M&C Saatchi has acquired two social influencer agencies, which it will bring together with its existing social and talent divisions to form The M&C Saatchi Talent Group.
The advertising giant has acquired a majority stake in beauty influencer agency Red Hare Digital, which has more than 40 specialist creators on its books. M&C has also snapped up its sister consultancy and agency, Grey Whippet, which has run social media campaigns for Bodyshop and helped launch Primark's cult Holler-and-Glow facemasks.
The move comes just over a year since M&C Saatchi Merlin, the group's talent management shop, launched a new division specialising in social influencers. The agency said it has seen "substantial growth since launch".
Now, Red Hare and Grey Whippet will be combined with M&C Saatchi's social team to form a new social arm called M&C Saatchi Social, led by Red Hare founders Jonathan Poole and Kate Lovett.
M&C Saatchi Social and M&C Saatchi Merlin will then together form The M&C Saatchi Talent Group, which is being billed as a talent management business with "unparalleled expertise in both the digital and non-digital worlds."
The new talent arm of the business will offer high profile social and mainstream broadcast clients "a compelling new offering" according to M&C, and will expand globally through the power and reach of M&C Saatchi’s global network.
Richard Thompson, chairman of M&C Merlin and now the M&C Saatchi Talent Group, said: "The marriage of brands, insight and the scale of the M&C Saatchi global network provides an offering that is totally unique. Through the acquisition of Red Hare and Grey Whippet some of the most successful and exciting creators in the UK become part of the group."
M&C Saatchi isn't the only traditional agency group to launch its own specialist influencer agency. Last year, Havas bulked up its Socialyse Influence proposition with several fresh hires in order to bring "scale and efficiency" to an industry it believes to be lacking in both.
Dentsu Aegis, meanwhile, invested an unknown sum in Gleam Futures in 2017 – the network that helped Zoella rise to fame.
M&C's doubling down on the space comes amid intense scrunity around the legitimacy and value of influencers. Last week, Unilever's top marketer issued a call for the industry to come together to clean up the ecosystem, highlighting issues such as fake followers and a lack of transparency when it comes to measurement.
On the influencer ad fraud front, brands including L'Oréal, eBay, Samsung and Diageo are all in agreement that it's a problem, and one they have been quietly trying to figure out their own solutions to.
However, the first challenge in combating the problem is pinning down a figure on real versus fake accounts on social media – a virtually impossible task. According to some estimates, as many as 15% of Twitter’s 'users' may be fake, while up to 60m Facebook accounts could be automated, or bots.