Publicis Groupe led the list of M&A buyers in the marketing communications space for the first half of 2019 with its outsized purchase of data giant Epsilon for $4.4 billion, according to a rundown of activity in the space by R3.
The firm tracked 235 M&A deals in the sector with a total value of $13.6 billion, up 43% from the same period last year.
Greg Paull, cofounder-principal at R3 noted: “It’s a scramble for first-party data, and the increased valuation and spend on martech companies reflect that value.”
Accenture was the No. 1 buyer during the period with $651 million worth of deals, including the purchase of creative agency Droga5. Its value has been estimated at $475 million.
CVC Capital Partners is ranked third with $350 million in total deals and Dentsu follows in fourth place with total deal value of $253 million, including Seattle-based experience design firm Filter, now aligned with Merkle.
Mark Penn’s Stagwell rounded out the top five acquirers with $240 million worth of deals, including a $100 million investment in holding company MDC Partners. (Penn also took the helm of MDC as CEO in March.)
Publicis Groupe’s “outlier” deal for Epsilon aside, it was a quiet six-month period for the major ad holding companies on the M&A front. R3 reports no M&A activity for WPP (its recent Kantar deal is a Q3 event) or Omnicom during the period. The consultant noting that for the second year in a row only two traditional holding companies — Publicis Groupe and Dentsu — made the top-10 list of buyers at the half-year mark.
“The high-rollers of marketing M&A continue to be consultancies, private-equity groups and technology companies,” said Paull. “Holding companies have their focus elsewhere as they urgently need to work out new business operating models as consultancies edge into the industry and in-housing grows in popularity with clients.”