Cooper & Hayes Deal A Southern Comfort To DDB

With this month’s acquisition of independent Cooper & Hayes in Miami, DDB has more than doubled its Carnival business, added Florida to its collection of state-lottery accounts and gained a Southeast foothold for the network, the agency said.

“There’s clearly relocation [of business] to the Southeast going on, and we don’t see any indication that it will stop,” said DDB North America president Dick Rogers, who orchestrated the deal. “There’s tremendous energy in this part of the country.”

Cooper & Hayes, renamed Cooper DDB, claims annual billings of $160 million from clients such as Carnival, the Florida Lottery, French Luggage and the NBA’s Miami Heat. It employs 60 staffers, including former owner Ric Cooper, who is staying on as CEO.

The deal—DDB’s first acquisition of a full-service agency in 12 years—expands the Omnicom Group shop’s portfolio of travel and leisure clients, a segment that Rogers pegged to grow more quickly than other categories. Key is Carnival, which spent $80 million on measured media through September, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. DDB in Seattle handles Carnival-owned Holland-America, which this year spent $25 million on ads through September, according to Nielsen.

DDB, which handles lotteries in New York and Texas, also adds the $30 million Florida Lottery account. DDB has attempted to make itself a lottery specialist (it briefly held the Illinois lottery), as it’s a category that can be stacked up without conflict, since state lotteries don’t compete with each other.

One of the first orders of business at Cooper DDB will be to find a new creative leader. Troy Hayes, the former partner and executive creative director, left last year to open a shop in Cincinnati. Mike Valenti, who had been a cd at Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett, filled the post in March but left in October.

Terms of the cash-and-stock deal, which was completed Nov. 15, were not disclosed. Sources estimated the price at $24-30 million.

Rogers and Cooper have known each other for several years via their cruise-ship clients. Cooper said he wasn’t trying to sell the shop but noted he’d been looking for a “partner” to meet Carnival’s expanding global needs. He added that he’d discussed alliances with several major holding companies during the past few years but was most comfortable with DDB. “I’ve known those guys for years,” he said.

The shops started talking more than three years ago, but negotiations were derailed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Cooper said. “There wasn’t any pressing urgency,” he said. “It was a matter of when it felt right.” In the meantime, DDB was busy shoring up offices hit hard by the economic downturn that followed 9/11.

Talks resumed in earnest earlier this year. Rogers said he wanted a Southeast presence for DDB, which is covered in every other region of the U.S. DDB’s only sites in the Southeast were a Hispanic marketing firm in Miami, dRM DDB, that it bought in 1999, and a corporate office it opened in 2002 in Miami to supervise its Latin American accounts.

Cooper, with two minority partners, had owned the shop since 1998, when he bought the former McFarland & Drier from HMS Partners (now Ten United). The shop, which already handled Carnival Cruise Lines and Florida Lottery, successfully defended the latter account two years ago.

Pete Bogda, president of Dallas ad consultancy Achenbaum Bogda Associates, said Carnival and the lottery makes Cooper & Hayes a logical fit for DDB. “It’s getting harder and harder to find someone to buy,” especially in the South, Bogda said.