WPP double deal shows influencer agencies are top network M&A target. Barry Dudley quoted in The Drum

17th April 2023

A recent ‘flurry’ of deals for specialist influencer agencies indicates the sector has become important industry crossroads, say M&A experts.

British holding company WPP made two significant deals late last month. It acquired Obviously and Goat – both agencies active in the social and influencer space, both in the same week, both with the intention of making its established flagship networks GroupM and VMLY&R more competitive.

The timing might be a coincidence, but the deals themselves aren’t. Indeed, they’re a sign that confirms the industry’s biggest players have come to see the influencer sector as a serious business.

According to Barry Dudley, partner at media and marketing M&A advisors Green Square, WPP’s pair of deals showed the agency giant was fighting to keep up with competitors.

“When these two landed, it looked to me like WPP was playing catch-up. They bought probably the two biggest [agencies] they could get their hands on… and they’re not going to go hungry for work,” he says.

“They’re good things to have bought, it just feels like they got to the party quite late.”

Before WPP’s move, Publicis Groupe sprung for Perlu, while S4 acquired XX Artists last year. Across the Atlantic, Omnicom launched LevelUp OAC, an influencer and gaming practice.

Green Square analysis shows that in addition to Obviously and Goat, the last six months have seen agency acquisitions by a range of groups in a lower weight class – including deals for Social Chain by Brave Bison, Born Social by Croud and Populate Social by Mission Group. There’s also been activity from lesser-known names such as Keywords Studios, Dolphin Entertainment and Velstar. Farther back, you might look to Plus Company’s deal to merge Singaporean influencer shop Kobe into We Are Social.

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