Bastion Collective snaps up two US agencies, promotes Jack Watts to global CEO

Independent Australian agency Bastion Collective has grown during COVID-19 by acquiring two US agencies to expand its operations in the region.

Digital transformation and eCommerce agency, Cyndica Labs will merge into Bastion’s US digital agency, Bastion Rare, while social media and performance agency, Huntington Pacific Media, will merge into Bastion’s US PR and social agency, Bastion Elevate.

Bastion Collective has acquired two agencies in the US

Current clients of the two acquired agencies will also shift to Bastion Rare and Bastion Elevate including Discovery Channel, PwC and Hitachi. Bastion Collective’s US client base already includes KFC, Verizon and Google.

The acquisitions come at the same time the group, founded by Fergus and Jack Watts in 2009, shifts Australian CEO Jack Watts to the position of global CEO.

Bastion Collective’s purchases have been finalised as Australia enters its first recession in almost 30 years, while the US is currently in a significant election year.

Watts becomes global CEO of Bastion Collective

Watts told Mumbrella that despite the challenges, Bastion Collective was in a solid position to grow the business on the back of the acquisitions.

“We think we have built the new world agency model. The multinational holding group model is not working. Small independents do one thing really well but clients want an integrated service offering. Our hybrid approach of collective independents works and we think we can expand that.

“The US is the largest agency advertising market in the world, primed with opportunity in terms of our model. Initially, we want to be the biggest on the west coast of the US with 150 people – we are around a quarter of the way there at the moment.”

Bastion Collective has shown significant activity in the US market when it comes to acquisitions. In November 2019 the US arm also acquired DB5, rebranding the agency as Bastion DB5.

Watts predicts the growth will continue.

“We want to aggressively grow in the US. We want to do in three years what took 11 years in Australia. That will come via organic growth plus a merger and acquisition agenda. While the conditions are uncertain, COVID-19 has only accelerated our opportunity and accelerated the demise of multinational holding groups.”

Bastion Collective runs a significant collection of agencies in Australia

Watts claims Bastion Collective is the largest independent communications agency in Australia, with over 200 staff, along with its growing presence in the US.

The last year has seen Bastion Collective make a raft of senior hires locally including Claire Gleghorn as CEO of Bastion Reputation, Matt McCann as CEO and Lizzie McManus as head of brand experience for Bastion EBA, and Shirley Tat as group business director of Bastion Effect.

Despite the significant hires and acquisitions, Watts doesn’t think the group is in any danger of losing its culture or identity. His goal is to go from 200 people locally and 40 in the US to 300 and 150 respectively.

“We want to become the iconic independent Australian agency,” Watts said.

“We look at acquisitions from three perspectives. Product, territory and scale. Almost all of that comes down to good people. Great operators who have the desire to be part of something bigger and are aligned with our mission. When we nail that we know the culture fit is right.”

Bastion Collective’s US CEO, Dax Cornelius will remain and report into Watts, who will be based in Australia, but will travel to the US frequently when travel opens up again.


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