Ever since Mark Read was anointed its CEO back in September 2019, under his guidance WPP’s mission has pretty much been debt reduction and the consolidation of its agencies.
However, the ground shifted significantly last week when, in an interview with the UK’s Financial Times, Read announced the world’s biggest media company was back on the acquisition hustings.
Read said at the time: “We are simpler. Our balance sheet is in better shape. Actually, it is time to start to look at how we grow and where we need to invest.
“We don’t just want to make the business bigger, we want to really focus acquisitions in the areas that can differentiate our offer and provide something distinct.
“We don’t want to buy a fourth public relations firm in Uruguay,” Read said. “It is really . . . acquisitions we can make that bring us scale.”
Not that WPP will have it all its own way. Earlier this month it was reported that Read’s arch nemesis, S4’s Martin Sorrell, was out equity funding and was eyeing a “big” acquisition ($US400 million-plus) of his own.
So what exactly would or should be on WPP’s shopping list?
WPP has made no secret that e-commerce and marketing technology would be top of the list. Anything in the booming age care or health care space would be considered a shrewd move, too.
Jay MacDonald, CEO of investment banking firm Digital Capital Advisors, said he thought WPP would focus on US-based acquisitions in the $US100 million ($A140 million) to $US300 million ($A420 million) range.
Now Business Insider has surveyed a host of CMOs and industry experts to devise a list of the agencies that Read should open the cheque book to. It establised a list of nine companies which, admittedly, all do come with a very US focus.
The list includes (in alphabetical order) and again this all ‘pie in the sky’ stuff:
Ansira – A specialist in media-buying, analytics, email marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) it could help WPP target consumers with personalised ads.
Boostr – A customer relationship management and order management cloud software company, its CRM offering could help WPP expand beyond its traditional offering to clients.
Butchershop Creative – Does digital strategy, customer experience and product design work for clients such as Nike.
Celtra – A software company that helps advertisers automate their digital display and video campaigns by using AI that’s said to be able to test hundreds of variations of an ad.
InfoSum – Another tech firm that allows businesses to share first-party data from consumers with their permission.
Klick Health – A specialist health agency that creates ad campaigns and does consulting and analytics for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies.
Modus – A specialist in experience, design and digital transformation it could help WPP compete more directly with the consultancies.
Teikametrics – Another software company that uses machine learning to help brands advertise more effectively on e-commerce platforms.
Zift Solutions – Another tech firm that helps automate multi-channel email and CRM marketing campaigns.
According to The Financial Times report any new acquisitions wouldn’t be announced until December when WPP would make an announcement to the UK stock exchange.
Read also hit back at Sorrell’s recent criticism that WPP was too heavily invested in TV ad dollars.
“We don’t have departments of people that just do linear television commercials any more,” he said. “In the first half [of 2020] around 40 per cent of our billings were in digital, but more than 40 per cent of our fees came from digital media,” Read said.
“If a client spends £100 on TV, we would historically make £3. If a client spends £100 on Google, we may make £5 or £6 because it’s more complicated to manage Google than it is to manage TV. Shifting the budget from TV to Google is not a bad thing [for WPP],” he said.
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