LBi is hoping to take a page from its growth in Europe to launch an expansion effort in the U.S. market.
The firm is combining its domestic digital shops Special Ops Media and IconNicholson into a single agency under the LBi banner. That will unite the social-media savvy of Special Ops and the design expertise of IconNicholson. Its client list includes Bristol-Myers Squibb, William Grant & Sons, Universal Music Group and Unilever.
LBi’s U.S. push comes on the heels of its recent deal for search marketing firm Bigmouth Media, a powerhouse in Europe that has a small U.S. presence. LBi has also secured $67.8 million of backing from private equity firm Carlyle Group, with an eye on building out LBi services in the U.S., including via acquisitions.
“All our big clients want us to service them across borders as a single digital agency of record,” said LBi global CEO Luke Taylor.
Globally, LBi has about 1,800 employees in 14 countries. In the U.S., LBi has 160 employees with headquarters in New York. Special Ops co-CEO Christian Anthony will serve as chief executive with fellow Special Ops co-CEO Jason Klein and LBi U.S. managing director Judith Carr serving as co-presidents. Frank Pederson, who joined LBi from AKQA in November, becomes chief operating officer. Former Tribal DDB creative director Cedric Devitt is ecd at LBi.
“There’s a lot of talk about how the customer experience is changing and [how] the way brands communicate with their consumers is changing,” said Anthony. “I think what’s very exciting about what LBi can offer is [that] we can manage the entire digital journey and every stage of the customer experience.”
LBi’s European headquarters are in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The agency is a roll-up of several European shops, including Framfab, Oyster Group and Wheel Communications.
The broader vision is to create an integrated global digital marketing services company in the image of Razorfish or Digitas. Taylor said LBi would look into expanding its service offerings with additions in CRM, analytics and e-mail, as well as adding shops to give LBi a presence in other parts of the country. Taylor wouldn’t rule out the possibility LBi would add to its creative chops by buying a traditional brand-building shop, much the way that Sapient snapped up Nitro last summer.
“We’re going to try and lay claim to not only owning the digital customer journey but also the big idea,” Taylor said. “That’s quite a stretch for a new brand.”