Hakuhodo acquires Sid Lee

Hakuhodo DY Holdings, the world's number seven holding company, adds Sid Lee, the Canadian digital shop, to its string of North American buys.

Jean-Francois Bouchard (left) and Michael Birkin
Jean-Francois Bouchard (left) and Michael Birkin

Japanese holding company Hakuhodo DY Holdings is continuing its North American buying spree with the acquisition of Sid Lee, a Canadian shop known for creating immersive digital experiences. 

The purchase is the latest step by Michael Birkin, a former Omnicom Group vice chairman, to establish a globe-spanning operating unit of Hakuhodo known as kyu (pronounced "Q").

Over the past year, Birkin has added: Red Peak Group, a marketing services firm; SYPartners, a brand consultancy; and Digital Kitchen, a digital content shop, to Kyu’s roster.

The idea is to bring together agencies that specialise in non-traditional marketing services to offer clients an alternative to current holding companies. 

This morning, Jean-Francois Bouchard, the chief executive of Sid Lee, said in a statement announcing the sale: "Kyu is right for us in so many ways.

"We’ve always taken a broad view of and an exploratory approach toward creativity. With Michael at kyu’s helm, we can continue to push industry boundaries, which will also include geographic expansion.

"With the transaction, our goal is crystal-clear. We will build Sid Lee into a fully deployed global brand and network over the next decade.

Founded in 1993, Sid Lee has become known for work that spans digital and analog experiences. In 2011, it produced an Adidas app that could find the closest store selling a pair of shoes based on a picture.

This year it created an app for NYC Service that makes it easier for New Yorkers to do volunteer work. In Cannes this year, the agency announced that it was partnering with Cirque du Soleil to launch a branded entertainment company.

Sid Lee clients include Absolut Vodka, Intel, Tiffany’s and Unilever (the agency handles the Axe brand in Canada).

In contrast to most holding companies, kyu emphasizes its intention to remain small.

Following its June acquisition of Digital Kitchen, Birkin told Campaign US: "Our aim is to create a collective of a limited number of industry leaders.

"The kyu collective does not think of itself as a holding company. Traditional advertising is not the core of our endeavor, just one important aspect of what we will become."

Hakuhudo is the seventh-largest holding company in the world by revenue, but second in Japan only to Dentsu Aegis. Both companies have ramped up their American acquisitions in recent years.

Sid Lee currently employs about 500 people, with offices in Montreal, Toronto, New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Paris.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The entire leadership team will remain in place, according to a release.

This article was first published on campaignlive.com