Parent company Sapient, best known for its roots in information technology, has for years attempted to diversify by adding creative agency services, mostly through M&A and talent, in its SapientNitro division.
Campfire joins a handful of SapientNitro acquisitions over the past few years. In 2011, SapientNitro bought Clanmo, a mobile shop based in Cologne, Germany. Later that year, it acquired D&D Holdings, a London-based ad agency. In 2012, it set its sights on the U.S., acquiring Portland, Ore.-based digital agency Second Story and mPhasize, a marketing analytics company in Westport, Conn. And in January it bought Hispanic marketing shop La Comunidad.
"A lot has been around elevating the creative product and creative reputation," said Gaston Legorburu, executive director and worldwide chief creative officer at Sapient. Mr. Legorburu spearheaded the latest acquisition. "What's interesting is the combination of technology and brand. Second Story was at the forefront of that."
Campfire has the creative chops Sapient wants, but its film roots are what really intrigued Mr. Legorburu; the shop's founders made "The Blair Witch Project." Over time Campfire transitioned from independent film to mostly commercial projects. Last year, Campfire's "Byzantium Tests" -- a campaign for the Cinemax show "Hunted" -- was named Campaign of the Year at Ad Age's Small Agency Awards.
Though mostly project-based, the firm touts long-running relationships with brands like Ketel One and Cinemax.
But it's not the clients that originally attracted Sapient. It was a conversation at a conference. Mr. Legorburu had asked Mr. Monello to sit on a panel at a conference in New York a little over a year ago, and after a conversation about "storyscaping" the rest was history.
"It was the first time I heard someone using language similar to the way we describe what we're doing at Campfire," said Campfire Chief Creative and Partner Mike Monello, recalling his first meeting with Mr. Legorburu. "When Gaston was talking about Second Story and La Comunidad, I felt like what he was saying and the way he was acting was consistent. Over time, we got to know each other."
For Campfire the sale was partly about gaining access to technology it has had to outsource until now. "I have a creative technician on staff but I don't have coders," said Mr. Monello. "I look forward to developing ideas in a more close-knit situation where technology and creativity integrate more seamlessly."
Mr. Monello will stay on board and the Campfire brand will remain intact within SapientNitro.
SapientNitro, which has headquarters in Boston, had revenue of $772 million in 2012, according to the Ad Age DataCenter. That increased to $851 million in 2013, representing 68% of total revenue within parent company Sapient, the company said. Sapient's overall revenue in 2013 was $1.26 billion.