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WPP Group Acquires Canadian Ad Shop Taxi

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Just think of Taxi as the "portable" agency brand.

That's how WPP Group views the shop, and it hopes to expand the brand into new markets following its acquisition today of the creatively driven shop that's grown to become a significant player in Canada.

Headquartered in Toronto, Taxi becomes a unit of Young & Rubicam Brands. It was founded in 1992 in Montreal by Paul Lavoie and currently employs 350 people. Additional offices include New York, Calgary, Vancouver and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Taxi will stand alone within the group and won't be combined with other units, according to Y&R Brands CEO Peter Stringham, to whom Lavoie will report. The agency will retain the Taxi name and the current leadership team. Lavoie will continue as chairman and Rob Guenette as CEO.

For Y&R Brands, the agency represents another "nimble" creative resource, similar to BrandBuzz in New York, Swarm in London and The Campaign Palace in Melbourne, Australia, Stringham said. Taxi, in turn, can tap into the resources of specialty units like Wunderman (digital direct marketing) and Landor Associates (brand identity work). Taxi also shares clients with those units: Microsoft (Wunderman) and Kraft (Landor). Also on Taxi's client roster: Canadian Tire, WestJet, McCain Foods, Molson, Boston Pizza, Dairy Farmers of Canada, New York Life,  Blue Shield of California, Burger King, Viagra and Reitmans.

"The interesting thing about Taxi is I really do think it's a portable brand. It's a brand that can grow a lot," Stringham added. "So, we're already talking about what other markets should we look at for a Taxi office."

Lavoie said the bulked-up resources would help the Taxi network grow globally and better service its existing clients. "Everything is in good shape, but I have bigger plans for Taxi," said Lavoie. "I really want to take it to another level. I think we can be the biggest littlest network in the world."

Additional resources, for example, in CRM, planning and research, will give the agency and its clients more "depth and breadth," said Lavoie. "Our reach is larger than our grasp."

According to WPP, Taxi's unaudited revenue for 12 months ending in June was $50.5 million, with gross assets of approximately $23.9 million.

Other units of Y&R Brands include Y&R, Burson-Marsteller, Sudler & Hennessey, VML and Enfatico.