DeSilva + Phillips Dealmakers Summit 09: Downturn acquisition strategies at WPP and Omnicom

Geoffrey Precourt
WARC Online


On the eve of the 7th annual DeSilva + Phillips Dealmakers Summit in New York on February 5, 2009, WPP Group announced it had purchased Red Dot Square Solutions, a UK-based in-store retail customer behavior research agency.

The deal, negotiated in the fall of 2008, was the latest in a series of acquisitions: most notably, market research group Taylor Nelson Sofres for a reported $2.2 billion, and, in the week before the DeSilva + Phillips assembly, a 49-percent stake in South Africa's The Jupiter Drawing Room and Seattle web analytics firm Omniture.

Was the activity counter-intuitive to the on-going retrenchment that seems to be the new rule of advertising M&A?

Roland DeSilva, managing partner of the conference sponsor, observed that the mood of the media investing community "at the beginning of this strange new economy" had been a mixture of "depression, bewilderment, frustration, and ambivalence…. People had hundreds of millions of dollars sitting on the shelf, but no one really knew what to do." In the last 60 days, however, he'd seen a shift to "anger, resolution, and focus."