3 weeks ago, we announced that we were merging with the UK Performance Agency, Brainlabs, that’s headed up by the infamous Dan Gilbert. The merger also included Distilled, an amazing SEO company that runs Searchlove.

As you can probably imagine, these last few weeks have been a bit of whirlwind!! In the midst of it all, Art Director Megan Stout, the US SVP Jeff Allen (formerly President of Hanapin), and I hopped across the pond to meet with some of our new Brainlabs team.

While there, we sat down with the team to talk about the story behind the merger and our view of the London office:) Check it out below:


Dan: We’re delighted to announce that we’re partnering with Hanapin Marketing, that deserves a round of applause!

Dave: So Dan, how did you first meet Jeff?

Dan: I first came across Jeff and the Hanapin business through HeroConf

Dan: Which is the most incredible search engine marketing conference

Dan: I have to be careful about what I say now that SearchLove, which is part of the Distilled merger, is in the mix – it’s like not choosing favorite children!

Jeff: Yeah, i think it was… I think the first year you did well and won some kind of award

Jeff: And so we decided to let you come back!

Jeff: And I think it was the second year you dressed up as Superman

Dan: And got kicked out!

Jeff: You tried to cement your place. Yeah, that might’ve been the last time

Dan: So I can’t remember if i was forcibly escorted from the premises, but, I suppose if I was superman then that was probably impossible!

Dan: But, very in tune with the superhero theme that HeroConf was built around: being heroes for clients

Dan: To me, that was one of the most exciting things about when we started conversing – apart from some cultural alignment – was, this relentless focus on doing brilliant work for clients, and putting clients at the heart of our respective businesses

Dan: Which was one of the first things that we kind of, figured was attractive as part of a merger

Jeff: Yeah, that’s a lot of what made the deal make sense kind of even initially was, that there’s really cool international opportunity for us that our clients were asking us for, and some of your clients were asking you for

Jeff: There’s the other services that all of our clients are asking us for, and it just made a lot of sense, and I think that’s like what all of our conversations were about In the early days we were just like: the client, what do they want, what are they asking for, what does the future of service look like for them two, three years into the future

Dan: And then linked to that, not necessarily secondary to it but linked to it, is creating an amazing place for work, and we’ve defined that in our new organization as creating a place where we can accelerate people’s careers in marketing

Dan: In fact, I think it’s expressed more boldly as “creating the best place in the world to accelerate your career in marketing”

Dan: Which means different things to different people, but, that was one of the other things that was, such a beautiful conversation because almost one of the first conversations we had was like, “what happens to the people?”

Dave: Megan and Jamie, welcome to the UK! How’s your stay been so far?

Jamie: Yeah, it’s good!

Megan: Different!

Jamie: Exciting!

Jamie: Fries are chips… Chips are crisps…

Megan: Yeah, walking down the street even, you have to look a different way…

Megan: I think I almost got hit by a moped three, four times

Jamie: I’m more afraid to get hit by a bike or moped than I am an actual car…

Megan: They go very fast!

Dave: Are you gonna visit any pubs anytime soon?

Megan: We better!

Jamie: Yeah, that’s what we’re gonna do tonight!

Dave: Right, so what are you finding exciting about the integration?

Jamie: It’s pretty awesome that we now have Distilled, we have Brainlabs, and we have Hanapin

Jamie: All of us have these very unique, you know, SEO capabilities, and PPC, and performance, and automation and just some really really cool skills that we’ve all brought together, now under this one brand name

Jamie: We’re all aligned, in our values, how we work –

Megan: It’s like fate!

Jamie: It is!

Jamie: It is like fate

Megan: It’s really interesting

Megan: I feel like it’s really cool that, you know, we’ve always had this back specialty of PPC, PPC, PPC, and we were so focused on the US, and after talking to the Brainlabs team, and talking to Distilled, and Tim, it’s, you know –

Megan: It’s kind like we’ve had this regional mindset, and now we’re going to this global mindset, but we’re also expanding those services along with it

Megan: We’ve had many clients already raise their hand and say you know ‘’We were already thinking about that, and we would love to kind of wrap that into what we’re doing”

Megan: So I think it’s a pretty big impact for our clients

Jeff: So the team’s super excited about moving forward with the whole new, beautiful, ‘merger-coaster’ of emotions that we’re all going to have going forward

Jeff: Every person in leadership is moving forward with, like, really core elements of the new leadership group

Jeff: And realised we’ve figured out how to merge strengths

Dan: I have to say, throughout this whole merger process, i’ve had the privilege of meeting lots of people in the Hanapin business, and I’ve been blown away by their capabilities

Dan: And the similarities and parallels across the people that we have in the core Brainlabs business, who are equally remarkable

Dan: To have all of that team carrying forward into the leadership of the Brainlabs business eventually is an honor

Jeff: Yeah, it was one of those moments like we were talking through how we were going to do everything, how we were going to roll out the comms

Jeff: What was that process going to look like, and I have this moment cemented in my head where you just stopped the meeting and were like ‘’I would be so gutted’’

Dan: ‘‘Gutted!’’

Dan: What’s the American translation for that! Devastated?

Jeff: ‘Devastated!’

Dan: ‘Devo’

Jeff: “If anyone goes home tonight, or the night after we announce and like, has to worry about their job, like tell us what we care about, hey I’m worried about my job”

Jeff: That’s not what the deal was about, at all, quite the opposite. It means more jobs, and more opportunities for the people we already had

Jeff: So that was a moment to me where, like, [I realised] ‘’Alright we’re both on the same page’’

Jeff: This is a people-driven business, and if we fail to take care of them, we’re going to struggle to take care of our clients.

Dan: I think the other part – which relates into the client proposition and how we build a more successful organisation as a whole –

Dan: Is with Hanapin as part of the mix which is an established, brilliantly performing, revenue-has-grown-every-year business

Dan: With a footprint in the US, when we’re combining what Brainlabs had previously in the States, with Distilled, we now have a footprint that spans from

Dan: Seattle, to L.A, to Austin, to Bloomington, to New York, which is giving us this proposition that says: on any time zone across America, we have a proposition that we can service relatively locally

Jeff: Yeh, totally, with like, insanely talented people who are world-class at what they’re doing

Jeff: It’s pretty incredible!