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Publicis’ DigitasLBi guzzles up Liquorice


French advertising giant Publicis Groupe has acquired South Africa digital agency Liquorice through its digital-centric subsidiary Digitas LBi .

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According to Marklives, Liquorice will form part of Digitas LBi’s Middle East & Africa region but will retain its identity.

Formed in 2013 out of a merger between Degitas and the Amsterdam-based LBi, DigitasLBi has 40 offices in 25 countries around the world. Liquorice meanwhile has been around since 2005 and now employs 115 people in its Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Bellville offices.

According to Liquorice founder and Managing Partner Miles Murphy, the acquisition will be used to increase DigitasLBi’s African footprint, hopping on and helping add to the work Liquorice has already been doing in markets such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola and Nigeria.

Despite taking 12 months over negotiations, Murphy says that DigitasLBi is the perfect match for his company. “It’s us but on a much grander scale,” he told Marklives.

The acquisition will see DigitasLBi take full ownership of Liquorice, although it’s unclear just how much the multinational agency paid for it or what the terms of the deal are.

Both Publicis and its rival in the agency holdings game WPP have been on something of a spree when it comes to buying out South African agencies.

Earlier this year, Publicis bought out BrandsRock and merged it with Saatchi & Saatchi. Prior to that, it bought out Lighthouse Digital, merging it with Starcom and specialist search agency Syngergize and merged it with Saatchi & Saatchi.

Liquorice is probably the biggest recent acquisition it’s made though.

WPP’s South African spending meanwhile has been prolific. In May, it acquired digital mainstay Quirk. Prior to that it purchased a majority stake in strategic communications agency Cerebra. In 2013 it purchased digital agency Native, prior to which it had acquired a majority stake in South African-born digital marketing conduit Acceleration for an undisclosed sum.

And in 2007 it bought out digital agency Aqua Online, which at that stage was the country’s largest independent full-service digital agency.

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