commitments,” he says, “but it’s what we’re looking at.”