MDC Partners Retires KBS Brand, Folding It Into Forsman & Bodenfors

The move forms a new global agency with dual headquarters in Sweden and New York

MDC Partners-owned KBS mergers under Forsman & Bodenfors.
Forsman & Bodenfors

MDC Partners-owned agencies Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners and Forsman & Bodenfors are merging to form a new global creative offering under the latter’s name, effectively putting an end to the KBS acronym.

The new agency comes to market today with 700 employees across eight offices in North America, Europe and Asia and marries F&B’s award-winning creative to KBS’ specialized data, analytics, tech and media expertise. F&B will have dual headquarters in Sweden (home base to the original F&B) and New York (home to KBS). Its client roster includes Diageo, H&M, LG, Procter & Gamble, Vanguard and Volvo.

Below is a spunky video announcement of the deal, featuring a sizzle reel of some of the two agencies’ most impressive tech and creative work. Before you ask, F&B’s iconic 2013 spot with Jean-Claude Van Damme doing an “Epic Split” between two Volvo trucks did indeed make the cut.

Sitting at the helm of this new entity will be global executive chairman Anna Qvennerstedt (former copywriter, senior partner and chairman at the standalone F&B) and global CEO Guy Hayward (who previously held that title at KBS). Silla Levin and Mike Densmore will lead F&B in Sweden and New York, respectively. Qvennerstedt will be stationed in Sweden and Hayward will be in New York.

“From the F&B side, we’ve been discussing for years how to bring our work to scale,” Qvennerstedt told Adweek. “When we became partners with MDC, we wanted to somehow venture into the world. KBS is in … a stage of reinvention and they have a leadership team that is already new, so when the idea of a merger was presented to us and we met KBS, it felt like we were on the same journey.”

F&B was founded in 1986, in Gothenburg, Sweden, and has since been growing into a viable global player in the creative industry. One of its most recognizable ads, the aforementioned Van Damme split spot, earned various top honors including the Best of Show at The One Show and a Grand Prix at Cannes. MDC acquired F&B in 2016, forming a “strategic global partnership” with another of its well-known creative shops, Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

"We had to come together under one name."
Guy Hayward, global CEO, Forsman & Bodenfors

KBS, established in New York a year after F&B, has been undergoing some significant changes over the past year and a half, including a series of C-suite shakeups. At the time of its final leadership appointment—president Mike Densmore, who rounded out the KBS team in New York—Hayward had said the agency would be focusing on the “next chapter.”

Today, “everything is set,” Hayward told Adweek.

Hayward said KBS and F&B first linked up in April at an MDC summit in Nashville where leadership from both agencies discussed future ideas for their businesses. The meeting came five months after the former agency declined to participate in a review launched by BMW, which had been its largest single client. (That account eventually went to GS&P.)

What struck Hayward were the similarities between the outlook of his agency and F&B’s: to become “more autonomous, more focused on creative work.” The initial meeting led to a series of discussions that lasted through Cannes and involved 20 leaders from both sides.

“What’s most important going forward is to find the common culture and embed the way we work across all offices,” Qvennerstedt said.

The two agencies have already been collaborating while pitching together for two separate pieces of new business, one an unidentified global account based out of Europe, according to Hayward. The Euro pitch is being run by F&B’s New York, London, Stockholm and Shanghai offices.

A key strategy of the new F&B going forward will rely on this fostering of a “single global team” across offices and only works because the agency does “not duplicate roles,” Hayward said. The lead strategist on the one pitch is based in New York and the top creative is in Stockholm.

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