The next steps for BlueFocus International

CEO Brett Marchand has plans to build a centralized data team and expand its offerings in Europe, Asia and the U.S.
Copied from strategy - marchand

By Justin Crann

Growth and expansion are the primary goals for BlueFocus International, following news that the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and global private equity firm CVC Capital Partners have acquired a majority stake in the business.

The acquisition deal will see a new entity form, consisting of the Vision7 agencies – including Cossette, Cossette Media, Jungle, Eleven, Citizen Relations, Gene, Magnet, AIM and the Camps agencies – as well as London-based We Are Social and San Francisco’s Fuseproject. It will be headquartered in Quebec City and led by Vision7′s Brett Marchand as president and CEO.

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 We Are Social?s international expansion is “a very important part” of the new deal. The creative agency already has a presence in twelve countries and it has set ambitious growth targets in both Europe and Asia.

The group also has plans to “make a big push into the U.S.” through more acquisitions, Marchand says.

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.

These 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 third-party data becomes less useful, the approach also ensures the ever in-demand data capabilities are not siloed within any one agency.

The new group of BlueFocus agencies will also continue to pursue its 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.” Though exactly how they’ll be different will vary and depend on how the uncertainty of COVID-19 resolves, the pandemic has led to new plans for the future of the campus approach, which will incorporate a hybrid work model that will see employees splitting time between the office and their homes.