WPP set to buy Obama digital fundraiser Blue State Digital

WPP is close to a deal to buy Blue State Digital, the digital agency whose fundraising efforts headed by founder Joe Rospars helped to propel Barack Obama into the White House.

Despite its political fame and a client list that also includes AT&T, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and unions Teamsters and Unite, Blue State Digital is a relative minnow with reported 2009 revenues of just $12.8m. The company employs 130 people with offices in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Boston and London.

Also this week WPP bought a majority stake in African research firm Research & Marketing Services while its PR network Hill & Knowlton bought Turkish outfit Global Tanitim, which employs just 28 people despite its grand-sounding name.

WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell has said that he intends to spend slightly more than 2010’s £100m on acquisitions in 2011 which suggests that he will confine himself to smaller deals. He could be foxing of course.

At the same time Omnicom boss John Wren has outlined his plans to increase the company’s digital footprint, reckoned to lag behind both WPP and Publicis Groupe, through ‘partnerships’ rather than big acqusitions such as Publicis Groupe’s $510m acquisition of Razorfish 18 months ago.

Wren says that there’s no point competing with the giants of the digital world like Google for such companies, it’s better to cherry pick partners and educate his 63,000 employees in making better use of digital options.

He also said the company would get rid of low growth companies which were not well placed to take advantage of the ongoing growth in digital.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.