Brandfire and OKD merge to become Evolve

Brandfire's shopper capabilities are getting a boost with complementary media and production services.
Evolve Agency Group

The Evolve Agency Group leadership team (left to right): Rob Levy, Brent Clifford and Len Olynyk

Brandfire Marketing and OKD are teaming up to create the Evolve Agency Group.

Rob Levy, president of Brandfire and now executive partner at Evolve Agency Group, tells strategy that with the merger, the Markham shop can now do full end-to-end marketing from strategy to creative to media planning and management, production, and even printing in-store materials that go into the retail environment, all within one ownership structure.

“Brandfire started as a shopper agency and evolved into doing more integrated campaign work, with a shopper lens,” Levy says, which meant keeping “call to action advertising” as a core belief. The new partnership is all about following the whole shopper journey and having those resources in-house, Levy says.

OKD, for its part, was founded as a media agency that also grew into a full-service agency – bringing that together with Brandfire further complements and bolsters that offering. The merger also includes OKD’s video production offering MJM Media and printing company A3H Imaging.

Levy had been looking to make an acquisition or merge his agency, and he had met with about 20 different agencies before whittling it down to six.

The thing about OKD that was interesting to Levy as an entrepreneur is that Brandfire had a small number of large clients, while OKD had a large number of smaller clients. The mix of clients and the mix of services seemed to build a diversified portfolio of industries and services that would be stronger together, he says.

The mutual belief in growth, Levy says, is another reason Brandfire decided to meet up with OKD.

When he found out the Burlington-based shop had growth ambitions of its own – it had doubled in size in last five years and made acquisitions – but also changed its service offering and invested in new technology, Levy says he knew it was the right fit.

In fact, the propensity of both Brandfire and OKD to evolve, is what inspired the name of the new agency. Len Olynyk, president of OKD and also an executive partner at Evolve, decided “the willingness to evolve” as being “part of [OKD's] DNA.”

Pivoting to provide what clients need is a core belief to both Brandfire and OKD, Levy says. For example, as social became a bigger part of the media mix and of media consumption, OKD started creating custom software for franchise-based clients to manage social and digital messaging, called Family Tree+.

Right now, the combined shops have 80 employees. And along with a spate of hires during COVID, it’s looking to make itself more diverse in terms of leadership structure, but also in the creative process.

Brent Clifford, previously OKD’s managing director, has also been named an executive partner in Evolve. Ira Baptiste, Brandfire’s EVP and managing director, has taken over Levy’s board seat at the Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA). Also, Levy says, more ethnic and more multicultural marketing expertise, “is absolutely something we’re going to be adding to the [Evolve] group.”

The newly formed agency disclosed that it is working with brands such as Toyota Canada, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Keurig/Canada Dry, Arla Foods, Source for Sports, MADD and the Canadian Cancer Society.