WPP’s buying spree shows a thirst for digital marketing startups

WPP, the world’s largest advertising and marketing group, is on a buying spree, reports the Financial Times.

Who says there is no M&A any more? WPP made no fewer than 40 acquisitions, in 21 countries, in the first half of 2012. That is nearly two a week.

WPP is already the world’s biggest advertising agency. It intends to get bigger still. As Sir Martin points out, half its business — emerging markets, digital — did not exist a decade ago.

Ed: One of the most recent examples of WPP buying a company with emerging markets roots saw it acquire South African-born company Acceleration.

WPP agreed to pay US$540-million for San Francisco based AKQA in June. AKQA is one of the largest independent digital agencies, an area of particular strategic focus for Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP.

Silicon Valley is producing a lot of startups developing digital marketing and advertising services, potential targets for WPP and its giant competitors, such as Omnicom and Publicis.

Apple, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! have also been making large acquisitions in digital advertising companies, and Salesforce.com has been acquiring digital marketing and analytics companies. The competition will provide some good exits for Silicon Valley investors in these sectors, and spark investment in new startups hoping to profit from this M&A trend.

Silicon Valley is increasingly becoming “Media Valley” — funding the development of cutting-edge media technologies used to power a new generation of technology-enabled media companies.



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