Brainlabs has expanded rapidly in recent years, bringing eight companies with various capabilities under its banner since 2020.
Now, the agency has changed its strategy from acquiring skill-sets to acquiring geographical footprint.
Speaking to Campaign, Daniel Gilbert, global chief executive of Brainlabs, said: “The past was about capability. The future is about geography.”
Brainlabs bought Distilled and Hanapin in 2020; Manchester’s User Conversion, Canada’s Medianet, US-based Consumer Acquisition and Amazon specialist Molzi in 2021; and this year, influencer marketing agency Fanbytes and Bengaluru, India-based data services expert Nabler were brought under the wing of Brainlabs as well.
The latter two will soon lose their individual brand names and be absorbed into Brainlabs, following in the footsteps of the previous six.
It is a dizzying amount of acquisitions, but Gilbert said the digital agency is looking to do a further five or six deals in the next year – all focused on expanding Brainlabs’ reach worldwide – and added that the acquisitions have been funded through a mixture of debt, equity and cash.
The target territories are numerous: Latin America, Australia, France, Germany, China and Japan. In April 2021, Brainlabs had hired iProspect's Mark Fagan to lead its APAC push.
According to Gilbert, any future acquisitions, including in new territories, will also be rebranded. “Our strategy is being entirely one company fully integrated,” he added.
Fanbytes brought Brainlabs’ employee count to more than 400, with staff numbers set to increase further as the agency plots more growth.
Gilbert noted that the acquisitions of Fanbytes and Nabler completed the agency’s digital offering, adding: “We now have a complete digital media proposition. And it's probably the best in the world.”
This plan for global expansion has been a year or so in the making. Gilbert said: “There are no viable alternatives to the global holding companies, and very few independents of any scale.”
Their clients, he added, are constantly asking whether Brainlabs can work abroad for them.
Gilbert described the agency, which was founded in 2012, as a blank slate. He said: “We are spending 90% of our time innovating, rather than 90% of our time fixing legacy structures.
“We've got a real opportunity to build our own business around our clients and focus on driving them forward, not spend most of our time with internal mergers.”
He added that this wasn’t intended to discredit long-standing and global agencies or holding groups. “To me, there's genuinely no-one who’s any better or worse than the others. An agile, uncomplicated, fast business is completely different to any of those businesses. I don't think any one is better or worse than any of the others.”