A Year After Synovate Sale, Acquisitive Aegis Gets Back Into Marketing Analytics

Aegis Group, which itself has agreed to be sold to Japan’s Dentsu, has been on an acquisitions tear, and this morning announced two new additions -- including one that gets it back into the marketing effectiveness analytics business, which it divested itself from last year, partly so it could make itself more attractive to a pure-play media and advertising services suitor, like say, Dentsu.

The two separate deals announced this morning included the acquisition of yet another digital shop -- I Spy Marketing Limited and its affiliate 4Search Limited -- as well as Data2Decisions Limited (D2D). Both are based in the U.K., but the acquisition of D2D is particularly telling, because marketing effectiveness research and analytics has always been an integral part of Aegis’ offering, and was a clear point of differentiation when it introduced its brand of unbundled media services and set up shop with Carat in the U.S. in the mid-1990s.

While it started by acquiring a couple of independent media-buying services, a key part of its U.S. emigration included the acquisition of MMA, a pioneer in the field of marketing-mix modeling that has helped transform the way major brands -- particularly consumer packaged goods -- value and execute their media and marketing mixes.



MMA became an integral part of Aegis’ overall offering, and along with other research and analytics acquisitions and startups became Synovate, which was Aegis Group’s separate marketing research and analytics division that got sold to Ipsos for $834 million. When that deal closed in October 2011, Aegis’ management said the proceeds would be earmarked for acquisitions, which the company has indeed implemented vigorously, albeit generally smaller roll-ups leading up to its own recent deal to be acquired by Dentsu.

So the acquisition of D2D -- a firm that specializes in advising marketers on their marketing effectiveness, including the return on investment from their advertising and media buys -- is a bit ironic.

At the time of its sale of Synovate, Aegis CEO Jerry Buhlmann implied the withdrawal from the marketing analytics business wasn’t just a tactical paring down of Aegis’ assets, but part of a strategic restructuring to move in a different direction.

“The disposal of Synovate is a transformational moment for Aegis Group,” he stated, adding: “This is the largest structural change in our history and leaves the core business perfectly positioned to take advantage of today's converging media environment.” 

In previous comments to financial analysts, Buhlmann said the divestiture was also intended to trade a "low-growth, low-margin business" for media agencies that will perform better and be more synergistic with the company's core offering.

In today’s announcement of the D2D acquisition,  Nigel Morris, CEO, Aegis Media Americas & EMEA, stated: "Data is one of the key areas of competitive advantage in the convergent market. D2D has built an impressive, scaled business that complements and strengthens our existing data capabilities to drive even greater marketing insight and analysis. We look forward to fully integrating D2D into our operating model to leverage their capability across all parts of our business for our clients."  

Terms were not disclosed, but Aegis said D2D has gross assets of about $3.4 million, and that I Spy has assets of about $4.5 million.

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