Keeping Up-to-date With Agency Mergers

There have been a large number of agency mergers in 2011. Do these mergers mean the creation of the “super agency”…?

Agency mergers aren’t new and have been happening for years but the way in which they are happening, and with digital being at the core, they have grabbed the attention of everyone.  ATL advertising agencies have been buying or merging with digital agencies. DM and “integrated” agencies have been buying or merging with digital agencies, and digital agencies are laughing all the way to the bank.

Big mergers in 2011 include:

  • Holler and Airlock merging with Leo Burnett
  • Altogether Digital merging with WCRS
  • Chemistry merging with Publicis
  • Kitcatt Nohr merging with Digitas
  • MCBD merging with Dare Digital
  • Ruby merging with Red Brick Road
  • Inside Mobile merging with M&C Saatchi
  • CST merging with The Gate
  • Tequila merging with
  • McCann merging with Allofus
  • Weapon 7 merging with AMV
  • DAD (Digital and Direct) merging with SapientNitro

As you can see, each merger has at least one digital agency involved, which reflects the fact that digital and mobile are the fastest growing media platforms. This is not to say that ATL, TTL and BTL agencies don’t understand digital; it’s just easier for them to merge with digital agencies that are established with their own brand presence and a steady group of clients.

From speaking to digital Creative Directors and digital agency owners involved in mergers, it seems that they will agree to the merge or takeover if digital gets to sit at the top table and is not treated like a bolt-on or last minute thought.

From experience, most agencies have been relatively successful in giving digital the respect it deserves at the early stages of a project.  Of course there are still some old-school advertising agencies bolting digital on at the end stages but the more forward-thinking ‘media neutral’ agencies are the ones to watch.

There has recently been a lot of interest surrounding certain mergers, the union of MCBD and Dare, and the coming together of Holler and Airlock with Leo Burnett for example. Interestingly, the MCBD and Dare merger decided to keep the digital agency name Dare, and according to news in the press they are winning a high number of pitches across all medias.  They can be considered a huge threat to many agencies, as they have extremely talented ATL and digital people as well as 360 thinkers.  With their brand relationships and account ownership, they will continue to cross-sell and compete against all types of agencies including individual media specialists.

Holler and Airlock merging with Leo Burnett is again very interesting, as Leo Burnett will overnight become circa 85 digital people, which for a traditional ATL agency is impressive.  With this additional digital intelligence they will become even more of a threat. Watch this space…

Of course, with mergers there is often a change in culture, head count, clients and the general mood in camp.  There can be a duplication of job roles and often people decide that things have changed enough for them to start looking for a new opportunity.  The first part of 2011 has seen a huge amount of movement, with more people then ever at this time of year joining and leaving agencies.  With the freelance market still extremely buoyant, there are now more options for good people.

So how can you stay in touch with everything that’s going on in the digital world?

The best way to stay on top of things is to receive weekly digestive chunks of information from your favourite websites.  Reading weekly publications like NMA, Design Week, Campaign, Marketing Week and PR Week will give you enough information to make your own decisions on the kinds of places you would like to work at, and who is doing work that is of interest to you.