Dentsu Aegis Network, headquartered in London, and Merkle Group Inc. (Merkle), headquartered in Maryland, today announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire a majority stake in Merkle, a global data-driven, technology-enabled performance marketing agency and the largest independent agency in the US for CRM, digital, and search. This is a significant strategic combination that will accelerate Merkle’s ability to grow as a global agency and provide exciting new opportunities for the customers and employees of both organisations.
As part of the transaction, Dentsu Aegis is acquiring a majority stake in Merkle, and Technology Crossover Ventures and certain other shareholders are selling shares. Merkle’s CEO, David Williams, the management team and employees are retaining a significant minority interest. The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to complete before the end of September 2016.
US-based Merkle has grown rapidly from its heritage in data and technology, combining a deep understanding of first-party data, sophisticated analytical capabilities, and comprehensive digital media capabilities. As a true pioneer of “people-based marketing,” Merkle is one of the few providers who can deliver data-driven, technology-enabled marketing solutions to large corporations, helping them improve customer engagement, advance competitive positions and maximise return on marketing. Merkle offers a wide range of services, including data and analytics, marketing technology, digital agency services and consulting.
Merkle generated $436m of revenues in 2015, an increase of 14 per cent on 2014. The company has over 650 world-class clients, access to over 150 marketing databases, and manages over 3.7bn first-party customer records. Merkle employs more than 3,400 colleagues working in 21 offices, with 16 in the US and the remainder in London, Bristol, Barcelona, Shanghai, and Nanjing.
Merkle is a highly complementary fit to Dentsu Aegis’s capability in media, performance, content and brand commerce. It will become one of the Network’s leading agency brands, and the combination is expected to deliver significant revenue growth opportunities, through collaboration providing new capabilities and benefits to both of our clients.
Dentsu Aegis’s strategy is to become a 100 per cent digital economy business by 2020 and the addition of Merkle will accelerate this ambition as well as significantly enhance the Network's global operations.
Dentsu Aegis has significantly outperformed the market through organic growth, and further accelerated its growth through acquisition with over 80 made in the last three years. Attracting and successfully retaining entrepreneurial businesses and their leaders to the Network has bolstered the delivery of market leading organic growth. Merkle represents by far the largest acquisition and step-changes the development of both businesses in terms of scale and range of services.
David Williams, Merkle Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said:
“As we considered a new investment partner, we sought a fit that would complement our vision, escalate our brand, and provide growth opportunities for our people, while also valuing Merkle’s unique strengths and culture. Becoming a part of Dentsu Aegis Network further strengthens our position and allows us to accelerate our goal of being a world-class Global performance marketing agency.
“Through this process I’ve spent a lot of time with Dentsu Aegis Network’s leadership team. Their vision, ambition and perspective on the people-based marketing opportunity align with ours at Merkle. Ultimately this is about doing great work for clients and being part of Dentsu Aegis Network will enhance our ability to be true strategic partners to our clients.”
Jerry Buhlmann, Chief Executive Officer of Dentsu Aegis, said:
“We have long admired the Merkle business, brand and people and are delighted that they are becoming part of our Group, complementing our existing offer to clients and strengthening our competitive advantage at the forefront of the rapidly growing digital economy.
“Our investment in Merkle is a unique opportunity to bring together two great businesses which have a strong fit in strategic, product, cultural and geographic terms. As the latest brand in our global network, Merkle will be able to accelerate its transformation into an international agency, by leveraging our global reach and platforms and providing new capabilities to our clients.
“The growth of the digital economy is one of the few certainties in an uncertain world. Merkle brings a powerful range of data led, fully addressable and real time capabilities. The combination of our two businesses will create a compelling offer in that context for existing and potential clients.”