Cheil Rounds Out Its Portfolio With Iris Deal

Welcomes a retail marketing specialist to the family

Cheil Worldwide's investment in retail marketing specialist Iris further rounds out the portfolio of agencies that Cheil has amassed in the past five years.

Since 2008, the South Korean company has invested in regional ad agencies like Beattie McGuinness Bungay, McKinney and Bravo Asia, and digital technology player The Barbarian Group. Iris does more than shopper marketing—including digital, direct and traditional marketing—but has distinguished itself in retail. And as with Cheil, Samsung is a top account.

Cheil is getting a "greater skill set, a global footprint and—certainly from a top line standpoint—a successful agency," said Seth Alpert, a managing director at AdMedia Partners, a merger and acquisition firm in New York.

Cheil has taken a minority stake in Iris that could rise to 100 percent in five years. The percentage of the stake and price were not disclosed. As a result of the deal, publisher Meredith Corp. will relinquish the 20 percent stake it took in Iris in 2011.

Iris, with 17 offices and 1,000 staffers worldwide, generated an estimated $125 million in revenue last year. Other brands it works for include Adidas, Barclaycard, Philips, Shell and Mini Cooper. Diageo is another major account, with Iris handling assignments on Guinness, Johnnie Walker, J&B, Smirnoff and Blossom Hill. The London-based shop opened in 1999.

Under the deal, Iris will maintain its name and top management and become a global player for Cheil, alongside its namesake agency, which is a leader in the event marketing space. As Cheil global CEO Daiki Lim put it, Iris "will bring great value and agility to us and our clients."