We're only in it for the money," the founders of the Swedish digital shop Daddy joke at the end of our interview about its recent acquisition by one of the world's most admired agencies, Crispin Porter & Bogusky.
Although Crispin Porter's chief executive, Jeff Hicks, won't reveal what he paid for Daddy or what sort of earn-out its three remaining founders - the chief executive, Jonas Hedeback, and the executive creative directors, Bjorn Hoglund and Gustav Martner - are locked into, it's easy to understand why they are in such good spirits. In nine years, the agency has risen from a digital start-up in Sweden, where there are lots of great digital shops but not much else in the way of advertising, to the European creative hub for Crispin Porter.
Daddy has already rebranded as CP&B Europe and it will work alongside the two US operations based in Miami and Boulder, Colorado, to produce the agency's work as it strives to achieve its long-term goal of turning current US client relationships into global ones.
Crispin Porter will continue to keep account handlers and planners in local markets, such as Germany, the UK and Spain, where it has service offices. The difference now will be that while creative work has previously been handled in the US, it will also be developed closer to client operations in Europe.
Daddy has been working on non-digital campaigns for clients such as Scania Trucks for two years and as Crispin Porter's digital capabilities are strong (it has 300 digital and technology specialists, according to Hicks), it sounds like a sensible fit. And both parties agree that Daddy will work on offline campaigns as well as online. "The mission is to bring a completely global integrated offering to Europe," Hicks explains.
Soundings from the industry are largely positive about the arrival of such a strong agency in Europe, but there are reservations. Robert Senior, the founder of Fallon London and chief executive of the SSF Group, says: "It is such a powerful creative brand, I hope it doesn't get marginalised in Europe."
Pietro Tramontin, the chairman of DDB Nordics, is equally cautious: "I don't know whether a client like Procter & Gamble, which is not based in Sweden, would be happy having an agency there. For digital, the location is not important, but, for normal work, Sweden is not known as number one creatively."
Brett Gosper, the chairman of McCann Erickson UK and Ireland, thinks it's opportunistic: "If they were really serious about Europe, they would have splashed into the UK. I believe London and Paris are the main drivers across Europe for business and creativity."
Hicks is unequivocal about his reasons for moving to Sweden: "There's an enormous foundation even at an educational level for digital within Sweden. There's 100 per cent English fluency, which helps from a cultural standpoint to be able to do global work."
Hedeback adds that it is the difference in time zones that makes running relationships with European clients from the US difficult. But, in Europe, this is not such a problem.
Another benefit, Hicks claims, is that there is an opportunity for new-business growth among Daddy's clients and big Scandinavian brands such as Ericsson and Volvo.
Hicks dismisses any suggestion that the financial crisis in the US has forced even an agency of Crispin Porter's success to look to Europe for extra revenues.
"I wish we were that nimble and that the economies were that separate that it were possible. But this has been a priority for a long time," he explains.
Hicks also denies that it was driven by Crispin Porter's owner, MDC Partners, which increased its stake from a 49 per cent minority share to 77 per cent in 2007.
Instead, he insists, it is purely to do with offering clients what they want and extending their business to meet their needs. "We see clients' frustration about how to execute some of what we do in other markets and we have seen an opportunity," he says.
Formal conversations between the two parties began a year ago. According to Daddy, they got to know Crispin Porter when Mart-ner was on the One Show jury with the latter agency's executive creative director of interactive, Jeff Benjamin, in 2007.
"We had the chance to discuss what's good and what's not good, so we realised we had the same philosophies when it came to digital work. That was an im- portant part in us having faith in the deal and in each other," Martner says.
Crispin Porter then asked Daddy to help it on accounts such as Volkswagen, Burger King and Sprite and the relationship blossomed.
Hicks won't be drawn on which clients have expressed an interest in working with the agency or whether the European agencies of the likes of Coca-Cola (Wieden & Kennedy and Mother) or VW (DDB) should feel threatened. But he claims that there have been approaches.
"Over the years, it has been frustrating for me working in new business that we've had enormous overtures from Europe that we've had to say no to," Hicks explains.
So what's next - world domination by way of a micro-network based in unexpected places?
"Obviously, we need to put a footprint in Asia as well, so figur-ing out how to have a significant presence there is a logical next step which we'll need to make. But this is the first priority," Hicks says.
"The next thing will be the next global assignment that we talk to out here - the next Microsoft or the next Burger King - and they want to understand how we work globally and how we're going to execute their work in 30 markets or wherever their footprint is. This helps us have a better capability to put forward."
Clearly, this is just the beginning.
THE DADDY STORY
January 2000: Daddy is founded by Bjorn Hoglund, Kimmo Bjornsson, Mikael Andersson, Jonas Hedeback and Gustav Martner.
March 2000: Wins first major client, Santa Maria.
November 2000: Ad agency Valentin.Byhr.Partners buys 20 per cent stake in Daddy.
June 2001: Moves to new offices.
Spring 2002: Wins Telia account.
December 2004: Bjornsson and Andersson leave and sell their shares to remaining owners.
January 2006: Daddy Identity Department launches and the Daddy Group is born.
June 2006: Buys out Valentin.Byhr.Partners. Wins gold Cannes Lion for Volkswagen Polo.
December 2006: Grows to 29 staff.
January 2007: Daddy Production is launched.
December 2007: Starts working with Scandinavian Airlines and Swedish Postal Office.
June 2009: Grows to 52 staff. Wins One Show gold for TeliaSonera.
July 2009: Becomes CP&B Europe.