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Machine on the verge of an exit, but to whom?


Machine, the integrated digital agency founded by Adrian Hewlett, is on the verge of being bought up.

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A source close to the deal confirmed that an acquisition was in the works and could be completed by as early as the end of the week, but could not give any detail around who the innovative agency might be selling to.

There have however been rumours floating about that the buyer could be French advertising giant, Publicis. Both it and WPP have been on something of a buying spree in South Africa over the past couple of years.

Most recently, Publicis bought out Liquorice through its digital-centric subsidiary Digitas LBi.

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 Synergize and merged it with Saatchi & Saatchi.

Machine would certainly make an enticing target. The agency was created 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 growing staff in its Johannesburg and Cape Town offices winning a claimed 86% of its pitches.

If a deal does go through this week, it would mean that Hewlett has guided two businesses through successful exits in less than a year, after selling a controlling stake in Habari to publishing giant Caxton in December 2013.

Ventureburn will update this story as more details emerge.

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