WPP wants a slice of Native? [RUMOUR]

Memeburn sources can reveal that the world’s largest advertising and PR conglomerate WPP has been sniffing around high-profile digital agency Native with a view to buying it.

A source close to Memeburn says a deal between the two companies is in the works and should be completed soon.

When we approached Native MD Jarred Cinman for comment however, he denied that any acquisition deal was in the works. “I don’t know where you’re getting that information from, but it’s absolutely not true,” he said.

“Look, in this industry people are always going to talk to each other, but that’s no reason to prematurely sell my business,” he added.

Our sources tell us that the deal is being done through WPP subsidiary Young & Rubicam. The company, founded in 1923, specialises in advertising, digital and social media, sales promotion, direct marketing and brand identity consulting.

WPP has been active in the acquisitions space lately, both in developed countries and emerging markets like South Africa.

Most recently it acquired a majority stake in South African-born digital marketing conduit Acceleration for an undisclosed sum. An investment in Native, were it to happen, wouldn’t be all that surprising then.

In 2007 meanwhile it bought out digital agency Aqua Online which, at that stage, was the country’s largest independent full-service digital agency. The WPP relationship has apparently been a big win for the company.

WPP’s not the only one buying either. In fact the mergers and acquisitions scene, especially in the digital agency space, is seriously hot at the moment.

The New York Stock Exchange-listed Draftfcb recently acquired South African digital agency HelloComputer for instance. Red & Yellow School of Logic & Magic, one of South Africa’s advertising schools, meanwhile joined forces with Quirk Education, the educational arm of digital agency Quirk.

As veteran Silicon Valley reporter Tom Foremski points out, there are a lot of startups developing digital marketing and advertising services. These are all potential targets for WPP and its giant competitors, such as Omnicom and Publicis.

The British-based WPP is the world’s largest advertising company by revenue and employs around 158 000 people in 2 500 offices across 108 countries. It is a hungry company that appears to be on a permanent buying spree.

WPP owns a number of the biggest names in advertising, public relations and market research networks, including Grey, Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, JWT, Ogilvy Group, TNS and Young & Rubicam.

In the first half of 2012 alone, reports the Financial Times, the conglomerate made 40 acquisitions in 21 countries.

Native is one of South Africa’s largest integrated agencies. The company was formed from the merger of three South African specialist digital agencies: mobile specialists Brandsh, technology and content management specialists Cambrient and digital marketing, creative agency specialists Stonewall+.

The agency, which employs over 160 people, has done work for a number of international brands including Standard Bank, General Motors, Nestle, L’Oreal and Samsung.



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