Bain & Company buys digital agency FRWD

15 May 2018 4 min. read

Bain & Company is in line to complete the acquisition of digital marketing firm FRWD. The purchase will see Bain become the latest of the ‘MBB’ trio to bolster its design and advertising capacity via inorganic expansion, with rivals BCG and McKinsey & Company already having spent big in the sector.

As the consulting industry positions itself to eat into the market share of advertising agencies, the collective spend of consultancies on marketing and advertising powered past the $1 billion mark in 2017. While the figure was undoubtedly beefed up significantly by Accenture’s notorious war chest in particular, strategy firms such as McKinsey & Company and The Boston Consulting Group were also happy to get in on the act, with lucrative design work beckoning.

For BCG, the consumption of Pittsburgh-based MAYA Design strengthened the firm’s digital advertising portfolio, while McKinsey’s purchase of firms including Swedish agency Veryday did the same for the strategy giant. Now Boston-headquartered rival Bain & Company has followed suit, with the acquisition of FRWD.

Bain & Company buys digital agency FRWD

The Minneapolis-based digital agency was established in 2009 at the dawn of programmatic advertising. Since then, FRWD has worked with clients to drive more than $1 billion in measured top-line revenue growth, as an innovation partner to global organisations and through its work with many insurgent brands which have outpaced their category growth rates by more than 10 times over the past five years. In the process, FRWD has grown to 45 employees and its revenues have reached heights of $6 million. The deal with Bain is expected to close by the end of June, while financial details remain undisclosed.

According to Bain, the acquisition sets the foundation for the firm and FRWD to develop additional emergent products and capabilities to complement the consultancy’s existing digital marketing offerings. The purchase is chiefly aimed at dramatically strengthening Bain’s ability to help its clients drive results across marketing channels, however, decreasing their long-term reliance on external partners, enabling Bain to profit from the work they would normally outsource to provide. By offering a holistic in-house service instead, the firm hopes it will be able to better utilise customer data sets for improved accuracy in reaching consumers, among other strengthened capabilities.

Elizabeth Spaulding, co-head of Bain & Company’s Digital practice, said, “To date, we have achieved outstanding results in various client settings – from winning on commerce platforms such as Amazon to more effectively targeting and scaling investments to win consumers across ad platforms. Our acquisition of FRWD signals our continued commitment to building on these and other digital marketing capabilities so we can better guide companies on completely revamping their digital marketing strategies. We believe our clients will benefit greatly from FRWD’s experience and expertise.”

John Grudnowski, founder and CEO of FRWD, has worked with Bain in an advisory capacity for the previous three years. He added, “On behalf of the entire FRWD team, we’re extremely pleased to join the marketing experts at Bain & Company. We see this as a win-win partnership that will advance Bain & Company’s digital marketing expertise, propel FRWD to grow faster and into new realms and, ultimately help marketers develop the capabilities they need to operate at the speed of digital.”