Canada's Nurun Beefs Up U.S. Portfolio With Odopod

Quebecois Firm More Than Doubles Stateside Revenue With San Francisco Digital Shop

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Yet another foreign player you've likely never heard of is buying up plots of adland. This time, it's the Quebecois and they're shopping out West.

Montreal-based digital agency Nurun has acquired San Francisco shop Odopod, a digital agency with more than 60 employees and clients such as Electronic Arts, Google and Tesla, marking another ex-U.S. agency digging deeper into the U.S. market. The move also marks the latest occurrence of an Ad Age Small Agency honoree -- Odopod was named Ad Age 's Small Agency of the Year for the Western Region this year -- being snapped up by a larger company. (Earlier this year Rockfish, the 2009 Small Agency of the Year, was acquired by WPP and last year 72AndSunny, another award winner, was snapped up by MDC.)

Jacques Herve
Jacques Herve
Go ahead, you can say it: Nurun who?

Nurun is a small player stateside with just $6.7 million in U.S. revenue for 2010, according to Ad Age Datacenter. With Odopod, Nurun more than doubles that take: Odopod reported $11 million in 2010 revenue, up 100% from the year prior.

Nurun was formed in 2000 when several agencies merged under a new owner, Canadian newspaper and cable company Quebecor Media. Since then, it has snapped up shops in new markets including Italy and Spain. It acquired Atlanta-based Ant Farm Interactive in 2004 as its first U.S. outpost and the shop now handles work for AT&T and Loews Hotels. Today, the agency has 1,200 employees in 13 offices scattered across some unusual advertising locales such as Turin, Italy and Nancy, France, along with spots like Shanghai and Milan, and specializes in e-commerce, website and app development and social media.

Jacques-Herve Roubert, Nurun's president-CEO, is the first to admit that Nurun lacks a strong brand in the U.S., even though it counts heavyweight marketers L'Oreal, Home Depot and Sears as clients. For that reason, Odopod will keep its name for the time being, but will ultimately fall under the Nurun shingle.

"We don't want to kill a brand with a strong reputation, but in the end we want Odopod to help Nurun be recognized in the U.S.," Mr. Roubert said.

Nurun is just the latest in a deal-hungry international bunch that 's been driving the small agency mergers-and-acquisition market in the U.S. The stateside outpost of London-based Engine is still on the prowl, after acquiring Deep Focus and Noise in New York in the past year. Toronto-based MDC Partners has also been active, acquiring a majority stake in Anomaly and 72andSunny. Japanese agency giant Dentsu has taken a break in recent months after acquiring New York-based Firstborn early this year.

Nurun's U.S. dilemma is similar to that of European digital agency LBi: with strong recognition outside the U.S., it's still working to import that rep to the U.S. Last year, LBi merged two agency acquisitions, Special Ops Media and Icon Nicholson, under its own banner and has since had limited success building its brand here.

Nurun works with Sears and Home Depot in Canada, McDonald's in Spain and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy globally with a campaign for Tag Heuer watches in the U.S. For L'Oreal, arguably its biggest client, Nurun handles digital work in all global markets except in the U.S. L'Oreal chose Interpublic Group of Cos.' R/GA after a pitch against the agency.

But French-born Mr. Roubert, who once served as general manager of WPP's Y&R in France, isn't looking to compete with the giants among digital agencies.

"We spend a lot of time thinking about how we should be in the U.S.; it's the most difficult market worldwide," he said. "It's easier to be in China than in the U.S. if you are not a U.S. company, since most of the successful agencies are U.S. agencies.

"We don't want to be a new Digitas or Razorfish. We don't have the size and that would be a very expensive."

That's why Mr. Roubert turned to Odopod, a small, technology-focused shop with roots in Silicon Valley. And, he added, that 's why we shouldn't expect a string of further acquisitions from the company.

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