BBH Scoops Up Domani, as Agencies Acquire Digital Shops to Boost Offerings

Buying and building

With its purchase of the digital agency Domani, BBH becomes the latest creative agency to use an outside acquisition to accelerate its digital growth.

Domani is a 14-year-old Brooklyn shop whose clients have included VH1, Random House, Sony, Coca-Cola, Estee Lauder and Starwood Resorts. Its purchase will boost BBH's digital offerings, the Publicis Groupe agency network said.

BBH not only gets Domani, which will operate under its own name as a separate unit, but also adds the shop's founder and president Jonathan Hills to BBH senior management. He becomes the new chief of digital at BBH N.Y. and will work closely with Carey Head, the agency's head of integrated production and technology, who was hired last year to oversee BBH's digital offerings and improve agency production capabilities.

BBH is the latest agency to acquire digital chops to supplement its own efforts to build them. Last year, for instance, Lowe and Partners bought the global digital network Profero, which which the agency had worked on shared clients like Danone, Diageo, PwC and Unilever's OMO and TRESemmé.

Seth Alpert, managing director at investment bankers AdMedia Partners, cites the challenges agencies face as audiences continue to migrate to digital and social, requiring traditional shops to ramp up digital capabilities faster than ever.

Traditional agencies like BBH find themselves competing against digital shops and independents in hiring top talent in markets like New York and San Francisco. Independent shops often provide more appealing options to job candidate,s who may also prefer a pure digital environment. Alpert adds that while the digital world continues to change rapidly, it's the independents that are likely to be better in keeping up than larger traditional agencies, giving shops like Domani an edge in what it brings to BBH. 

In addition, building integrated global services for clients is increasingly more difficult and acquisitions like Domani or Profero can help acquirers add to or hold onto their clients.