Brett Marchand on Plus Company’s U.S. ambitions

Canadian holding company Plus Company revealed two big moves on Thursday that signal just how serious it is about growth in the U.S.

Plus, the parent company of Cossette, We Are Social, Citizen Relations, Camp Jefferson and others, named Brian Whipple chair of its board, while also announcing the acquisition of 200-person creative agency Mekanism.

Financial terms of the Mekanism deal were not disclosed, but the San Francisco-based agency, which has offices in New York, Chicago and Seattle, reportedly made $50 million in revenue in 2021. Its client roster includes Quaker, Amazon, Jose Cuervo, and OK Cupid. 

Brian Whipple

Mekanism is a successful agency that gives Plus Company an immediate and secure foothold in the U.S., which is not an easy thing for Canadian advertising businesses to do, said CEO Brett Marchand.

Expansion to the U.S. had been a priority for Plus—formerly Vision7—since it was acquired by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners last year.

Mekanism was the right fit because it has retained its digital agency roots while growing into a full-service brand agency, said Marchand. “It’s very rare to find [agencies] that have the real capabilities of both.”

Mekanism’s “soul and science” mantra of helping brands with their purpose and positioning while also driving tangible business outcomes, aligns with Plus’s focus, said Marchand. “We’re doing so much work to get our agencies [to] help clients figure out how you drive awareness and top of the funnel, but also how do you actually get their consumers to sign up for a subscription, download the app, convert them into a clients, sign up for a credit card, whatever it is.”

Mekanism was already in that space, but Plus Company can help them do even more, he said.

“Mekanism has found the perfect partner,” said co-founder and CEO Jason Harris in a release. “Plus Company wants to lift up our culture, creativity and clients. The vision of bringing creativity and technology together lines up with our Soul & Science focus.”

“The other way we will help them—and I guess they will help us—is they have a lot of great clients that are interested in working with us on a global basis, especially with We Are Social,” said Marchand. Mekanism is strong in digital and social, but only in the U.S., while We Are Social is relatively small in the U.S. but has a significant presence in 13 other countries.

Whipple, meanwhile, was arguably one of the most influential agency executives anywhere in the world last decade. As CEO of Accenture Interactive, he oversaw  an aggressive growth spurt that saw it acquire a number of creative agencies including, most notably, the 2019 purchase of Droga5.

“He built the world’s biggest digital agency with $12 billion of revenue,” said Marchand.  “And he did that in three ways: By making acquisitions, by pitching and winning big clients, and by growing their capabilities. Those are all things we are super interested in doing.”

Whipple will not have an operational role, but will act as important mentor and advisor for Marchand and the rest of the executive team. He brings first-hand experience in mergers and acquisitions, on blending creativity and technology, and is very interested in leadership development, said Marchand. “Right now, leadership matters more than it’s ever mattered.”

“With Plus Company, I can see the ambition, intelligence and creativity within one alliance, and these traits reflect my own commitment to authenticity in leadership and the human experience, for clients, their customers, and our global team members,” said Whipple in the release. “I decided to join as the board chair to work with the great Plus leaders and to continue my small role in the continued evolution of this fascinating market space.”

While both moves are significant, Marchand said that Plus is just getting started in terms of its growth plans. “We can make a much bigger splash,” he said. “I mean, we’ve got one of the biggest pension funds in the world, and one of the biggest private equity firms in the world, and they’ve both got lots of dry capital.”

Plus has 3,000 people globally, and reported $330 million in net global revenue last year. However, Marchand said that the goal is to grow it into a multibillion dollar business. “When you put technology together with advertising and media and influencer and social media… I would be very disappointed if we weren’t growing by 20-30% a year.”

David Brown