mcgarrybowen acquires digital agency, Swirl

Tom Sebastian, John Berg, Tasha McVeigh, and Martin Lauber

Tom Sebastian, John Berg, Tasha McVeigh, and Martin Lauber

Dentsu Aegis Network announced the acquisition of Swirl, one of the leading independent digital marketing firms on the West Coast.

Swirl will become part of global award-winning creative agency mcgarrybowen, expanding the 15-year-old agency’s capabilities in both digital and social-first marketing, branded content, and eCRM. Following the acquisition, Swirl will be named Swirl mcgarrybowen.

Based in San Francisco, the agency describes itself as a “digital-first, full spectrum ideas agency that lives at the intersection of innovation, technology, and human engagement.” Founded in 1997 by entrepreneurial partners, the agency has grown to more than 175 people, serving a range of top clients, including Microsoft Stores, CA Technologies, Juniper Networks, eBay, and HTC.

San Francisco Business Times ranked Swirl as the largest independent ad agency in San Francisco and SF Weekly named it the best.

Simon Pearce, mcgarrybowen US CEO said, “When we engaged in our initial discussions with Swirl, we were attracted to their human-based insights and how they create meaningful interactions with today’s consumers.” He explained, “Swirl’s strong data-driven approach and unique digital execution combined with mcgarrybowen’s ‘Big Organizing Ideas and Brand Platform thinking’ take us to new heights. Together we will elevate the way we build brands, and our clients will benefit with a higher return on their marketing investment.”

Pearce added that the acquisition will create a “beachhead” in San Francisco that the agencies believe will deliver a higher level of service to clients and bolster its current team with more creative and strategic thinking.

Swirl Co-CEO John Berg clearly agreed, “We have long admired mcgarrybowen because of their reputation in building creative platforms for some of the world’s most beloved and iconic brands. We are excited about the end-to-end capabilities of our combined agencies.”

“With Swirl joining the mcgarrybowen family, we are now poised to deliver even greater creatively led solutions to the business challenges facing today’s CEOs and CMOs in an increasingly digital economy,” said Nick Brien, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network Americas. “With strong work for its growing clients, mcgarrybowen has terrific velocity, and Swirl is the perfect complement, culturally and creatively, to accelerate continued growth.”

The addition of Swirl strengthens mcgarrybowen’s West Coast presence and creates synergies with mcgarrybowen’s successful San Francisco office, which serves key clients, Intel and Clorox, among others. mcgarrybowen’s global network has 12 offices, including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Mexico City, São Paulo, Shanghai, Honk Kong, Singapore, and Bangalore.

A spokeswoman for mcgarrybowen told The Reel that Berg will continue his role as Co-CEO, President of Swirl mcgarrybowen, reporting to Pearce. Tom Sebastian will maintain his role as Co-CEO, and will take on the added role of Global Head of Content for mcgarrybowen, while Tasha McVeigh, will continue in her current role as Chief Culture Officer. Swirl founder, Martin Lauber, will focus on business development and any strategic integration of his other investments. Swirl will remain in its current location in the Presidio section of San Francisco.

MediaLink was a strategic partner to mcgarrybowen in the acquisition. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Contact Colin Costello at or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.