StrawberryFrog, a creative agency founded nearly 20 years ago on the principle of “cultural movement marketing,” has bought itself back from parent company Apco Worldwide by repurchasing a majority stake the organization acquired more than five years ago.
As in the original acquisition, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Founder, CEO and former JWT executive creative director Scott Goodson launched StrawberryFrog in Amsterdam in 1999, later opening a new flagship office in New York and an operation in Sao Paulo, Brazil. During its nearly two decades, the agency has counted Saba, Old Navy, Google and Jim Beam among its clients; a 2016 campaign for SunTrust Banks marked its Super Bowl debut.
Apco Worldwide is a Washington, D.C.-based communications firm specializing in public affairs, international politics and crisis communications. It bought StrawberryFrog in February 2012 because, according to current president and managing director Evan Kraus, “We wanted to get into advertising as increasingly our clients had needs in that area.”
The relationship ran into trouble about two years later as former employees of StrawberryFrog Amsterdam, which an Apco spokesperson called “a stand-alone investment for Apco Worldwide and not part of the operations of either StrawberryFrog or Apco,” sued the parent company for alleged nonpayment of wages under Dutch law.
That particular suit failed due to the Amsterdam location’s bankruptcy, but it was not the first one involving StrawberryFrog, which was sued in 2011 by a former employee who demanded severance pay, outstanding commissions and severance damages. The suit also alleged that Publicis Groupe planned to acquire the agency in 2011 before the deal fell through.
A spokesperson for Apco Worldwide declined to offer a statement after repeated requests, and Goodson also declined to comment.
Apco, whose clients include corporations, international governments, individual politicians and politically active charities, was owned by WPP’s Grey Group for more than 13 years before buying itself back in 2004. It is now one of the world’s largest privately owned public relations companies.
According to sources with direct knowledge of the matter, StrawberryFrog’s chief financial officer and UM veteran Susan Bueser has also left the agency. Her name has been removed from the agency’s website, and she did not respond to phone calls today.