It sometimes looks as though Interpublic has gone to sleep in the acquisition stakes, certainly in comparison to two of its rivals WPP and Publicis Groupe, but today it announced the surprise capture of Profero, one of the few remaining international digital agencies following the acquisition of AKQA by WPP and LBi by Publicis Groupe.
Profero will be aligned with the Lowe network and be known as Lowe Profero. It brings 550 staff and offices in London, New York, Singapore. and Sydney among others.
A price hasn’t been named although its unlikely to be in the $540m AKQA/LBi range. It looks a good deal though and follows the acquisition of Inferno in London by DraftFCB a couple of weeks ago (so maybe Interpublic hasn’t been that sleepy).
It’s also statement of belief by IPG in Lowe which has never really fulfilled the high hopes IPG had when it bought Sir Frank Lowe’s UK high-flyer. IPG recently merged its Campbell Ewald agency into Lowe in the US.
Results International partner Andy Collins adds
As one of the few remaining major independent international digital agencies, Profero was an obvious target for any buyer looking to build its global digital capabilities.
It has extensive multi-region capabilities, including key markets such as the US and Asia. It was one of the first western digital players to enter the Chinese market and the agency’s senior management has demonstrated huge commitment to growing its business in Asia. It is highly respected for its growth – particularly impressive when you consider most of it is organic – and for the quality of its management team and the ‘Profero way’ of thinking.
If you look at some of the recent big deals in the sector, they’ve been driven by client synergy as well as capability. BlueFocus cited this when it acquired We Are Social at the end of 2013 and this Profero-Lowe deal is no exception, with both parties sharing the Unilever account.
But what really makes the deal attractive for Lowe is Profero’s joined-up approach and global scale. With so many M&A deals in marcoms these days being about a larger buyer acquiring a niche business, it’s still vital for the networks to be able to seize whole new markets and technologies with a single, large-scale acquisition.
So, what does this mean for the mainly smaller digital agencies with much less scale that remain? Without global capabilities we will see them working to forge partnerships and alliances, both formal and informal of a kind that will allow them to compete for the big international briefs that would otherwise remain out of their reach.