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Barkley and OKRP Are Merging to Become BarkleyOKRP



The independent agency landscape is dotted with many small shops, with a few big agencies sprinkled in. Two of those larger agencies have now merged to become one of the biggest independents in the U.S., as Barkley and OKRP have merged to become BarkleyOKRP.

This new entity now has over 650 employees across five offices in Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, New York and Pittsburgh, making BarkleyOKRP one of the largest independent agencies in the country.

OKRP’s Tom O’Keefe said that over the past year and a half, the agency had been having conversations about growth opportunities, and after meeting Barkley CEO Jeff King, president Dan Fromm and their team at Barkley, OKRP felt the two agencies were a great fit.

“It makes sense when you look at offerings and where the strengths are at both agencies and where the opportunities are to help augment and do something great. For us, it was the right fit,” O’Keefe told ADWEEK.

King added that he saw a big unmet opportunity in the market that was neither based in holding companies nor small boutique agencies.

“If you think about the landscape, there just aren’t that many of what we’re calling big indies—big independents at scale, that offer a full suite of services,” said King. The new BarkleyOKRP will try to fill that void in the market by bring “the best of both all the creative power of an independent with the breadth of services and integration of a holding company,” as King put it.

King added that the merging of the two agencies may not be the final phase of growth. Under the BarkleyOKRP platform, the team is continuing to look at deeper investments in media, data, analytics and performance, though nothing has been finalized yet.

Chicago-based private equity firm Keystone Capital, which invested in Barkley last year, facilitated the merger. The company knew O’Keefe and OKRP agency founder Nick Paul and made the introduction, helping out with the merger by using its acquisition expertise to structure the deal.

Merging clients and teams

O’Keefe and King made an assurance that there will be no layoffs because of the merger, and that client teams will remain intact. King said clients have been supportive and enthusiastic about the move, while making sure that their agency teams endure.

“Our teams will continue to serve the accounts that they have day to day, without anything changing. And then the opportunity down the line is for BarkleyOKRP to get together on business opportunities and find opportunities for crossovers with clients, especially in terms of capabilities … and start to integrate over the over time,” said King.

Combined, the agencies will have numerous A-list clients, including Metro by T-Mobile, Burger King, Planet Fitness, Motel 6, Red Lobster, Premier Protein and AMC.

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