Digital Shop Profero Buys Majority Stake in Vox Collective

Acquisition of Hispanic-Focused Agency Offers New York Presence, Entry into Latin America

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Global digital agency Profero is taking a majority stake in New York-based Hispanic agency Vox Collective.

Vox's Roberto Ramos (l.) and Susan Jaramillo (r.) flank Profero's Aaron Reitkopf and Wayne Arnold .
Vox's Roberto Ramos (l.) and Susan Jaramillo (r.) flank Profero's Aaron Reitkopf and Wayne Arnold .
That a digital agency would acquire a creative shop, let alone one specializing in the Hispanic market, is highly unusual. Maybe the only precedent was Sapient's acquisition of Nitro back in 2009, though that was a creative full-service shop, not a multicultural specialty shop.

For Profero, which made its name in the U.K. and China and has been trying to build its presence in the U.S., the deal gives it another office in New York, capabilities with the fast-growing Hispanic market and a strategy to move into Latin America. For Vox, which has recently hit hard times, the hope is that the digital chops of its new parent will give it an advantage over the competition, as Hispanics have high mobile- and digital-adoption rates.

The Hispanic agency will rebrand to Vox Profero and will operate independently; co-founders Roberto Ramos and Susan Jaramillo will stay on as president and chief creative officer, respectively. Mr. Ramos will report to Profero Americas CEO Aaron Reitkopf.

Profero drew $14 million in revenue from the U.S. in 2011, more than double its prior-year total, making it Proferos' third-largest market by revenue after the U.K. and China. Global clients such as Diageo's Smirnoff, Unilever's Tresemme and Western Union are run out of New York. In all, the agency made $71 million in worldwide revenue last year, up more than 20% from 2010, according to global CEO Wayne Arnold .

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Vox's U.S. revenue fell nearly 40% to $4.4 million last year, which was by far the worst year-over-year performance among the top 50 Hispanic agencies ranked by U.S. revenue in Ad Age 's DataCenter. Vox, which has 25 employees headquartered in New York and a small San Francisco office, plummeted to No. 40, from No. 25 the year before. Vox's Mr. Ramos points to tough economic times and reduced spending among clients such as Macy's , Vonage, PepsiCo and General Motors. Profero and Vox share Vonage as a client.

Profero also plans to extend Vox's expertise to Latin America, namely Brazil and Mexico. While Latin American ad execs setting up shop in the U.S. Hispanic market is a well-traveled path, the reverse has rarely happened. Profero has no offices in Latin America.

"We firmly believe in local talent in markets," said Mr. Arnold . "Our mantra has been to work on global clients with local people. We're looking to have team members in Latin America and to put local roots down."

Vox is Profero's second acquisition, after Blue Flying Fish in China.

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