Sid Lee acquires LA-based agency Denizen, names Vito Piazza global CEO

The Canada-based creative agency is doubling down on growth in the U.S. and Europe.

Creative agency Sid Lee said Wednesday it has acquired LA-based social media agency Denizen, and that it has elevated longtime exec Vito Piazza to global CEO.

Piazza has been at Sid Lee for more than two decades, most recently as group president, and has played a large role in the agency’s global expansion. He also opened the agency’s Toronto office, which he ran for seven years. 

Piazza will replace longtime CEO Bertrand Cesvet, who will become executive chairman. 

A big priority for Piazza is growing Sid Lee’s operations in the U.S. and Europe while expanding into emerging forms of creativity. The agency currently has offices in Montreal, Toronto, New York, Paris, London, LA and Seattle.

“The world is constantly changing,” Piazza said. “Our perspective is, nobody needs another agency, so we have to bring something that responds proactively to what’s happening.” 

While the rise of digital has been changing the way consumers interact with brands for decades, COVID-19 has supercharged the need for marketing transformation. In this context, Sid Lee wants to “help clients use creativity to make the future,” Piazza said, which will involve investing in digital and customer experience capabilities.

“How we can bring creativity into the customer experience is going to be even more important,” Piazza said.

That philosophy is where Denizen comes in. The agency, which has four employees and a network of freelancers in LA, focuses on editorially-driven social content for entertainment brands. Sid Lee’s social media business has been doing well in the U.S. during the pandemic, Piazza said, and bringing Denizen into the fold will “bring us depth in that capacity.” Sid Lee will continue to operate the Denizen brand.

“How do you create work that feels native to all these platforms?” Piazza said. “It's a different way of thinking and operating, and [Denizen] thinks that way first.”

Another area of focus for Sid Lee will be helping clients define their brand purpose and corporate social responsibility. Sid Lee is part of kyu, a collective of independent agencies under the Japanese holding company Hakuhodo focused on using creativity to propel the economy and society forward.

“Right now, there’s leadership on the client side and agency side saying this is the right thing to do, but it’s also expected by stakeholders,” Piazza said. 

As Sid Lee grows in new markets, it aims to operate more cohesively across disciplines as a global team to meet client needs, while keeping a pulse on the nuances of local cultures. 

In the U.S. in particular, the agency aims to launch a strategy practice and invest in its capability to create, deliver and run customer experiences for clients, as well as offer “smart combinations and collaborations that mean we can better serve our clients across disciplines and markets,” said Andy Bateman, CEO of Sid Lee USA in an email to Campaign. 

“For Sid Lee, there will always be a combination of local connection and international success,” Piazza added.

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