Still in growth mode, The CHR Group acquires Profis

Toronto branding, design and PR firm will be folded into Idea Workshop

Chris Powell July 16, 2015

Jeff Packer

Jon Packer, managing director, Idea Workshop

Continuing a major growth trajectory that has seen it make 21 acquisitions since its 2012 inception, New York-based agency group The CHR Group has acquired Toronto branding, design and PR firm Profis Communications. A purchase price for the eight-year-old agency was not disclosed.

Profis Communications’ five-person operation will be folded into Toronto-based PR consultancy Idea Workshop, which The CHR Group acquired in the fall of 2014. The revamped agency will have a staff of 14, though managing director Jon Packer said it plans to hire additional staff in the “near future.”

The Profis acquisition is expected to increase Idea Workshop’s annual revenue by as much as 33%, said Packer. The Idea Workshop offices are located in Toronto’s Chinatown area.

Profis founder and principal Justin Young, a one-time client of Idea Workshop, will move into a senior vice-president role with the new agency. While Idea Workshop already has account management teams in place, Young will be counted on to provide high-level strategic thinking for clients.

Young and Packer first began discussing a possible merger in the spring. “We just realized that there was so much synergy in what we were doing,” said Packer. “It’s really focused around the integration of branding, design and PR and how those things come together.

“These are things we’d been doing independently for our own clients, and we got talking about how maybe we could do even more if we did it together. It felt like a very natural fit.”

Packer said the Profis acquisition adds strong branding credentials to Idea Workshop’s existing PR capabilities, enabling it to forge deeper relationships with existing clients such as income tax software company UFile.

Justin Young

Justin Young, senior vice-president, Idea Workshop

Profis works with a diverse group of clients including B2B Bank, the MasterCard Foundation, Plan Canada and Livingston International.

“Already in the past 24-48 hours we’re seeing organic interest [in enhanced capabilities] among existing clients,” said Packer. “It allows us to target some key areas like real estate, financial services and technology and really make a good case for a full-service environment, but in a boutique manner.

The CHR Group has been aggressively growing since its formation by the two former founders of Winnipeg shops ClarkHuot and Cocoon Branding. Earlier this month, the company announced it had acquired Halifax agency Colour and its 30 employees, with plans to open a New York office.

Packer said joining The CHR Group enabled Idea Workshop to retain its entrepreneurial roots while collaborating with likeminded people offering complementary services. “We’ve seen a huge lift in our business since we joined the group,” said Packer. “Beyond my expectations.

“It’s opened up opportunities for us to tackle assignments that either we couldn’t before, or in different ways,” he said, citing a recent assignment with app development company Clearbridge Mobile – which has worked with clients including Tim Hortons, Blackberry and PayPal – that was passed along by a fellow company in The CHR Group.

“Since we did that, we’ve been hired by two other software companies,” he said. “They’ve become door openers, allowing us to work in areas we weren’t working in previously.”