Publicis has confirmed that it will be buying North American data operation Epsilon for USD$4.4bn, its biggest acquisition to date.
Epsilon collects data from email and loyalty programmes. Publicis is paying about twice its USD$2.2bn revenue.
Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun says clients are facing extra challenges in a “data-led and digital-first world” and Epsilon will bring “an acceleration in data and platform that will position us as a clear leader in personalised experience at scale.”
It may do. Epsilon is Publicis’ biggest buy to date (ahead of Sapient at USD$3.7bn) and one of adland’s biggest, lagging only Dentsu’s USD$4.9bn Aegis buy and, back in the day, WPP’s scarcely credible USD$4.7bn for Y&R (Y&R also owned Wunderman and Burson-Marteller.)
Publicis now looks remarkably like Accenture, a consultancy business with some ad agencies attached.
This is a big move by Publicis and industry observers are guessing that it is to boost the share price in the short term and to keep its French rival, Vivendi at bay. Vivendi also owns Havas.
The next step for Publicis, assuming it’s left to its own devices, is to decide where Epsilon fits in to its new structure – currently Communications, Media, Publicis.Sapient and Healthcare and, in all likelihood, merge more of its agency units or sell some of them.
One person who should be pleased at the fancy price Publicis has paid is WPP CEO Mark Read. WPP is auctioning a majority stake in its research business Kantar and this may drive up the price.