cs2 Finalizes Acquisition Of Thompson

By Sarah Baker

Two Memphis advertising agencies are combining forces to become one of the largest full-service firms in the Mid-South.

Cs2 advertising has acquired Thompson & Co. and its subsidiaries – Thompson Advertising, Thompson | Berry Public Relations, BottleRocket | Sponsorship Consulting and Due North Group | Barter Marketing in Memphis, and White | Thompson in Nashville in partnership with Evette White.

Terms of the acquisition, which was finalized and announced by the firm earlier this week, were not disclosed.

The combined 80-person firm, owned by principal Brian Sullivan, will be known as Sullivan Branding, with 64 employees in its Memphis office and 16 in its Nashville office.

The new agency will offer a full complement of services in marketing, advertising, public relations, Web development, social media and communications across both traditional and digital channels.

“This acquisition increases the capacity of the firm across all disciplines,” Sullivan said. “We are excited to bring the combined talents of our firms together for the benefit of our clients. Thompson has a strong client-focused reputation and a long history of great work, and I look forward to building on that foundation.”

One example is First Tennessee Bank, which has been a client of Thompson & Co.’s for 17 years. From the client perspective, the transition is value-added, said Michael Thompson, founder of Thompson & Co.

“First Tennessee will benefit by virtue of having more talent depth, especially in the digital arena,” Thompson said. “Sullivan has done an excellent job of adapting to the digital marketing world.”

Coupled with the acquisition is Thompson’s retirement announcement (see related story, Page 1). He will remain with the firm in an advisory capacity for three months.

“It is important for me to know that the Thompson team will be joining a firm in which they can continue to thrive,” Thompson said. “At the same time, I know that each of our clients will continue to receive the high quality marketing and communications services they have come to expect, and now also have access to the expanded services of the combined organization.”

When two firms merge, there is usually a duplication of people and the resulting loss of jobs. But Sullivan Branding is unique in that regard, Thompson said.

“I am very happy to say that out of a 90-person firm there was duplication of only three people,” he said.

Long-time Thompson partner Bob Vornbrock will continue in his leadership role at Sullivan Branding, assuming the title executive vice president of client services, and Ralph Berry will head the Public Relations division.

Like Vornbrock, cs2 president Donna Gordy’s new title at Sullivan Branding will be executive vice president of client services. Evette White, CEO of White | Thompson in Nashville – with clients like the Nashville Department of Tourism, George Dickel Distillery and Visitor’s Center, and several high-profile health care clients – will remain a minority partner.

Thompson & Co. creative director, Craig Thompson, will be buying back Disciple Design | Web & Print Design, which he sold to the firm in 2002.

Office space needs are still being assessed, but Sullivan Branding expects to consolidate its Memphis operations by the end of the year. Cs2’s 16,525-square-foot-building of 15 years at 400 Union Ave. is listed for sale with NAI Saig Co.’s Edward Saig.

In December, Thompson & Co. signed a 12-year lease in the former Smooth Moves space at 85 Union for 10,400 square feet. The agency was housed at 50 Peabody Place for 15 years prior to making the move to the southwest corner of Union and South Main.

To accommodate the firm, the 17,000-square-foot building received $1.66 million in renovations that included ground-floor retail space and office space on the basement level and on the second and third floors, according to Center City Development Corp. literature. Exterior improvements included window enlargements, a canopy and a redesign of the entry.

CCDC awarded the owners a $200,000 loan for property improvements and a $15,000 office grant to Thompson & Co. to relocate its firm into the building, which at the time had 26 employees.

It’s yet to be determined if Sullivan Branding will occupy the space at 85 Union, Sullivan said, but the agency will definitely be located in Downtown Memphis.

“We don’t honestly know the answer yet,” he said. “We have three or four different locations that we’re looking at right now, but that’s one of them. Finding a space that will accommodate 64 people plus growth is what we’re evaluating right now.”