Interpublic Group Is Divesting From HackerAgency After 18 Years

Seattle-based shop goes independent on the heels of split with AT&T

FCB acquired the direct marketing company in 1999 for an undisclosed sum. - Credit by Hacker Group, IPG
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Today, the Interpublic Group of Companies, the world’s third largest advertising holding company, announced that it’s divesting from HackerAgency, a Seattle-based direct marketing and customer relationship management organization. HackerAgency was originally acquired by FCB in 1999 for an undisclosed sum.

A spokesperson for IPG confirmed that it had officially ended its relationship with the organization formerly known as Hacker Group earlier this month. HackerAgency will now operate as an independent business. The move follows several major changes at the agency that’s over 30 years old and recently ended its two-decade relationship with AT&T and greatly reduced staff at its Seattle headquarters.

“[I’m] confirming that while Hacker Group has had a great partnership with IPG and FCB over the years, we’re excited to bring the power of our re-established independence to our clients, driving business results through modern, innovative marketing solutions,” said HackerAgency CEO Spyro Kourtis in a statement. “Clients are increasingly demanding agile agency resources and talent that focus on performance and are willing to put skin in the game. We believe being an independent is the best way to do this, unburdened by the complexities of a holding company network.”

He continued, “We’re proud of the partnership we have shared [with AT&T] and wish our clients the best of success. Having to say goodbye to friends and colleagues is never easy. We remain optimistic for the road ahead as we strike out independently and allow our data-driven heritage and CRM specialization to shine.”

According to multiple current and former HackerAgency employees who spoke with Adweek, the company laid off approximately 50 percent of its total staff in Seattle earlier this week, including its North American president and other executives.

The changes purportedly stemmed, at least in part, from a series of RFPs that saw AT&T move its direct marketing account, which remains one of the largest in the United States, away from the HackerAgency over the past year following its merger with DirecTV.

Kourtis declined to directly address specific changes, and IPG’s spokesperson did not clarify the reasons for the divestiture.

Hacker Group was founded in 1986 by marketing veteran Bob Hacker, who retired in 2002 after selling the agency to Foote, Cone and Belding’s parent company, True North Communications. Approximately two years after Hacker was acquired, IPG bought True North and all of its properties, including FCB, for an estimated $2.1 billion in stock.

In 2014, Hacker Group became HackerAgency after merging with three FCB agencies in Munich, Prague and Shanghai. According to source with direct knowledge of the matter, the divestiture only concerns HackerAgency Seattle. The international offices will remain part of the larger holding group.

HackerAgency is not the only organization to leave the IPG fold in recent months. Los Angeles creative shop Dailey Advertising in February opted to buy itself back from the holding company after 30 years, and Dallas-based TM Advertising, which had functioned as a sister agency to McCann Worldgroup since 2001, followed suit in May.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.