Agencies Agency Leadership Mergers and Acquisitions

Complex agency rosters give CMOs headaches. Mekanism wants to offer pain relief


By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

October 13, 2023 | 6 min read

A year and a bit since its acquisition by Canadian holdco Plus, Mekanism’s boss shares how it is looking to expand with a two-rail strategy.

Jason Harris of Mekanism

Mekanism boss Jason Harris wants the agency to double in size in coming years / Mekanism

Despite the smoke blown by ad agencies about the culture-breaking creative, agile teams or moving at the speed of social, a lot of marketers choose agencies because they think they stand a decent chance of solving the problems plaguing their organizations.

Speaking to The Drum remotely from a hotel room in Miami where he’s attending a marketing conference, Mekanism co-founder and chief executive Jason Harris hopes that’s the case.

Mekanism was acquired just over a year ago by Canadian holding firm Plus Company, which also owns agencies Cossette, We Are Social and 55 Rush. Harris says the last 14 months or so have meant “a lot of change” for the business he founded – the main being that he’s had to remember what it’s like to have a boss.

“It took some learning to manage up versus being managed up,” he says. “That was a new skill. It’s taken me this year to develop that muscle memory.”

Headcount at the agency has grown around 10-15% since the Plus deal was inked, with new staffers joining its media, UI, UX and AI practices. One particular addition has come through Zapiens, a boutique Madrid design agency that has brought 20 new digital designers under the Mekanism umbrella.

The acquisition will send Mekanism farther along the road to its eventual destination, Harris says.

“We’re really trying to be long-term brand builders and short-term drivers of business growth. [The Zapiens deal] doesn’t necessarily have huge revenue implications; it’s more about the skillsets and chemistry.”

Marketing clients are caught up in the tension between long- and short-term business goals. “CMOs are under more pressure than ever to show performance and results and create growth and shareholder value,” he explains.

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Mekanism can meet its own growth goals by providing a service that hits both of those needs, “building iconic brands with solid science and soul… a modern agency that drives the bottom line.”

To do that, it is developing its capability to create loyalty programs, CRM overhauls and relationship marketing pieces while retaining tools to generate brand-building activity. Harris believes the combination is essential for business growth.

“Just being good brand builders, good stewards of the brand and good at strategy and creative… that’s just not enough any more. It’s going to get harder. But when you’re able to measure business growth, it opens you up to do better creative work and better creative ideas because you’re not throwing a Hail Mary on a big creative idea; you’re able to drive business growth.”

So far, clients seem to be agreeing. Even facing adverse economic conditions, Mekanism’s win rate sits at over 50%, he says, with a robust sales pipeline. “It’s more expensive to borrow money, things cost more. I think consumer spending on certain products and services is down. So there’s a lot of challenges. There are fewer pitches and competition is even tighter. To be able to win with this new model has been a good sign for us.”

This brings us back to the concerns about keeping top marketers up at night. Harris hopes that the same economic circumstances putting pressure on agency sales will push CMOs towards its hybrid model as marketers find they have less time and patience to spend on managing a large agency roster. “CMOs have enough headaches,” he adds.

The company now numbers 250, though Harris says he has ambitions to be “twice that size.” Plus Company expects it, too.

“We’re meeting those expectations. We hope to surpass those expectations. And the main way we’re doing it is getting a bigger share of revenue by doing more for clients.”

Agencies Agency Leadership Mergers and Acquisitions

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