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Confirmed: Publicis buys out Machine

Publicis Machine

French advertising giant Publicis has confirmed that it is acquiring Cape Town-based integrated advertising agency Machine, something which Ventureburn has been saying was likely to happen for some time now.

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The agency, created by Habari founder Adrian Hewlett in 2012, will merge with Publicis South Africa and will be rebranded as Publicis Machine.

Hewlett will stay on in the top position at Machine, reporting to Kevin Tromp, CEO of Publicis Sub-Saharan Africa for Publicis Worldwide.

Arthur Sadoun, CEO of Publicis Worldwide said, “With the acquisition of MACHINE following the one of Prima, in such a strategic country for our client’s business, we are ever more strengthening our digital capabilities to be the preferred partner of our clients in their own digital transformation”.

Hewlett created Machine in 2012 out of a number of disparate properties, including his through-the-line agency Big Wednesday, digital and social media outfit Domino, Habari Direct (which focused on below-the-line marketing) and Habari Research, a digital marketing research tool.

Since then, it has made serious strides, with a staff of more than 150 in its Johannesburg and Cape Town offices winning a claimed 86% of its pitches.

In that time, it has also won a number of awards, making it one of the most successful independent agencies in South Africa.

According to Marklives, Publicis first approached Hewlett about a possible deal some 18 months ago.

The Machine founder says he recognised that a possible deal would help the company bolster its above the line offering and attract bigger clients, allowing it to compete with more established players such as Ogilvy and FCB.

Interestingly, the companies have turned the merger into an ad campaign in and of itself, with a cheeky play on Publicis’ French origins.

It’s unclear exactly how much the deal is worth, but given Machine’s high profile in the South African space and the slew of acquisitions that have taken place in recent months, it seems fairly safe to assume that it was targeted fairly aggressively.

While slightly slower of the marks than rival WPP, Publicis in particular has had a busy past few months. Earlier this year, the French advertising giant 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.

WPP meanwhile made a headline-grabbing acquisition in Quirk earlier this year.

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.

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