Jack Morton Worldwide acquires Boston digital agency Genuine Interactive

Jack Morton Worldwide chief executive Josh McCall (courtesy of the company)
Jack Morton Worldwide chief executive Josh McCall (courtesy of the company)

In another sign of the accelerating shift online in the advertising business, Boston-based marketing agency Jack Morton Worldwide Inc. is acquiring a local digital agency, Genuine Interactive Inc.

Jack Morton is a 75-year-old firm owned by marketing giant Interpublic Group and is based in Back Bay. The acquisition of Genuine Interactive is intended to lay the foundation for a sizable expansion of Jack Morton’s digital services.

Genuine Interactive employs 100 and develops Internet offerings such as websites and mobile apps. The firm generated revenues of $15 million last year and counts Lysol, Titleist, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among clients.

The agency will maintain its headquarters in Boston’s South End. Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed.

The deal comes as advertising spending continues to move to the Web and mobile devices. In 2013, one-fifth of all advertising dollars was spent on digital services, some $104 billion, according to Publicis Groupe’s ZenithOptimedia.

Jack Morton Worldwide runs marketing campaigns across a variety of mediums that often include a “live” component, such as a public event to promote a product.

The firm has sought in recent years to buy a complementary agency to help build a stronger capability in digital, said chief executive Josh McCall. Jack Morton looked at about 35 different agencies before acquiring Genuine Interactive.

“We did look across the country and in geographies that are outside the U.S., but fate guided us to a team that’s a mile away,” McCall said.

Jack Morton’s clients span a range of industries and include Samsung, Procter & Gamble Co., General Motors Co., and Subway. Genuine Interactive is a good match in part because it’s also done work across a spectrum of industries, McCall said.

Genuine Interactive chief executive John Grayson said his company had been approached by a number of suitors, including private equity firms. “We needed a partner that wouldn’t look at us like an asset acquisition,” Grayson said.

The firm was planning to expand geographically and joining Jack Morton will fulfill that goal, Grayson added. Genuine Interactive will soon set up outposts inside Jack Morton locations in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City, Grayson said, and then likely to Jack Morton’s London office.

John Grayson and Chris Pape

John Grayson and Chris Pape

Founded in 2005 by Grayson and executive creative director Chris Pape, Genuine Interactive has grown using its own revenues and had not received funding from outside investors.

Jack Morton Worldwide employs 710 people globally and has 80 employees in Boston. The firm did not disclose revenues for 2013. Its parent company, Interpublic Group, had revenues of $7.1 billion last year.

This article appears on page B5 of the Boston Globe on May 6, 2014, with the headline: Acquisition boosts ad firm’s digital offerings.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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