Rich in Translation

The company founded by Steve Stoute, the consumer marketing whiz who created McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” ad campaign and linked the fast-food giant with pop stars such as Justin Timberlake, may become the latest addition to the Interpublic Group of Companies Inc. conglomerate, according to reports that the two firms are in talks.
While spokesmen for Stoute’s Translation Consultation & Brand Imaging and IPG would not comment on the validity of the rumors, that hasn’t stopped industry insiders from speculating on the ramifications if such a deal were to take place.

The collaboration would be unusual, says Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News, a Chicago-based research company that monitors African American marketing and media. “There aren’t many black-owned companies with a reputation as widely known as Stoute’s that would be willing to be acquired,” Smikle says. Translation, which would not disclose revenues, has included among its clients Hewlett-Packard, Tommy Hilfiger, and Reebok.

But Stoute would gain the backing of an ad industry giant that in 2006 brought in $6.19 billion in revenues, and he would not likely lose the sense of autonomy he’s enjoyed in running his own company, says Clyde Smith, founder of the hip-hop marketing and business news site ProHipHop. “IPG basically gathers together agencies who continue to provide their unique expertise,” Smith says. “Acquiring Translation seems more about acquiring an agency that can successfully target urban tastemakers with a message that can also reach a mass audience that crosses demographic boundaries.”