Hard Reality will continue to operate as an independent company, but will have a permanent presence in Burnetts' Sloane Avenue offices. The company, which developed the award-winning CampaignLive website, as well as the website for Campaign's sister publication, Revolution, has also worked with Unilever and counts Express Newspapers and Freedom Telecom among its current clients.
Hard Reality pitched successfully with Burnetts for the global Heinz ketchup business last month and has also landed a Max Factor project from Procter & Gamble in tandem with the agency.
The deal, which is understood to involve the acquisition of around 30 per cent of Hard Reality for a six-figure sum, allows Burnetts gradually to increase its stake over a six-year period to a maximum of 80 per cent.
Hard Reality is run by its three founding partners, Keld van Schreven, Dan Sumption and Mark Westall, and operates a network of around 20 programmers and designers across Europe. The Reality network will be incorporated into Burnetts, with its members benefiting from various employee incentive schemes.
Van Schreven commented: 'We feel how Creation Records felt when they signed to Sony. We've got some fantastic talent across Europe and we're going to bring that to a wider audience.'
Bant Breen, the digital communications director at Burnetts, said: 'This deal signals Leo Burnett's move towards a more innovative way of working in the digital era.' He added that Hard Reality would work with other Burnetts companies, including its database marketing arm, Leobase, to provide integrated communications solutions for clients.
Nick Brien, Burnetts' chief executive, who struck the deal, said: 'Hard Reality's independence will allow it to continue to supply digital business solutions to a broad range of clients. Its involvement with the agency will allow us to work together to address the impact of digital on other areas of Leo Burnett's business.'