4 Firms Come Together To Play In Sandbox

Four independent shops are combining to form Sandbox, an independent, full-service agency headquartered in Chicago, with 350 employees in seven locations across the U.S. and Canada. 

The founding members of Sandbox are GA Communication Group, with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles; McCormick Company, with offices in Kansas City, Indianapolis and Des Moines, Iowa; Manhattan-based Underline Communications; and Canadian firm One Advertising, headquartered in Toronto.  

Each Sandbox location will retain its current staff and office space and continue serving its clients with no interruption. There are no client conflicts to address, say agency executives. 

The founding companies will share ownership of the agency with Mark Anthony and John Hilbrich, industry veterans who helped create the new enterprise. 

"The idea of a singular agency with deep expertise, broad capabilities, multiple locations and a wealth of resources that clients would want without the trappings of bureaucracy and selfish behavior appealed to  owners already running successful independent shops," says Joe Kuchta, a principal of Sandbox and former CEO of GA Communication Group.

"We bought into the concept of joining forces rather than being bought out. The Sandbox idea came to fruition when the shared focus on being a great agency led to these four agencies making it happen. We're independent, owned and run by agency people who love the agency business," he adds.

Still, there is the challenge of getting clients to understand its operating model. "It defies all of the current labels assigned to mergers and acquisitions and buyouts of agency businesses," says Kuchta. "We're joining together to build something that we firmly believe clients want and need now more than ever and that great talent wants to be part of."

The founders say they selected the name Sandbox to underscore their ethos.

"The adage of 'playing well in the sandbox' is a complimentary and respectful term for those who are unselfish team players and care about others," says Kuchta. "Each of our agencies has been successful because each is intensely client-focused, while also being collaborative versus competitive in nature.”

Sandbox is planning to add to its network in the future, says Kuchta.

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