TBWA Builds Brand Architecture

TBWA Worldwide has acquired Weiss Stagliano Partners and O’Malley & Hogan and is merging the two shops to create Brand Architecture International, a standalone unit that will operate as a turnkey brand consultancy.

The new unit, which will have its own profit and loss responsibilities, will be led by the principals of the two shops: Adam Stagliano, 46; Marty Weiss, 47; Damian O’Malley, 45; and Declan Hogan, 47. Each will carry the title of director/principal brand architect.

The value of the cash deal, which was signed last week and is payable in the next three to five years, was not disclosed. Brand Architecture becomes part of the fledgling TBWA Group, a collection of specialty shops that report to Carl Johnson, chief operating officer of TBWA.

For TBWA, Brand Architecture represents an investment in a new type of consultancy, one that provides strategic branding advice as well as creative output. And often the solution does not take the form of traditional advertising.

“We’re not buying volume; we’re buying an idea and talent,” said Johnson, 42. “What we need is to talk to clients further and further upstream, before you ever get to communications.” What’s more, he concluded, “It’s an area that we needed to be in.”

Last year, the New York-based Weiss Stagliano forged an alliance with O’Malley & Hogan, a Dublin, Ireland, consultancy with annual revenue of $2 million and clients that include The Sunday Times. Together, they planned to expand to additional global markets [Adweek, July 24, 2000]. The TBWA deal will now enable them to do that more quickly. Brand Architecture opens a London office today, adding to the existing offices in Dublin and New York. The staff numbers 50.

“We would have done this with or without them,” said Stagliano, whose agency generates $8-10 million in annual revenue from clients such as HotJobs.com, Bass Ale and The Economist. “But to have somebody say, ‘I understand, and we support what you are doing’-those kinds of propositions don’t fall in your lap every day.”

Talks between TBWA and the shops began in December and heated up during a series of dinners and cocktail meetings in New York and London. It is the first major deal for TBWA since the Omnicom agency network recast at the top this spring, replacing worldwide CEO Michael Greenlees with Jean-Marie Dru and promoting Johnson and Tom Carroll to COO and president of the Americas, respectively.

Sources indicated that the New York and Dublin shops were also pursued by WPP Group, which sought to make them an integral part of its Red Cell network. But those talks, which resulted in an offer from WPP, broke off shortly after negotiations with TBWA began, sources said.

Stagliano and O’Malley declined to discuss other suitors.

The deal reunites Stagliano with Carroll, a friend and ex-business partner at the former Carroll Raj Stagliano about a decade ago. It also reconnects Johnson and O’Malley, who both worked at Gold Greenlees Trott in London in the 1980s. As O’Malley, former chief strategic officer at DDB here, put it, “It’s very comfortable having someone you’ve known well in a past life.”