Spark Foundry absorbs Blue 449 brand as agencies merge

Two of Publicis Media’s buying and planning agencies – Spark Foundry and Blue 449 – have merged, with Blue 449 being absorbed into the Spark Foundry brand.

The merger will see all Blue 449 talent and clients operate within the Spark Foundry name and brand.

The new branding for the merged agency

Spark Foundry’s current CEO Sue Squillace will become the CEO of the new agency.

Blue 449’s current managing director, Duncan Parfitt, has been appointed chief operating officer of the newly merged agency.

Jeff Ewing, Blue 449’s current CFO will keep his role and completes the new executive leadership team.

Following industry speculation on the merger, Mumbrella approached Publicis for comment last month.

The business denied the “incorrect” rumours and said the two agencies were not planning on merging.

At the time, a spokesperson said to Mumbrella: “Spark Foundry and Blue 449 ANZ continue to operate as separate agency brands of strength.”

When asked about redundancies, John Preston, chairman of Publicis Media, told Mumbrella: “Due to the success of the businesses, redundancies are not part of the plan. This is a strategic move, not an efficiency play.

“The business is all set up for us to service all of our clients needs with the existing staff, equally the business is going to grow over time and that is going to create some opportunity for everyone in the agency and the senior leadership team.

“We have not had to demonstrate to the business, savings and that is because this is a strategic play.”

The two agencies do have conflicting clients locally, with Spark Foundry holding the media account for Diageo and Blue 449 handling all the media planning and buying for Pernod Ricard.

“There have been minimal conflicts, and pleasingly minimal conflicts in the client mix,” said Preston told Mumbrella.

“Where conflicts may exist, we have been able to communicate with those clients very early on in the process and we are working on a roadmap to mitigate any conflict.

“Particularly important is that the offices, physically are going to be separated in the Sydney market place, which will reduce any issue of conflict.”

The Australian office will now consist of around 185 staff members.

Preston said: “This is a very exciting step change for the team at Spark Foundry and provides the team at Blue 449 with a truly global family to work with.”

Globally, the Blue 449 brand will remain in the UK, US and France. The agency will take on local clients in those locations, while Spark Foundry will service all international clients and become a global network.

Two years ago, Mediavest rebranded to Spark Foundry. The move came just three years after Mediavest was split from Starcom to operate as a separate agency in Australia.

The Blue 449 brand was founded three years ago, when Match Media rebranded to Blue 449. The move was part of a global push by Publicis to unify its second media network to sit alongside Zenith.

Match Media was founded in 2003 by John Preston and acquired by Publicis in June 2014. At the time he made it a condition of the deal that he was not obliged to rebrand to Blue 449.

Meanwhile, in August last year Preston became the chairman of Publicis Media Australia.

When he was promoted to the chairman role, he relinquished his role as CEO of Blue 449.

Publicis Media Australia is still seeking a CEO following Matt James’ promotion.

James has taken the London-based role of global brand president of Zenith.

Blue 449’s original branding

Squillace, CEO, Spark Foundry Australia, said in a statement: “I am really excited to have the opportunity to lead this newly formed strategic alignment.

“This evolution of Spark Foundry will deliver our people and clients a brand with greater scale, greater market impact and a greater connected global network.”

Locally, Blue 449’s clients include 20th Century Fox, Australian Super, NRMA, TAL and Nandos.

Phil Georgiadis, global chairman of Blue 449 and Publicis Media UK, will also be leaving the company.

“Now is the right time for me to move on, I have been fully involved and supportive of the new network strategy and I am obviously delighted that Blue 449 will retain its distinctive position in the UK market.

“This is testament to the whole team under the strong leadership of Simon and in truth they are doing a brilliant job without me.

“More recently I have enjoyed my role as chairman of Publicis Media UK. Having been heavily involved in the decision to move to Television Centre and in the fit out itself I can see it will be a catalyst for even more transformative behaviours and I wish Steve, Sue and everyone based there every success in the future.”

Chris Boothe, global brand president of Spark Foundry, added: “Further, I am thrilled to welcome the Blue 449 talent and clients to the Spark Foundry family.

“I’m confident these clients will benefit from continuing to work with the talent who know them and their business well, now backed by Spark Foundry’s unique HEAT proposition strongly resonating and delivering for clients around the world.”


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