IPG to acquire data-driven marketing firm Acxiom for $2.3 billion

Interpublic Group (IPG) has confirmed the acquisition of the data-driven marketing arm of Acxiom Corporation in a deal worth $2.3 billion (£1.7 billion).

The cash deal for the Acxiom Marketing Solutions (AMS) unit has been “approved unanimously” by both company’s boards of directors.

With the transaction expected to complete by the end of the year, AMS will become part of the IPG’s media agency network MediaBrands, while the acquisition will not include Acxiom Corporation’s LiveRamp business, which will form the basis of the company’s remaining properties and ongoing focus.  

Headquartered in Arkansas, Acxiom collects, analyses and sells customer and business information used for targeted advertising campaigns, offering “the deepest set of capabilities” for personalised advertising according to IPG CEO and chairman, Michael Roth.

The advertising giant will be able to offer these capabilities to clients via its global media agency network, channeling spend away from tools available from those familiar ad tech overlords Facebook and Google.

"Combining AMS with a range of IPG assets will help us shape the future of our industry,” said Roth; “Acxiom's leadership on data ethics is second to none, its business is solid and growing, and it has long played a foundational role in the marketing ecosystem.”

Philippe Krakowsky, IPG's chief strategy and talent officer and chairman and CEO of IPG Mediabrands, commented that while most companies understand the value of data, for most it remains an “under-leveraged asset” and a challenge to combine with the creation and delivery of marketing messages.

Our goal is to solve for those opportunities," said Krakowsky; "While marketing and information technology are increasingly converging within client organisations, service providers remain bifurcated.”

As part of the merger, IPG will take on 2,100 of Acxiom's staff with “premium” skills in data and analytics, across the company’s offices in the US, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

“With the skills and capabilities that AMS brings to our portfolio of companies, we can offer clients end-to-end solutions that we believe will change the way in which we work for brands, and accelerate the onset of outcome-driven marketing," added Krakowsky.

Quoting Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal, Business Insider noted that IPG’s acquisition won’t come without risk, the most likely being the abandonment of AMS’ services by competing companies and agencies after it's under IPG’s wing.

"There is a risk that holding companies who don't end up with Acxiom's Marketing Solutions will not want to use [its] products going forward because doing so benefits a competitor," Wieser was quoted as saying.

It’s also difficult to ignore that AMS’ dependency on personally-identifiable data collection in a climate of skepticism of digital privacy, with marketers cautious of integrating third-party data services which, while acting legitimately, can largely go under the radar of consumers themselves.

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