New Year Honours: Acquisitions of the year and media stars – Publicis Sapient deal, Fetch takeover, Guardian Labs and Vice

Over the course of a week, The Drum is revealing its New Year Honours – the brands, agencies, campaigns and people who have impressed us in 2014.

The year has seen a flurry of mergers and acquisitions activity in the marketing sectors, and here we take a look at the key deals to have taken place. We also list our media honours for 2014 – revealing our media trendsetter, innovator and start-up.

Acquisitions of the year

Best digital deal: Publicis acquisition of Sapient

Maurice Lévy’s well publicised goal of Publicis deriving 50 per cent of its revenue from digital by 2018 took a massive leap forward when the group bought US consultancy group Sapient for $3.7bn. In fact it looks likely to smash its initial estimates and hit this benchmark by the end of the first quarter this year.

The deal will see the creation of a new platform called Publicis.Sapient, which will focus solely on digital transformation and cater to the ‘always-on world’ across marketing, omnichannel commerce, consulting and technology.

There have been concerns voiced about the deal being a panic buy just months after the collapse of its planned merger with Omnicom, but there are others who see strategic value in adding Sapient to a portfolio of digital companies which already includes DigitasLBi and Razorfish – a group Publicis.Sapient would likely oversee.

Best mobile deal: Dentsu Aegis acquisition of Fetch

Agency acquisitions can on occasion be painted in a bad light – newly rich agency owners count their money and run while acquiring groups set about dismantling what were once successful and functioning businesses, casting off anything even vaguely resembling surplus.

Luckily then for the team at Fetch, boss James Connelly’s ambitions have proven much bigger, as have those of new owner Dentsu Aegis.

Connelly told The Drum that what attracted him to the group was not only its scale in Asia, but also its intent in Europe and North America. And, asked about possible redundancies, he said instead that he’s on a talent drive.

Only time will tell of course, but if iProspect’s progress under Dentsu Aegis ownership is anything to go by, they’re in good company.

Best design deal: Publicis acquisition of Turner Duckworth

In an acquisitions landscape where tech and mobile are very much the flavour of the day it is reassuring when a big holding group shows there’s still worth in good old fashioned design, and so it was when Publicis Groupe acquired packaging design firm Turner Duckworth, famed for its Coca-Cola work, in September last year.

Brought in to boost the advertising giant’s capacity for achieving stand out on ever busier supermarket shelves, and aligned under the Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett division, Leo Burnett chief exec Tom Bernardin said at the time: “The value of creativity in today’s business has never been higher and at the core of creativity is design, which is the reason we wanted to work together with David Turner and Bruce Duckworth to build an unparalleled design capability.”

Best regional deal: Jaywing acquisition of Epiphany

Not to be outdone by the glut of deals taking place in the capital last year, Jaywing went on the acquisition trail in March, snapping up Leeds-headquartered Epiphany in a deal worth around £18m.

In what represents another big step forward in Jaywing’s reinvention as it grows to become one of the biggest digital agencies in the UK, the acquisition of Epiphany helps strengthen the Sheffield-based company’s search marketing capabilities and provides its team of data scientists with access to digital data which will help fuel its innovation.

Media

Trendsetter: Guardian Labs

The in-house branded content creator launched in March 2014 and early on nabbed some highly visible partners like EE and Unilever. Guardian Witness, its citizen journalism platform created in collaboration with EE, has a social reach of over 40 million people and recently won Innovation of the Year at the UK Journalism Awards.

Its successful format quickly led to other partnerships, most recently with drinks giant Diageo for its Baileys campaign and ramped up the race for innovative branded content. Guardian Labs have used real-time analytics tools, which allows teams to track how every piece of content is performing worldwide in real time in a bid to prove that branded content can be transparent, ethical and authentic.

Innovator of the year: Shane Smith

Canadian chief executive and co-founder of Vice, Shane Smith, has extended the already versatile portfolio of 20-year-old global youth media company over the last 12 months with the creation of Vice News, a digital news platform with a unique gonzo style, which launched in March.

Vice News scooped its rivals over the summer when it embedded a journalist within Isis as it made waves the world over. A series of major investments by media companies and Silicon Valley investors in September allowed for a partnership with 20th Century Fox to launch Vice Films, which will expand on the company’s existing portfolio. And a new collaboration with Live Nation Entertainment for a live music digital platform will be unveiled in 2015.

Start-up: Nideo

The B2B video-sharing platform co-founded by James Hakesley and Roy Kimani in 2013 has taken off over the last year, filling a gap in the market not catered for by video sharing giants YouTube and Vimeo. In addition to all the standard metrics, Nideo specifically caters to businesses by offering analytics and tracking tools that inform marketers about a viewer’s behaviour while watching a video. Over 450 businesses in the UK are already using the platform, and there are plans for expansion to the US, and versions in Spanish, French, and German.

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