Ashfield continues acquisition binge by snapping up Create NYC, SmartAnalyst

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(Above: Ashfield's Doug Burcin)


UDG Healthcare, the parent of Ashfield Healthcare Communications, announced this week that it has acquired marketing companies Create NYC and SmartAnalyst. The deals are the latest manifestation of Ashfield's aggressive U.S. growth strategy, which has seen the company acquire Cambridge BioMarketing and MicroMass Communications during the past 12 months.


According to Ashfield president Doug Burcin, the acquisitions of SmartAnalyst and Create NYC bolster the company's communications and consulting capabilities. He singled out the Create NYC addition as a “great step forward in transforming our network of agency capabilities for our clients.”  


“I'm a firm believer that no one approach from an agency or model is sufficient anymore, so what we are building and expanding is our communications offering for the full spectrum service of clients,” he said.


The Irish Times reported that UDG will pay up to $58.4 million for Create NYC and up to $24 million for SmartAnalyst.


Burcin said that Create NYC, which bills itself as a “disruptive creative communications agency,” offers Ashfield more than what he characterized as “the same-old, same-old” agency thinking.

 

“This is a different play,” he said. “I think it's a reflection of our insight into the market that is changing at an exponential rate for what clients are looking for in an agency.”


Create NYC, founded by Natalie McDonald in 2010, has worked on brands such as Viagra and Celebrex and on Bristol-Myers Squibb's HIV franchise. It generated $14.9 million in revenue in 2017 and employs around 30 full-timers.


In an email, McDonald described Create NYC's recent years as transformational.

 

“By joining UDG Healthcare, we see accelerated opportunity to grow through collaboration and partnership across the network. [The opportunity] is significantly beyond what we've experienced to date,” she said.


In addition to its flat-fee model, Burcin touted Create NYC's flexibility. The agency is willing to serve as a client's sole agency or partner with an existing AOR, plus it excels in working with so-called mature brands.

 

“They have the adaptability and the agility to work with clients in all new ways,” he said.


In the wake of the additions of rare-disease specialists Cambridge BioMarketing and behavioral-science experts MicroMass, Ashfield jumped its North American revenue to $83.7 million in 2017, up from $31.1 million in 2016. Global revenue in 2017 was $183 million.


Ashfield's recent acquisitions aren't likely to be its last. In April, Burcin predicted that “you will not recognize us in 2019… Nobody here is interested in incremental innovation. We're looking for aggressive innovation and the biggest driver is going to be on the M&A front. [UDG] sent me to go shopping.”


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