WPP Buying Spree Nets Marketing, DIgital Firms

Havas, which invested in Doner and MDC Partners, and bought a majority stake in Victor & Spoils, aren’t the only holding companies wheeling and dealing this week. WPP has gone on a buying spree of its own, acquiring all or part of four different firms in the retail marketing, digital and PR fields.

On the retail front, WPP acquired a 35% interest in Barrows, a multinational shopper marketing agency with offices in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. Plans call for the opening of a Singapore office later this year. Barrows had revenues of about $62 million last year.

For WPP, the Barrows investment is just the latest in the shopper marketing field, a sector which generates more than $1 billion in revenues annually for the holding company. The company’s other holdings in the space include: The Brand Union, Fitch, The Futures Company, G2, JWT Retail, Kantar Retail, Landor, Lunchbox, OgilvyAction, Rockfish, Shopper2Buyer, The Smollan Group, TNS, Wunderman and Y&R Retail.

In January, WPP launched The Shopper Marketing Store, a new initiative that the holding company said would make it easier for clients to utilize all the tools, specialists and agencies that the firm devotes to the discipline worldwide.

In the digital domain, the holding company acquired Hungarian agency Carnation Internet Tanácsadó Zrt. The purchase was made through Possible Worldwide, WPP’s global digital agency network.

Carnation, founded in 1997, has a staff of 75 and clients throughout the Central and Eastern European regions. In addition to Hungary, Carnation has offices in Serbia, Austria and Romania. Clients include Coca-Cola, MTV and Procter & Gamble. 

The holding has targeted Central and Eastern Europe as a major growth opportunity. It currently generates $600 million in annual revenues from the region and employs nearly 6,000 people there.

In the U.S., the holding company purchased Web design and app developer Effective UI. Based in Denver, the firm generated about $21 million in revenues last year. Founded in 2005, the company now employs about 100 people and has done work for clients such as American Greetings, Boeing and National Geographic.

In the PR sector, WPP’s Burson-Marsteller acquired Crowdverb, a Seattle-based firm that uses a proprietary data-driven technique to manage brand reputations, promote products and sway opinion on issues and legislation. Burson will align the company with its own grass roots advocacy firm, Direct Impact. 

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