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Two Canadian ad agencies become ‘one.’

Due North’s Karen Howe, whose work includes the anti-impaired-driving campaign Deflate the Elephant for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, will remain in her role as senior vice-president and creative director at the merged agency, called one.


Two independent Canadian advertising agencies are merging their ranks. Digital agency 58Ninety Inc. on Monday is set to announce it is buying brand agency Due North Communications. The new company will be rebranded under the name "one."

The digital agency's acquisition bucks the trend in the advertising industry. In recent years, mainstream agencies and large agency holding companies have been snapping up boutique digital firms as clients demand campaigns that integrate social media websites, mobile platforms, search engine placement and other technology, along with traditional elements such as print or television ads.

Just last week, Tokyo-based network Dentsu Inc. announced its acquisition of London-based Aegis Group, noting the latter's expertise in digital as one of the key reasons for the buy, and following earlier deals to acquire digital firms.

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In this case, the digital agency is acquiring a more traditional branding and marketing firm, founded 19 years ago, in a bid to expand its services to be a broader agency.

Most agencies are now attempting to sell themselves as integrated, full-service firms that make digital capabilities a priority. One corp. is hoping to market itself to potential clients as better equipped to marry the creative process with technology, having the digital team involved at every stage of each campaign.

"As digital and technology has become a part of everyone's communications plans, [clients] will peel off a bit [of their marketing budget] for search or social or what have you. But you wouldn't have those people at the table when the strategy was being set," said Due North president Jill King, who becomes president of one., effective Monday.

"It is challenging in some organizations, where digital is a different department or it's an entirely different company. …With digital, and marketing technology, being the buyer in this instance, you're sort of forcing that discipline."

Talks that led to the deal began last year. Due North chief executive officer Mark Weisbarth was preparing to retire from his role, and 58Ninety CEO Ted Boyd was looking to address what he calls a "schism" in the industry: the perception that digital agencies can do great work online, but do not fully understand the nuances of brand marketing.

"Having a strong marketing technology digital capability at the centre of a very strong brand agency will fundamentally realign how marketing can be done," said Mr. Boyd, who becomes CEO of one. Mr. Weisbarth will remain on board through the transition. The combined Toronto-based agency will have a staff of roughly 60.

Due North's Karen Howe will remain in her role as senior vice-president and creative director. Ms. Howe's past work includes the anti-impaired-driving campaign Deflate the Elephant for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and the blink-and-you'll-miss them ads for the Dairy Farmers of Canada selling the benefits of milk to an attention-deficit generation.

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Due North brings clients such as Second CupAlliance Films and 3M. They add to 58Ninety's roster, which includes Molson Coors Brewing and Workopolis.

"Marketing programs have become increasingly complex," Mr. Boyd said. "How does one maintain the age-old tried-and-true discipline of building a brand, and do it in such a way that, technologically, one can keep up with the rapid pace of change? Everyone in this industry shares that challenge. …The landscape is shifting under our feet."

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