Publicis has finally agreed the acquisition of data-driven marketing giant Epsilon for $4.4bn (£3.4bn), in a deal which chief executive Arthur Sadoun claimed is “one of the most important” in the company’s 93 year history.
The acquisition, which also includes digital marketing specialist Conversant, represents an impressive return on investment for owner Alliance Data Systems, which bought Epsilon in 2004 for $300m. It had first mooted the idea of selling the business late last year, with reports that Publicis was interested emerging last week.
The scale of the deal has led many to question whether Publicis is now a data business, but Sadoun insists it has been driven by the desire to harness creativity. He said: “The reason why we are doing this deal is to continue on our strategy to be at the core of our clients’ digital transformations, bringing them, roughly, the best of creativity. In a dynamic world, this is something that is not easy.
“Creative is of course still the core of our business, although it is being challenged. With Epsilon, we have today a clear leader in data and platforms that will, again, accelerate our strategy and boost our creative product.”
Sadoun, who said the two parties had held over 50 meetings before the deal was struck, was also keen to point out that Epsilon was a better fit with Publicis than Acxiom – bought by rival IPG last year for $2.3bn (£1.7bn) – could ever have been.
He explained: “Acxiom is only about data. Epsilon is way more. They are first in CRM, with an outstanding way of putting together and building ID around first-party data. That is a business that has nothing to do with Acxiom.
“Every year they are sending 71 billion personalised emails. They can identify 225 million consumers in the US with 7,000 attributes. Last but not least, they have a platform called Conversant, which is a big part of their business, that can deliver personalised messaging at scale.”
However, once again banging the drum for creativity, Sadoun concluded: “There is no way that you can achieve personalised experience at scale if you don’t bring together creativity and technology, so the question is who’s going to do it faster, bigger and make sure they can bring that to their clients. The consolidation will not be done for financial reasons, it will happen for strategic reasons. If you don’t bring that big idea, you will soon become very irrelevant.”
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