Five Hot Digital Indies on Adland's Shopping List

A Peek at the Shops the Industry Is Sweet On

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The Omnicom Group-Publicis Groupe merger didn't work out, but don't think the ad industry is done consolidating. Publicis CEO Maurice Levy, for one, bragged early last year about having $4 billion to spend on acquisitions in the coming half-decade. The trouble is a low supply of the kind of digital agencies with scale and panache that are in highest demand. There are a handful of potential targets, however, that the industry is sweet on.


Christian Juhl
Christian Juhl

Revenue: $58 million in 2013, according to the agency; $87 million projection for 2014
Headcount: 450
Age: 9
Clients: Google, eBay, Pret
Specialty: Digital media
Locations: U.K., U.S., Singapore
Essence is among the world's top independent buyers of digital ads, saying it has about $650 million in media spending. It recently hired Razorfish's Christian Juhl as global CEO in San Francisco, moving the top role from the U.K., and is looking to fill 50 more positions.


Revenue: $52 million in 2013 (not including recent acquisition Ammirati, which last year did $10 million to $15 million)
Headcount: With Ammirati,
just over 400
Age: 33
Clients: Sun Products, Clorox, P&G
Specialty: Digital and social content
Locations: Columbus, Ohio; San Francisco; Chicago
Digital roots, a history of working with top brands (Apple was its first client) and retail experience make Resource a rarity, especially in the Midwest. It recently completed its first acquisition with the purchase of New York-based creative shop Ammirati.

Digital Kitchen

Revenue: $20.4 million in 2013
Headcount: 107
Age: 19
Clients: Microsoft (Internet Explorer and Bing), the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Bose
Specialty: Digital content and design
Locations: Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago
The shop got into the content business early and also made a name with title sequences for shows like HBO's "Six Feet Under." And it's staying fresh with new leaders like CEO Bill Fritsch. Mr. Fritsch, who joined the company in 2012 as CEO, has a history of working with big brands -- in-house and agency -- and making deals. He sold CF2GS to IPG's True North and helped a company go public, and then survive, during the tumultuous dot-com era.

Code and Theory

Revenue: $35 million in 2013
Headcount: 215
Age: 13
Clients: Burger King, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Maybelline New York
Specialty: Web, brand and product design
Locations: New York, San Francisco, London, Manila
The shop, which grew 50% last year, has been expanding its capabilities. In 2013, it supported a Comcast project, a Mashable redesign, content for Maybelline and broad digital tasks for Dr Pepper, Snapple and others.


Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk

Revenue: $22.5 million in 2013
Headcount: 400
Age: 5
Clients: Mountain Dew,
General Electric, Sonic Drive-In
Specialty: Digital content and social media
Locations: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles
Two words, one name: Gary Vaynerchuk, the man behind Wine Library TV and tech seed fund VaynerRSE. He can take creative ideas to a new level with his massive social following (1.1 million on Twitter alone). The firm, founded by Mr. Vaynerchuk and his brother A.J., grew 57% last year and expects to nearly double revenue in 2014.

Others to watch as they grow:

North Kingdom (Sweden), Control Group (New York), Big Spaceship (Brooklyn), Jam3 (Toronto), Instrument (Portland, Ore.)

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