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JWT Acquires Digitaria

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WPP Group's JWT has acquired Digitaria, a San Diego-based shop known for its development of Web sites and mobile platforms for the likes of the National Football League, Best Western and Qualcomm.

The 100-person shop will become a separate unit of JWT, with its own management and profit and loss responsibilities. Current CEO Dan Khabie will remain in that capacity.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Digitaria, which opened in 1997, generated more than $14 million in revenue in the 12 months that ended on March 31, according to WPP.

Digitaria also has service offices in New York, Dallas and Los Angeles, with a couple of account management and sales executives in each. As a unit of JWT, the shop hopes to work on global brands and expand to overseas markets, according to David Eastman, worldwide digital director and North American CEO at JWT.

In a statement, Khabie said that JWT "offers our team the opportunity to excel on a global playing field."

Digitaria represents Eastman's first acquisition since he became worldwide digital director in February 2009. He continues to scout for other potential deals, particularly in the realm of social media marketing.

Deal-making is part of a three-pronged strategy Eastman is pursuing to develop JWT's capabilities in the digital space. The agency also is hiring top talent and educating existing staffers on the latest in digital marketing.

"You need to think about the base from which we're starting," Eastman said. "We are starting from a predominantly traditional approach to communications.

"We need to have internally sufficient expertise in this space in order to be able to talk to our clients in the right way. Then, I think it's a case of . . . we might need to bring in deep (specialists), whether that's in mobile or shopper marketing or whatever the specific area is. But until you have a degree of understanding in the business itself, it becomes more difficult to find partners to work with."