GroupM acquires majority stake in Essence Digital

WPP’s media investment arm GroupM has made one of its more significant acquisitions, taking a majority stake in Essence Digital.

Essence Digital, a key Google partner, also ranks as the world's largest independent buyer of digital media.

Under the acquisition, the company will continue to operate as an independent brand, but with access to GroupM’s global reach and infrastructure. The agency will compete for businesses independently but will also collaborate with all of GroupM’s media agencies on specific assignments.

Founded in 2005 in London, with offices in Singapore, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Tokyo, Essence employs more than 500 people and deploys campaigns in more than 70 markets.

Its media billings top some US$700 million for clients including Financial Times, Google, HP, Viber and Tesco Mobile.

In Asia Pacific, managing director Kyoko Matsushita (pictured) leads the Singapore and Japan offices. A spokesperson confirmed to Marketing that there are no resulting changes to Essence's APAC leadership.

“The addition of Essence to GroupM represents significant expansion of our digital expertise, particularly with the Google technology stack. This is consistent with GroupM’s overall policy of a technology agnostic approach,” Rob Norman, chief digital officer, GroupM said.

Meanwhile CEO of Essence Christian Juhl said the agency has a "proud history of using technology, data and transparent media buying to advance the digital advertising industry".

"We're proud to work with some of the world's most advanced clients, running global campaigns across more than 70 markets. In Group M, we have found a partner who shares our vision and augments our capabilities with global scale, access to media that isn't yet digital and the global partnerships and platforms to further advance our agenda," Juhl added.

WPP's digital revenues were US$6.9 billion in 2014, representing 36% of the group's total revenues.  WPP has set a target of 40-45% of revenue to be derived from digital in the next five years.

Collectively, WPP generates worldwide billings of US$76 billion, revenues of US$19 billion and employs over 190,000 people (including associates and investments) in 112 countries. This acquisition continues WPP's strategy of investing in fast growth markets, new media and digital, including data and the application of technology.