Independent agency Smart, long seen as a takeover target in the eyes of holding companies, has taken matters into its own hands with a merger.
On Monday (24 September), Smart’s Sydney office will absorb boutique Sydney agency Kindred in a move that will bolster the position of both businesses in the Sydney market.
Smart CEO Ben Lilley said the entity, which will operate under the Smart banner, was a move to consolidate its Sydney offering, not a “growth play”. “Further growth is not a priority,” he said.
Smart will absorb Kindred’s key clients, including Coca-Cola (Coke Zero and Mount Franklin), Sunbeam and Unilever, as well as four other smaller accounts. Kindred first launched in 1995 with the moniker of VCD, by ex-OMON and Mojo CD George Betsis and Siimon Reynolds, now ECD of Love, and adopted its new name in 2005.
Betsis declined to reveal the number of staff employed by Kindred, but said all “key staff” would be moving to Smart, including himself in the position of creative partner, and Kindred MD Jamie Clift. Also, Kieran Flanagan and Dan Gregory will take up the role of joint CDs, working alongside Smart’s ECD John Mescall. They will join Smart’s 15-strong team.
Integrating Kindred’s team with Smart would finally relieve the growing pains of its Sydney office, Lilley said, which had struggled to source top-tier talent. Smart expanded into Sydney from its Melbourne base four years ago with two staff and no clients. In 2006, it added $12 million in new billings. Its clients include Ferrero (Kinder, Bueno, Nutella) and Suntory (Jagermeister).
Smart will now be careful in how it manages growth, Lilley said, to ensure it stays true to its mid-size creative agency model: “We remain committed to containing our business’ size to ensure we can continue to deliver this more innovative offering across every client. This wouldn’t be possible if we were to grow much further beyond our current size,” Lilley said.
Smart has resisted takeover offers from other agencies and holding companies, Lilley said, to maintain the agency’s boutique service model.
Betsis said the Smart merger will allow him to broaden his business’ non-traditional creative model: “The decision to find a like-minded partner, like I have in Ben, is because we believe joining forces would give us greater momentum and strength in the marketplace.”
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