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Vice Media Group expands creative offering with acquisition of consultancy Pltfrmr

April 6, 2021

Pltfrmr co-founders, Chris Garbutt & Colin Mitchell, will join the media group’s executive leadership team as co-presidents of Virtue.

With this acquisition, Pltfrmr will merge with VMG’s creative agency Virtue, bringing together a new agency model within the world’s largest independent media group.

Pltfrmr’s co-founders Chris Garbutt and Colin Mitchell will also be taking on executive leadership roles within VMG. Garbutt will become co-president, Virtue and chief creative officer, Vice Media Group, while Mitchell will take on the role of co-president, Virtue and chief innovation officer, Vice Media Group.

With Virtue seeing exponential growth across the Europe, Asia and Middle East markets, Rob Newlan will be taking on the role of global chief operating officer and head of Europe & AMEA, Virtue.

New leadership for Virtue

In their new roles, Garbutt and Mitchell will work alongside Nadja Bellan-White, global chief marketing officer, Vice Media Group, Rob Newlan, COO and head of Europe and AMEA, Virtue, Krystle Watler, managing director, Virtue Americas, and Virtue’s full global leadership team.

Nadja Bellan-White, global CMO, VMG commented, “Our relationship with Pltfrmr, Chris and Colin has grown extensively over the past few months. We initially brought them on as consultants on our new brand strategy, and found it to be a remarkable fit. Their value proposition, experience, history of creativity and innovation along with their ‘Talent Cloud’ model will have a tremendous impact on our global community of makers, creators and collaborators across our platform.”

Bellan-White most recently joined VMG in October of 2020, and has since worked on aligning the company’s worldwide brand narrative across its businesses, while amplifying Vice’s authority as the world’s leading cultural brand.

Bellan-White stated, “Vice Media Group is much more than a media company. With our diverse lines of business, capabilities, talent and global reach, VMG is a navigator of culture and a community brand. Part of our differentiation in the market is being able to tap into a global network of innovators in creative and technology who are truly driving change in culture, and Pltfrmr will help to expand that creative network.”

Global growth ambitions

This acquisition demonstrates Vice Media Group’s ongoing commitment and investment to its agency and client service offerings. In the past few years, Virtue has expanded across 21 offices, brought in dozens of top tier clients including Procter & Gamble, Target, and Ikea; while establishing itself as a top creative competitor, winning 53 awards including the prestigious Cannes Lions Grand Prix and Glass Lion.

Rob Newlan, global COO and head of Europe and AMEA, Virtue, said, “Virtue’s success over the past few years has been a remarkable effort from the team across the globe. As a result, we have elevated ourselves into a new competitive set of agencies that requires us to scale up, while expanding the network. I look forward to working with Chris and Colin to ensure that we continue on our trajectory of growth and creative excellence.”

Both Garbutt and Mitchell bring extensive experience on both agency and brand-side.

Prior to forming Pltfrmr, Garbutt was global chief creative officer, TBWA\Worldwide, where he dramatically improved the overall creative performance and effectiveness of many global brands including McDonald’s, Nissan, Adidas and Airbnb. Before that he was CCO of Ogilvy New York and Ogilvy Paris. Under Chris’ direction, TBWA’s growth, creative product and impact have been recognized by Fast Company’s “World’s Most Innovative Companies” list (2019 and 2020); a #5 ranking on the 2019 AdAge AList and a #4 ranking on the 2020 AdAge A-List (the top-ranked network agency) as well as Adweek’s 2018 “Global Agency Network of the Year”.

Mitchell previously served as SVP, global marketing, McDonald’s overseeing all marketing and reporting to the CEO and where he ran the CMO community in the 110 markets in which McDonald’s operates. He was part of a historic turnaround that increased the value of the brand by 4% to $45bn (source: Interbrand) and part of the management team that grew the company to over $100bn in revenue. Before that, he was head of global planning for Ogilvy and part of the operating board in the period when the agency was awarded Cannes “Network of the Year” and Effies “Most Effective Network” for many consecutive years.

Rethinking the agency model

Chris Garbutt noted, “Over the last several years, VMG has transformed to become a truly integrated media company spanning all forms of publishing and production. It has incredible assets such as Pulse Films, Refinery 29 and i-D Magazine. Finding ways to put this together for brands is very appealing, while we continue to rethink, reshape and reimagine the agency model.”

Colin Mitchell remarked, “Increasingly, CMO’s are going directly to production and publishing companies. Virtue gives brands a portal to connect with emerging culture and configure it in a way that makes sense for them. It’s already an incredibly unique model, and now we will continue to explore new ways to leverage the VMG network of Pulse Films, Vice Studios, and our Experiential teams to reinvent the modern agency model.”

Both Garbutt and Mitchell will report into Nancy Dubuc, global CEO, Vice Media Group.