Ottawa’s McMillan acquires assets of local agency Fancy Boys

McMillan - Fancy Boys
Everyone handles an acquisition differently. From left, McMillan CEO Gord McMillan, Fancy Boys founder Martin Gomez and McMillan president Rob Hyams.

Already known for its branding and marketing work with global clients such as Microsoft and Siemens, Ottawa’s McMillan agency is hoping its first-ever acquisition will boost its presence in the rapidly growing digital space.

The 80-employee firm headquartered in the ByWard Market announced last week it has acquired the assets and intellectual property of local digital marketing agency Fancy Boys.

Terms of the all-cash transaction were not released.

Under the deal, Fancy Boys will be dissolved and founder Martin Gomez will move to McMillan to oversee its digital user experience team. Former Fancy Boys staffers Jason Redmond and JP Brown will also join the downtown agency.

McMillan president Rob Hyams said the acquisition is a big win in a city where the competition for experienced website and digital marketing talent is fierce.

Gomez and his team “have that digital vision that could get clients excited about where we could take their brand in a digital environment,” Hyams said, adding he and business partner Gord McMillan first began talking with Gomez about a potential deal last fall.

“We wanted to deepen our bench strength in (user experience). We’ve always had a dev team and we’ve had a couple of UX people, but we just want to add to that because it’s something that our clients keep looking for and they don’t have in-house.”

He said the acquisition allows McMillan to meet growing customer demand for digital branding and marketing services, which now constitute the majority of the company’s work.

“When you work in digital, it’s very blue sky.”

“When you work in digital, it’s very blue sky,” Hyams said. “Almost anything is possible in this day and age – it just depends on how much money and time and willingness somebody has. Having people like Martin and JP who are really good at that kind of visioning are a great asset to the team.”

Founded in 2011, Fancy Boys provided digital branding and web design services for clients such as Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. and the Ottawa Senators. Hyams said he’d always been impressed with the company’s work, and when Gomez expressed a desire to step back from his leadership role and return to his digital marketing roots, the seeds of the deal were planted.

“It was very clear after a couple of conversations that there was a win-win opportunity there,” Hyams said, adding the basic framework of the agreement came together in just six weeks.

Now Ottawa’s second-largest branding and marketing firm, McMillan is unusual in that it doesn’t do any government work. Instead, it competes with the world’s largest branding agencies such as Interbrand, Landor and Lippincott for huge global contracts.

Exclusively a business-to-business agency, it earns about 90 per cent of its revenues from clients in the United States and Europe.

The company, which has doubled in size in the past five years, might look at more acquisitions down the road if they’re the right fit, Hyams added.

“It’s always a possibility,” he said. “Ottawa is a great market, but it has a finite talent pool. So we may look outside the city at some point as a possibility. We’re always open to that.

“In this particular case, we saw the tremendous value of growing the business and adding that talent very quickly before they got hired by somebody else. There’s a big demand in Ottawa for talented people that work in digital.”