Future Source picks up brand identity shop d/g*

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When Michel Frappier came to New York in 1978 as a young agency creative, he attended a meeting that would forever shape his view of advertising.

"These creative gurus came in and they threw ideas on the wall," recalled Mr. Frappier. "They presented 10 campaigns in a day."

The other young creatives in the room were suitably wowed. Mr. Frappier was not. "I said the stuff was shit," he recalled. "There was no strategy."

Now Mr. Frappier is president-CEO of Future Source, a new advertising and communications holding company. Last week, it completed its first acquisition, purchasing a majority share of the brand identity and design company d/g*, formerly known as Desgrippes Gobe & Associates.

D/g* is based in New York and Paris, and has annual revenues of $30 million with a client list that includes Air France, Coca-Cola Co., Nestle, Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade, Reebok International, Unilever and Victoria's Secret. Recently, d/g* created the logo for the Air France-Delta Air Lines alliance.

"I'm looking for partners that provide strategic solutions," said Mr. Frappier. His idea is to create a small empire of below-the-line divisions -- research units, consultancies, direct marketing and public relations companies. Mr. Frappier believes organizations that are led by advertising agencies are much too traditional.


His company, in contrast, will be more like a collective of midsize entrepreneurs who will be allowed to operate independently and cross-sell within the organization.

Future Source is funded by Thoma Cressey Equity Partners, which bankrolls business services, healthcare, distribution and information industries.


Mr. Frappier said his budget at Thoma Cressey is "unlimited." To illustrate the point, he said Future Source was one of three companies that made a bid for Chicago promotions shop Frankel, which went to Publicis for $150 million.

Mr. Frappier's partners at Future Source include Paul Owsiany, CEO, formerly chief financial officer of MDC Communications; Don Bedard, a former client service director at J. Walter Thompson USA in New York who is now a partner and director of new business development at Future Source; and Paul Kelly, director of corporate development.

Mr. Frappier started his career in advertising as a designer and worked his way up through management positions at JWT and McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

In 1994 he joined MDC, a holding company based in Toronto that grew, under his leadership as president-CEO, from nine companies to 17, including Margeotes/Fertitta

& Partners.

"I have a background in creative," said Mr. Frappier, "and my partners are very comfortable with that. They know that I understand their needs as creatives and also their business needs."

Early in his career, Mr. Frappier also worked for Foster Advertising in Toronto, which was eventually purchased and merged into McCann, losing its name and identity.

Mr. Frappier does not want to force that kind of experience on any of his Future Source companies. "The culture and style of Foster was destroyed by the acquisition," he said. "It is very important for us to retain the style and culture of our partners."

Desgrippes, a company that has long claimed to specialize in emotional branding, changed its name June 4 to the curiously abstract d/g*. It is intended to reflect the company's modern sensibility, according to Jocelyne Henri, director of communications at d/g*.

Though Future Source began negotiations for the company last winter, the name change apparently had nothing to do with the deal. "We were talking about changing the name a year ago," said Ms. Henri.


"Our next target is to add a West Coast branding company," said Mr. Frappier, who is already in negotiations and hopes to make an announcement in 60 days.

"Once we expand our branding business around the world," said Mr. Frappier, "we will be going into public relations, research and advertising, and expand that around the world, but with midsize markups."

Mr. Frappier expects to acquire five companies this year and have revenues of $100 million, and eventually grow to 17 companies by 2003 with combined revenues of $318 million. Future Source is not being created to simply go IPO, Mr. Frappier warned. "We're in no rush to go public," he declared.

As for advertising agencies, Mr. Frappier has been eyeing a few, but has shown particular interest in Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York. "They are a perfect match of strategy and creativity," Mr. Frappier said.

Future Source, which is based in Toronto and New York, plans to become a company of midsize holdings that emphasizes strategy first, and then creativity.

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