Dentsu Buys Firstborn

Dentsu continued its move to bolster its U.S. assets with the purchase of New York digital production shop Firstborn.

Thirteen-year-old Firstborn is known as a specialist in Web animation and highly creative Web sites. It has 65 employees and works for clients like Aflac, Wrigley and Pepsi’s SoBe. It does production work for outside agencies, but the majority of its work is now direct to clients.

Firstborn will join other recent Dentsu acquisitions, including larger digital shop 360i, which specializes in search and social marketing. The others in the Japanese holding company’s Western operations are digital agency Attik and traditional shop mcgarrybowen.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The deal marks the end of a long run of independence for Firstborn. CEO Michael Ferdman said the agency wasn’t looking to sell–it didn’t hire a banker–but came about after Dentsu West head Tim Andree approached the agency.

“We’re one of a few companies that are part of the network,” said Ferdman. “I didn’t want to get into a scenario that I’ve seen that wouldn’t work for us. I didn’t want to get involved with an enormous holding company. I didn’t want to be competing with my sister companies in this network.”

There are no plans to change how Firstborn operates, Ferdman said. He and partners, president Dan LaCavita and CCO JoonYong Park, will continue to run the agency.

Joining a holding company is a way for Firstborn to continue to specialize in tech-driven creativity without trying to build out deeper capabilities in digital marketing areas that are outside its core expertise, Ferdman said.

The relatively hands-off approach Dentsu has taken to its U.S. holdings was also an attraction for keeping Firstborn’s culture. As a sign of that, Ferdman noted the agency was on its way to Rudy’s, a grubby bar near the Port Authority bus terminal in New York that serves free hot dogs.

“I think there’s a way to be gritty and let the work speak for itself,” Ferdman said. “If we do those things, I think we can be in great shape.”

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