Elmwood to merge with Holmes & Marchant following acquisition by MSQ

The move aims to create a new agency model, according to the marketing group, specifically designed to help brands in a “dynamic media environment”.

Design consultancy Elmwood has been acquired by marketing communications group MSQ and will now be merged with design business Holmes & Marchant.

The new consultancy will operate under the Elmwood name, and will have 200 employees split across studios in London, New York, Singapore and Shanghai.

Paul Galesloot, who joined Holmes & Marchant in early 2020, will now head up the enlarged operation.

A demerger earlier this year

Earlier this year, Elmwood underwent a demerger, which saw its founder Jonathan Sands move away from the business.

The lead shareholder of the business, who set up the studio in his native Leeds more than 40 years ago, told Design Week it was the right time to act, conscious that he didn’t want to “go past [his] sell-by date”.

As a result of the demerger, Elmwood was split up into Elmwood Global (with offices in London, New York and Singapore), The Thrills (previously Elmwood Melbourne) and Born Ugly (previously Elmwood Leeds). It is Elmwood Global which has been acquired by MSQ.

“The two businesses have complementary structures”

Peter Reid, global CEO at MSQ says the move has been in the pipeline for the last six months and came as a result of Elmwood looking for a new partner for its “global business”. Additionally, Reid says Holmes & Marchant’s strong presence in Asia was attractive.

Reid says “broadly no” staff have been lost during the merger. “This deal is about growth and building a global design powerhouse,” he says. “The two businesses have complementary structures.”

Several staff will be moved or promoted however. Alongside Galesloot’s move to CEO, Steve Gatfield, the former IPG executive vice president, will become executive chairman. Nick Gray, Holmes & Marchant’s London managing director, will head up the consultancy’s growth strategy.

“The demand for content is outpacing supply”

More generally, MSQ says the merger is a response to the changing conditions of the creative industry, which it says has been “completely transformed” by digital technologies.

The fusion of Elmwood and Holmes & Marchant aims to create a new agency model, MSQ says, which is specifically designed to help brands operate in a “dynamic media environmental”.

“The demand for content is outpacing supply,” says Galesloot. “Brands truly need to stand out in a crowded marketplace – by combining forces, we’ve created a new agency model to help companies meet this demand and ensure their branded experiences are consistent and strategic across all channels.”

As a merged business, Elmwood will have access to MSQ’s broader set of capabilities, which predominantly fall across digital and tech.

Reid says the move will “allow us to provide more meaningful work for clients on a global level”.

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