Fingerpaint continued its aggressive acquisition streak, acquiring well-regarded San Francisco-area agency Splice.
Splice will become the San Francisco office of Fingerpaint and retire its brand name. Co-founder Paul Hagopian will continue to run day-to-day operations, reporting to Fingerpaint partner and advertising group head Bill McEllen.
No layoffs are expected – the entirety of the Splice leadership team will remain with the company, though some members will have restructured roles – and the firms reported no client conflicts. The combined organization will employ some 600 people, with more expected to be added in the second half of 2021.
The unification of the two organizations makes sense on many levels. Fingerpaint had been seeking to expand its west-coast presence, while Splice had been looking to scale up after more than doubling in size in recent years.
There’s a cultural fit as well. Fingerpaint has long been known as one of the agency world’s most generous providers of employee benefits – such as fully-paid health insurance – while Splice has similarly prioritized the growth and well-being of its people, especially during crises like last summer’s California wildfires.
“When you put good, like-minded people together, good things happen,” McEllen said. “There’s no overlap. It’s all synergy.”
Hagopian agreed, adding, “It was almost serendipitous. We just gravitated toward each other.”
The deal came together quickly over the last few months. Hagopian said Splice wasn’t necessarily looking to be acquired, but sensed both a natural kinship and potential opportunity in his initial conversations with Fingerpaint founder Ed Mitzen and his team.
“When you meet a leader like Ed Mitzen, it’s hard not to want to be a part of that,” Hagopian said. “Then we started thinking of all the amazing work we could do and all the amazing services we could provide for our clients. It was just a great fit.”
Fingerpaint’s people-first philosophy ultimately clinched the deal. “We don’t just hire people; we hire them and support everyone around them,” Hagopian continued. “Being part of the Fingerpaint family, the benefits my staff will see are huge. As a small business owner, that would have taken me years to do.”
Clients of both firms responded favorably when news of the acquisition was shared with them last week. “This is a small industry. But even so, I had plenty of people saying, ‘Oh, I used to work with Paul.’ It was big smiles all around,” McEllen said. “The only downside from my perspective is that I would’ve loved to tell them and do all of this in person.”
Fingerpaint enjoyed its most successful year to date in 2020. Revenue surged 67%, to $85 million, on the heels of acquisitions (market access firm 1798) and new assignments from Bristol Myers Squibb, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and others. In December, the firm received a substantial infusion of private equity capital from Knox Lane. A few months later, in March, it snapped up consultancy Leaderboard Branding.
Splice also experienced a substantial growth spurt during 2020, with revenue jumping 68% to $13.1 million. A favorite of west-coast biotechs, the agency added work from Santen, Vertice and Avion Pharmaceuticals during the year.
Prior to the Splice acquisition, Mitzen told MM+M that he expected Fingerpaint’s revenue to soar past the $100 million revenue milestone in 2021, to as much as $140 million. With Splice’s business added to the mix, that sum should push even higher.
“This is a stronger group together,” McEllen said. “We are really proud of and comfortable with the armamentarium we have to bring to clients right now.”