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Designs on Gearon Hoffman

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Gearon Hoffman is the latest in a string of New England agencies to engineer a deal to expand its services, acquiring design shop Paratore & Hartshorn.

Terms of the deal between privately held independent Gearon Hoffman, which claims about $70 million in bil lings, and crosstown shop P&H were not disclosed. "We've been looking to ex pand our interactive- de sign and corporate- identity offerings," said Bob Hoffman, president of the agency, citing P&H's "very high-end, high-quality interactive work."

The shop's founders and co-creative directors, Vincent Paratore and Mark Hartshorn, are moving into Gearon Hoffman's offices as senior designers, working on interactive, collateral, corporate identity and other design projects. None of P&H's five other employees is making the move.

P&H has been working with Intellution, the National Geo gra phic Society, Ora cle and Rational Software. Paratore and Hart shorn are ex pected to continue working on at least some of those assignments at Gea ron Hoffman.

The shops became acquainted two years ago when Gearon Hoffman created advertising for the New England launch of Sovereign Bank. Agency executives, im pressed by P&H efforts for FleetBoston Financial, the region's largest bank, enlisted the shop for design work on Sovereign. The pair subsequently collaborated on efforts for Tufts Health Plan and Capital Crossing Bank.

Paratore and Hartshorn have been eager to vacate their officespace, near the noisy construction of the "Big Dig" Central Artery/Tunnel Project, and have been mulling a union with a full-service agency for some time.

Paratore said he looks forward to building a larger design unit inside Gearon Hoffman and wants to build up a base of clients and hire more staff in short order.

The pair are currently re-designing a Tufts Health Web site scheduled to go online next month, Paratore said.

In recent weeks, several mid-level players have forged unions to stay competitive in the difficult economic climate. Most notably, Boston agencies Greenberg Ser o nick O'Leary & Partners and DavisPartners merged in late January to form GSO/Davis. Ideate and Extricon of Watertown, Mass., and Natick, Mass., respectively, cre ated a joint venture called i.e. part ners to offer integrated services to clients of both shops and jointly pitch new business.