MSQ swoops once more to create ‘design powerhouse’

paul galeslootInternational marketing group MSQ has whipped out its chequebook once more to acquire design business Elmwood and merge it with its Holmes & Marchant agency to create what it claims will be an international “design powerhouse”, delivering comprehensive, branded experiences in the multi-platform age.

The acquisition, supported by MSQ’s private equity partner LDC, is the group’s fourth deal in the past 18 months and follows the purchase of Be Heard, bringing Freemavens, MMT Digital and agenda21 (now part of Walk-In Media) into the MSQ fold.

In March this year, MSQ also acquired agency MBA, merging it with Stack to create MBAstack. And last month MSQ completed the acquisition of creative production studio Brave Spark.

The purchase of Elmwood Global follows the demerger of Elmwood Group last year, which saw its global business evolve as Elmwood and its former Leeds studio rebrand as Born Ugly, an independent design venture under the chairmanship of Elmwood’s former majority shareholder Jonathan Sands.

MSQ claims the merger of Elmwood and Holmes & Marchant creates a new agency model. Both agencies bring a heritage in developing design systems with assets that work across the full spectrum of content channels (offline, digital, social and commerce). Now they will also have access to MSQ’s other agencies, particularly those operating in digital and tech, bringing insight and a channel-specific offering.

The agency will also build on Elmwood’s sectoral skills in consumer, global healthcare and corporate design and its offices in London and New York. Holmes & Marchant will add further consumer and corporate design skills, in-house digital capabilities, and its offices in Singapore and Shanghai.

Operating globally under the Elmwood brand, the merged agency will have 200 staff, split across hubs in London, New York, Shanghai and Singapore and clients including GSK, Unilever, Danone and Mars.

Holmes & Marchant chief executive Paul Galesloot (pictured) will be in charge of the enlarged agency, providing overall operational leadership, reporting into MSQ global CEO Peter Reid.

Elmwood Global chairman Steve Gatfield will assume the role of executive chairman, lending his global industry experience to shape the strategy for the combined business.

Galesloot said: “Elmwood shares the same ambition as Holmes & Marchant to be a key brand guardian for its clients in the development of powerful content that drives competitive advantage.

“The demand for content is outpacing supply. Brands truly need to stand out in a crowded marketplace. By combining forces, we’ve created a new agency model to help companies meet this demand and ensure their branded experiences are consistent and strategic across all channels. We have a solid platform of existing clients to further build this proposition and capitalise on cross-pollination opportunities for Elmwood and more broadly for MSQ.”

Reid added: “Many global design agencies have strengths in particular geographies but not truly globally. The same has been true in the past of both Holmes & Marchant and Elmwood. What this acquisition does is bring together a marriage of equals to create a global design powerhouse. It’s a dynamic and exciting combination that has significant potential and furthers MSQ’s strategic aim of building multi-disciplinary agencies of scale in our four hubs.”

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