Tech drives acquisition-filled first quarter

Accenture bought Droga5 in April to expand its creative portfolio

With its recent acquisition of Epsilon, Publicis Groupe can now tap into the data marketing company's loyalty software that serves 600m accounts.

The price tag on the deal – $4.4bn – may raise eyebrows, but this push toward building out tech stacks is quickly becoming commonplace in an industry where "everyone is starting to understand that creativity and technology are fusing," said Publicis Groupe chief executive officer Arthur Sadoun.

According to research from Results International, merger and acquisition activity in the marketing industry grew by 4% quarter-over-quarter, and 35% year-over-year.

Tech is driving the growth, as 162 deals (41%) in the first quarter of 2019 were in the marketing and advertising technology space. This marks a 28% quarter-over-quarter uptick in martech and adtech deals.

“Marketing technology activity is very much on the rise," said Julie Langley, partner at Results International. "The strong revenue visibility and high gross margins that characterise these companies makes them particularly attractive to both financial investors and strategic buyers. The gap between the number of marketing services and technology deals is likely to continue to narrow in the future.”

The most active buyer in the first quarter was investment firm Alpine SG, which merged six martech business to create its new ASG MarTech group.

A majority of marketing services deals (55%) focus on integrated agencies and user experience. Holding company You & Mr Jones scooped up Oliver in January to build a more agile in-house team.

Much of the activity was in North America. One of the 175 deals in the region included Accenture's big play in buying New York–based creative agency Droga5.

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