Abacus acquires Stonewood Collective to expand creative offering

Toronto agency Abacus is a great example of how fast things can change in digital marketing.

Launched with just three people a little more than two years ago, Abacus was focused on performance media—paid social and targeting, with an emphasis on Facebook and Instagram. Today it has grown to 35 people, just completed the acquisition of digital production company Stonewood Collective, and launched Abacus Creative Labs.

Abacus founders Jeff Goldenberg (above left) and Peter Reitano (above right) made the deal because they believe they identified a fatal flaw with a lot of mobile and social advertising: bad creative.

“When [presented with] poor creative, there was very little we could do to help make it perform,” said Goldenberg. In many cases the original creative is good, he added, but it has been produced for broadcast and then repurposed—usually poorly—for social.

Everyone has been talking about the move to mobile and digital first, but the reality has been very different, said Reitano. “The content wasn’t fitting the bill, so there were massive performance issues.”

Abacus acquired Stonewood to create its own production and content creation studio. Rebranded as Day Job, the creative team will be led by Corey Way, who joined Abacus as creative director a little more than a year ago.

The idea is to produce better content for brands that recognize the value of taking a mobile first approach. Figuring out how to tell brand stories capable of breaking through on Facebook and Instagram in meaningful ways before thinking about a TV spot. Nobody was thinking that way as little as two years ago, the Abacus founders said, but more marketers are starting to recognize the new reality.

“People realize that mobile and social will have to lead the creative strategy and not broadcast television,” said Goldenberg.

Much of the industry’s digital focus was on data and targeting, with creative often relegated to an afterthought, said Reitano. Now there is greater emphasis on fusing those two elements: great creative made more powerful by data and performance marketing.

“Creative people that understand media will create the content of the future,” said Goldenberg.

David Brown