PARIS/NEW YORK: French holding company Publicis Groupe has announced the acquisition of leading independent digital ad specialist Sapient, a move which Sir Martin Sorrell described as "the behaviour of a jilted lover".
This was in reference to the collapse earlier this year of a planned merger between Publicis and Omnicom Group, which had aimed to gain greater scale in technology and data, and build an agency business that could better compete with technology giants such as Facebook and Google, as well as satisfying the ambitions of Publicis to expand in the US.
The current deal, which values Sapient, including digital ad agency SapientNitro, at $3.7bn, will go some way to achieving those aims. Publicis chief executive Maurice Lévy described Sapient as "a jewel" and told reporters: "This deal dramatically changes the profile of our group. We will get access to new revenue streams and markets."
The acquisition means Publicis will already have reached a 2018 target of generating over half its revenues from digital activities.
The Warc 100 database, based on wins at effectiveness and strategy competitions over the past year, ranks Publicis Groupe third amongst the major holding companies. Omnicom was first, with WPP second.
In this context, the Publicis-Omnicom merger would have created a dominant force in the world's effectiveness competitions. Buying Sapient does not have the same immediate effect.
SapientNitro was a primary agency on one of the ranked campaigns in this year's Warc 100 – 'Help a Child Reach 5' in 16th place. And SapientNitro offices in the USA and Singapore were ranked 11th and 23rd respectively in this year's ranking of the top independent digital agencies.
WPP boss Sorrell, who had been a fierce critic of the Publicis-Omnicom merger, was equally sceptical of the new deal, telling The Drum: "Looks like the behaviour of a jilted lover. Christmas came early for Sapient share owners."
Data sourced from Le Monde, Wall Street Journal, The Drum; additional content by Warc staff