Davies Baron joins the big boys

Being bought out can be one of the most efficient ways to expand and reach international markets. Clare Dowdy talks to an optimistic David Davies about the new opportunities available to Davies Baron following its purchase by Diefenbach Elkins. As creativ

When US group Diefenbach Elkins was bought by The Interpublic Group of Companies at the beginning of the year, we were promised “fierce” expansion in London and Asia, from its chairman and chief executive John Diefenbach.

This came to fruition last week when the New York consultancy agreed to buy Davies Baron for an undisclosed sum.

The two are seemingly well matched, both having strong airline identity credentials, while Davies Baron brings the added bonus of a retail environment capability.

It is important to be able to offer integrated services to clients, says John Diefenbach, and it is not only design consultancies which the group is looking to buy.

Diefenbach Elkins’ acquisition plans take in consulting and strategic marketing companies as well as design groups.

“I think these combinations are where the business is going to go. It’s about more and more competency,” says Diefenbach.

Indeed, he is ambitious in his plan to build up this competency: “We want to have a distribution throughout the world of branding services, that’s the mission we’re on.” And if rumours of a deal with Newell and Sorrell are ever realised, Interpublic’s design capabilities would be a force to be reckoned with.

The acquisition of Davies Baron probably means more in some respects to the London outfit than it does to its new owners. “This catapults us forward into a different stratosphere,” says Davies Baron managing director David Davies.

Davies Baron had been one of those successful middle-weight consultancies which did not have the capital to grow as quickly as it would like on its own. If venture capitalists do not deliver, then being bought out is the swiftest way of being able to really spread one’s wings.

And as part of the deal Davies Baron will set up shop in Diefenbach Elkins’ New York offices, providing the London group with its first permanent overseas arm. The details of the expansion are sketchy, but by the early autumn a Davies Baron senior will go over to head up the team, says Davies.

It must be a great boost for a consultancy which has cultivated international clients, to now be able to put New York on its letterheads, and, unsurprisingly, Davies is upbeat about any loss of independence.

“It feels fabulous. There is only so far you can go as an independent. This gives us an opportunity to work with a very sophisticated group and catapults us into a new brand level,” he says.

The next port of call for Interpublic’s design arm may well be Brazil. Davies Baron has experience of working in the related market of Portugal and Interpublic’s ad agency McCann-Erickson is established in Brazil. “It’s about developing business in parts of the world where the McCann thing is up and running,” says Diefenbach.

Diefenbach Elkins is also talking to possible design partners in Asia, and is believed to be working on a corporate revamp for Malaysian Airlines, though an acquisition will not necessarily be in that country.

“We are interested in China, because of McCann’s and Interpublic’s power there and they are asking us to come with them,” Diefenbach adds.

In the meantime, other airline identity specialists will be bracing themselves for a two-pronged attack on the next big pitch.

Davies Baron – history in brief

Founded: 1991 by David Davies and Stuart Baron, after they bought David Davies Associates out of receivership.

Staff: about Turnover: about 4m

Disciplines include: graphic design, corporate identity and branding, literature, packaging, brand-naming, multimedia, retail and interior design.

Clients include: British Airways, Royal Bank of Scotland, Westpac Banking Corporation in New Zealand, Malaysian Airline Systems, Gatwick Express, Wade Smith, Victoria Wine, Tesco, Sonae Group in Portugal, B&Q, WH Smith and Sock Shop.

Future plans: a design offer at Diefenbach Elkins’ offices in New York, headed up by an unnamed Davies Baron heavyweight. To be up and running by early autumn.

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