Omnicom Takes Ownership of Critical Mass While EVB Goes Indie

Latter Shop Relocates to Oakland, Calif. from San Francisco

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Dianne Wilkins
Dianne Wilkins

Omnicom is taking full ownership of digital agency Critical Mass as its digital creative shop EVB buys back its independence.

"Omnicom is pleased to increase our majority stake in Critical Mass," said an Omnicom spokeswoman. "Critical Mass is a highly successful global digital marketing agency with a strong management team led by Dianne Wilkins, a digital veteran. They are an important asset to our portfolio of agencies and work with many of our top clients around the world."

"I can confirm that EVB is no longer a part of the group," she added.

The changes come less than a year after the failure of Omnicom's attempted merger with Publicis, which has a more-aggressive digital M&A strategy. A few weeks ago, Publicis agreed to acquire Sapient Corp for $3.7 billion. Omnicom has remained fairly quiet.

But Omnicom has never been known for acquiring large digital agencies, instead preferring small acquisitions and investments. It's staying the course for now as evident in its latest move to relinquish one digital shop and take full ownership of another.

"In terms of Omnicom's M&A approach – it is growing through a combination of strategic acquisitions as well as focused organic investments in our agencies," said a spokeswoman. "Meeting our clients' needs by service offering and geographic location is the first test for all our acquisitions, followed by cultural fit and price."

Shane Ginsberg
Shane Ginsberg

Omnicom bought a majority stake in San Francisco-based EVB in 2006. The holding company now owns a 60% stake, up from 51% in 2012. The agency was founded in 2000 by CEO Daniel Stein and Exec Creative Director Jason Zada. Mr. Zada in August 2008 left the agency to focus on directing, producing and writing. In March 2014, the Omnicom shop tapped Shane Ginsberg from sibling Organic and named him president. EVB most recently announced plans to move to Oakland, Calif., from San Francisco.

EVB declined to comment.

Critical Mass
Omnicom invested in a majority of Calgary-based Critical Mass in 1999 and as of 2014 owned 54% of the company. Unlike Omnicom's other digital agencies which are part of larger creative agency networks -- Organic lives within BBDO and Tribal is part of DDB, for example -- Critical Mass operates independently.

"We had been running with split ownership that prevented us form being emotionally completely within Omnicom," said Ms. Wilkins. "We didn't necedssarly have all the same tools to grow and branch out that some of the competitive sets backed completely by their holding companies have." She said there's not yet an "articulated strategy" mapping out how the shop will take advantage of a parent that's completely invested, but the goal will be to expand the shop by geography, services and capabilities."

Ms. Wilkins is currently based in Calgary, Canada, but has plans to move to New York next month. The shop's New York office is also moving from midtown east to 200 Varick Street by the end of January.

Critical Mass was founded in 1995 as a promotional CD-ROM developer and a year later entered web development, designing Mercedes-Benz USA's corporate website. Now it has more than 700 people and eight full-service offices, operating across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia. This past January, the shop tapped Huge's Conor Brady as chief creative officer and Chris Hayes as chief marketer, and over the past couple years it has made investments in Latin America and the U.K.

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