The next steps for BlueFocus’ international agencies

CEO Brett Marchand has plans to build a centralized data team and expand offerings in Europe, Asia and the U.S.

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Growth, expansion and investment in human capital are the primary goals for a new group of agencies created after Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and global private equity firm CVC Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in BlueFocus International’s business.

The acquisition will create a new, yet-to-be-named entity, consisting of the Vision7 agencies – including Cossette, Cossette Media, Jungle, Eleven, Citizen Relations, Colony Project, Gene, Magnet and the Camps agencies, among others – as well as London-based We Are Social and San Francisco’s Fuseproject. It will be headquartered in Quebec City, incorporated in Canada and led by Vision7’s Brett Marchand as president and CEO. The newly formed company will also be separate from BlueFocus International, which will continue to hold a minority stake.

The move involves a similar group of companies to those that were part of the planned Blue Impact spin-off of international agencies owned by China’s BlueFocus, which Legacy Acquisition Corp. terminated before it could close last summer, due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the advertising industry.

While the agencies involved are similar, the new deal differs in two fundamental ways, according to Marchand: first, the new entity will be a private company, instead of public; second, the “investor base is much different,” as it is composed of a triumvirate of interests headquartered in Canada, Europe and Asia.

“It’s quite an interesting ownership group,” he notes.

Marchand told strategy that international expansion is “a very important part” of the new deal, with Vision7 planning to “make a big push into the U.S.” through more acquisitions. We Are Social, which already has a presence in twelve countries, has set ambitious growth targets in both Europe and Asia.

In addition to its expansion plans, the group will soon hire a chief technical officer and invest in building a centralized tech and data team that will work across agency groups to help build out their platforms. Marchand says that this team will oversee a number of large projects focused on first-party data capture, analysis and segmentation, AI-enabled creative optimization and attribution modelling and analysis, among other areas.

This kind of centralized data platforms have been a key area of investment at many multinational advertising companies, such as Publicis’ Epsilon, Omnicom’s Omni and WPP’s Choreograph. In addition to helping clients address more upstream challenges and create relevant marketing as the industry prepares to say goodbye to third-party cookies, the approach also ensures the ever in-demand data capabilities are not siloed within any one agency.

The new group of marketing and communications companies will also continue to pursue its existing plans to bring its agencies together in central hubs it refers to as campuses, Marchand says. It has already done so in markets including Toronto, New York and Montreal and has plans to bring together its various entities in San Francisco, as well.

However, Marchand says those campuses will look “different from what we envisioned a year ago,” largely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with new plans being formed that will incorporate a hybrid work model that will see employees splitting time between the office and their homes.

This story has been updated to make it more clear that while the agencies involved in the are currently part of Blue Focus International, the new group formed by the acquisition will be a separate company from Blue Focus International.