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Project Worldwide Acquires Los Angeles Shop Pitch

Agency Handles Lead Creative for Burger King in U.S.

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Pitch CEO Jon Banks
Pitch CEO Jon Banks

Project Worldwide is acquiring Los Angeles-area agency Pitch, the latest move in the ad holding firm's continued expansion efforts.

Project, a privately held parent company that positions itself as a new-school holding company, has been seeking agencies that CEO Robert Vallee said "play well" with the company's suite of other shops. Pitch presented good collaborative potential, he said.

"People are the most important part of the equation," Mr. Vallee said. "When we find we have good chemistry with senior management at forward-thinking agencies, it gets our attention."

Jon Banks and Kim Thomsen opened the Culver City, Calif.-based Pitch in 2008 mostly as a promotional agency. But the shop has since grown into a full-service one, taking on the bulk of Burger King's U.S. creative work and recently adding duties for the Pepsi brand and Meineke. The agency -- like all other Project agencies -- is now fully owned by Project, though terms of the deal were not disclosed. The agency had 2013 revenue of $12.2 million, according to Ad Age's DataCenter, and was just named as one of Ad Age's small agencies of the year, earning the silver award for shops with 11 to 75 employees.

Mr. Vallee said he first contacted Pitch about a year ago, but Mr. Banks didn't think it was the right time for the shop to consider a sale. The agency was also approached by a number of larger holding company suitors, according to Mr. Banks, but the shop's leaders felt that Project most closely aligned with the agency's desire to remain entrepreneurial while tapping into larger resources and a global network.

"Life's too short to work with bad people, so when we looked at who we would want to partner with, cultural fit was definitely the threshold," Mr. Banks said.

Project Worldwide CEO Robert Vallee
Project Worldwide CEO Robert Vallee

Pitch is the 11th agency in the Project Worldwide network. Other recent moves include backing the opening of Argonaut, a San Francisco agency opened in early 2013 that made a splash earlier this year with its Super Bowl ad for Volkswagen. In May 2013, Project opened shopper marketing agency Shoptology in Dallas with Charlie Anderson, former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X; Pepsi was an inaugural client.

Other acquisitions have included creative agency Partners & Napier, social agency Affinitive and digital and experiential shop Motive, which also has a Pepsi relationship.

Project Worldwide is the 30th largest ad holding company, according to Ad Age's DataCenter, with 2013 revenue of $275 million, down 1% from the prior year. Its flagship agency is George P. Johnson, a global event-marketing shop founded in 1914. Project was formed when George P. Johnson's management in 2010 created an entity to serve as a holding company for the agency and others it had acquired, such as as digital shop Juxt Interactive and Spinifex.

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