ZGM acquires app developer Paper Leaf in digital push

The Alberta agency is looking to stay ahead of clients' pivots by bringing in talent that has a different POV on digital work.

Alberta’s ZGM Modern Marketing Partners has added to its digital capabilities by acquiring web and mobile app developer Paper Leaf.

The move was made in part to address a need among ZGM’s clientele to pivot to the digital space in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dan King, president and partner at the agency.

“We’d been building our digital capabilities, but [the pivot] was just happening a lot faster,” he says. “When we had the opportunity to look at where our clients were going and think about how we could shore up our bench strength and add depth and the ability to tackle larger digital projects, Paper Leaf fit the bill well for us.”

In addition to existing clients, King adds that a team with a developer background will also allow ZGM to be considered for projects that a team approaching digital work from a purely marketing background might not be.

“We can go after those $200,000-plus, big software builds that require a different sort of mindset,” he says.

King says he was familiar with Paper Leaf because ZGM had worked and even pitched clients with the app developer in the past.

Further, the developer is known for its user-friendly software development. In 2019, more than four million people interacted with at least one program designed by Paper Leaf. The firm boasts clients including Elections Alberta, the Edmonton International Airport, Canadian Automobile Association and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Paper Leaf will continue to operate “at arm’s length” and retain its brand name. It will also benefit from greater project inflow as a result of new work from ZGM’s clientele. Some of Paper Leaf’s existing and future clients will benefit from the acquisition, as well, according to the firm’s managing director Jeff Archibald.

“We have clients come to us looking for a software project and we design and build it, but there’s no strategy to take it to market or acquire customers internally or externally. That’s where I see a real compliment with ZGM’s services,” he explains. “We can build a really solid product and also, now, get it into the right peoples’ hands and make sure it succeeds.”

The acquisition is the latest step in ZGM’s growth and follows its merger with Calder Bateman in 2018. It is Alberta’s largest independent agency and now has more than 90 employees in both Calgary and Edmonton.