D&G and Innocean on acquisition: ‘We know how much stronger we can be together’

Melissa McCarthy in last year's Kia Super Bowl ad / Kia

As news broke last week of Innocean Worldwide’s acquisition of David&Goliath (D&G), the agency’s founder, David Angelo fended off the inevitable questions about whether or not he’d be retiring.

“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “I love what I do, period. For me, it’s not a job. So why would I walk away from something that I absolutely love? I have no intention of leaving the business that I love. If anything, I'm going to turn it up.”

Long an advocate for his agency’s ‘Brave’ culture, he saw the opportunity to further expand the scope of the agency’s work through the acquisition that was officially announced late last week.

As far as the specifics of the deal, Innocean Worldwide, Hyundai’s global advertising company, agreed to acquire the independent D&G, the long-time agency for Kia (51% owned by Hyundai), in an effort to further bolster its creative chops. Conversely, D&G will benefit from Innocean’s deeper data and technology offerings. Additionally, the acquisition is also expected to further Innocean’s growth goals, expanding and diversifying beyond Hyundai.

This isn’t the first time that Innocean has tapped an independent agency. In 2015, the Huntington Beach, California agency worked with Horizon Media to create Canvas Worldwide, a joint venture media agency that works with Hyundai brands, Pepsi and others.

In Angelo’s mind, the opportunity to work with Innocean was a much different proposition than what had been presented to him in the past.

“I’ve been approached, over the years, by just about everyone — from holding companies to private entities,” he said. “My filter has always been, if I'm ever going to do something with a network, I can't get lost in that network. I want to make sure that, first and foremost, they understand who we are and the power of our brand voice. That, to me, is everything.”

Angelo and Steve Jun, chief executive of Innocean, have known and worked with each other for a number of years, which was another consideration.

“I’ve known [Steve] for a very long time,” said Angelo. “We know how much stronger we can be together.”

Added Jun: “Our partnership has always made sense. But our aligned interests with our automotive clients, our close proximity of our US offices, and our shared philosophies in our agency cultures has always made us closer friends than competitors. I do think it was an obvious choice. I couldn’t be more thrilled about the acquisition and think this is the beginning of an exciting future for us both.”

Additionally, Jun believes that each will play to each other’s strengths.

"While we are both creatively-driven agencies, I believe we both have strengths in the way we develop the work,” he noted. “David Angelo’s leadership and creative vision has been the driving force behind all of D&G’s work, which I think is a true strength of the agency. At Innocean, we’ve built an agency that is creatively-driven as well, but use data science and consumer insights to inform and inspire our creative.”

To both, the match, which started gaining more momentum at the end of the summer, makes sense to both agency cultures.

“[It’s] not just because we have a shared experience in our automotive heritage, but because we have aligned agency cultures,” said Jun. “But as an independent agency for over 18 years, David and Goliath has always carried a challenger spirit within its DNA and I think this fierceness in their culture will be the biggest impact on Innocean.”

In any acquisition, the question of autonomy and maintaining a culture is often top of mind. For D&G, which also counts Jack in the Box, Universal Studios Hollywood, New Amsterdam Vodka and the California Lottery as client, Angelo believes that there will be no material impact to their independent spirit or culture that has been cultivated since he started the agency.

“The only way I could do this was to partner with an entity who could give us that type of reach without losing our voice, and someone who understands our people, our clients and our culture,” he said. “And the great thing about it is that, first and foremost, [Innocean gets] me and they get our agency culture. We are really excited because there are tools that we can now offer all of our clients that we never had before, and a global reach that still gives us the independence but the power of this network that we've never had before.”

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.