WPP's VML Buys Stake In South Africa's Native

WPP’s digital agency network VML, a unit of Y&R, has acquired a majority stake in South African digital agency Native, which has been rebranded Native VML. The agency has offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Terms were not disclosed.

The partnership is the latest step in VML’s global expansion strategy. Earlier this month, VML set up shop in Poland with the acquisition of a minority stake in the Heureka Group. Plans also call for the opening of offices in China sometime later this year, according to VML CEO and President Jon Cook.

“We know Native is an extraordinary match on all counts and a great platform for us as we look to build our brand further in the African market,” Cook said of the agency’s latest expansion move.

David Sable, global CEO of Y&R, added that the deal "is also a signal of our real commitment to growth in Africa. With our strong creative heritage here, a great understanding of consumers and a new model for digital, we are making a huge future commitment to the continent.”

According to VML, Native is one of Africa’s largest digital agencies. Current clients include Nedbank, General Motors, Pernod Ricard, Standard Bank, consumer finance company RCS, insurance company Hollard, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Nestlé and L'Oreal. The agency has more than 160 employees.

Native was founded in 2010 through the merger of three South African agencies, including Brandsh, Cambrient and Stonewall+ Digital Marketing. CEO Jason Xenopoulos will continue to run the agency. The merger with VML, he said, would “allow us to further drive our growth in South Africa.”

The deal is subject to regulatory approval, per the agencies.

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