Exclusive One of state’s top marketing firms buying one of its biggest creative agencies

Tom Bergeron//January 13, 2015//

Exclusive One of state’s top marketing firms buying one of its biggest creative agencies

Tom Bergeron//January 13, 2015//

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Marketsmith Inc., in a move that only figures to accelerate the data-driven marketing firm’s rise as one of the fastest-growing companies in New Jersey, has acquired the creative agency Brushfire in a cash deal, NJBIZ has learned.Financial terms were not disclosed.

Parsippany-based Marketsmith will retain all 16 of Brushfire’s employees, including the entire management team of the well-known Cedar Knolls-based firm, Marketsmith CEO Monica Smith told NJBIZ.

Brushfire will continue to operate under its existing name, becoming a business unit of Marketsmith. The two companies, located fewer than a dozen miles from each other in Morris County, will soon share an office, as Marketsmith is making plans to move into Brushfire’s headquarters by the end of this month.

“The acquisition of Brushfire brings a level of creative and strategic thinking that we currently don’t have,” Smith said. “We see the acquisition of Brushfire as a way to create a greater toolbox for us as a new independent agency that’s looking at not only the creative side of things, but bringing a level of human accountability as well as technology.”

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After observing and meeting with Brushfire for a number of months, Smith felt the company was a perfect fit for hers culturally — a key to the acquisition.

“When you walk into that company and see their energy and their people and the way they treat their clients, it’s not only something that resonates with us, it connects us. I get it,” she said.

“When I met the people there, I wanted to make the investment.”

Marketsmith, the NJBIZ 2014 Business of the Year (for companies with 1-50 employees), has grown tremendously since it was founded by Smith in 1999 as a direct-response marketing firm that uses data-driven analytics to help companies properly grow their products.

In 2014, it had revenue of $98 million with 25 employees, is a regular on the list of fastest-growing companies in New Jersey and the country, and was named the Impact Company of the Year by the New Jersey Tech Council.

“Our business has really connected with the idea of the new math and the new accountability on marketing, something where people felt they have no accountability,” Smith said.

Smith, who started i.Predictus (an advertising analytics platform in 2011) to further strengthen Marketsmith’s ability to help clients maximize their return on investment in marketing dollars, feels that adding Brushfire will bring more growth.

“We are creating a proliferation of companies and services that address the continuum of marketing,” she said. “Marketsmith is about outsourcing, i.predictus is about insourcing. Brushfire is about igniting.

RELATED: Spotlight on Diversity — Doing business in N.J. is harder than doing business as a woman: Marketsmith founder

“They are very different perspectives on how they engage with the client, and I’m doing that intentionally. When I see an opportunity where we’ll have to engage differently, I will try to close that gap by creating a product or service or a company that will fit that hole in that continuum.”

Brushfire, founded in 1969, is the third-largest advertising agency in the state, with revenue of $35 million in 2014.

Both companies were individually on the NJBIZ Top 100 Private Companies list in 2014.

Brushfire President Joan Mueller, who will continue in that role, feels the addition of Marketsmith will add to the Brushfire brand.

“The investment of Marketsmith into our organization will drive our business forward,” she said. “Monica has been a trailblazer in her field and we’re looking forward to benefiting from her leadership and influence on our business.”

Smith sees the acquisition as a New Jersey business success story.

“We feel it’s highly unusual to have a company that’s been around for 15 years and was just a startup now purchasing a company that, over time, that could have petered out,” she said. “And the Marketsmith-Brushfire story is a good one because we’re not letting one single person go.”


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