Dentsu Acquires 360i

Japanese ad holding company Dentsu has acquired digital shop 360i.
The deal brings the 200-person shop into the Dentsu fold, along with other companies under the banner of 360i parent Innovation Interactive: bid management firm SearchIgnite and site optimizer Netmining. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
360i has evolved over the past few years from its roots as a search shop to offer a broader array of digital marketing services, including social media marketing and Web creative. Its client roster includes NBC Universal, Reckitt Benckiser and Coca-Cola, It will join Dentsu’s small group of U.S. shops, mcgarrybowen, Attik and the Dentsu agency.
“The combination of 360i as a leading and respected digital agency with the paid search management technology and audience optimization technology made them a very unique fit for us and very attractive,” said Tim Andree, CEO of Dentsu Holdings USA.
The deal is another sign the long-dormant market for digital agency acquisitions is picking up again, with new players outside the four main ad holding companies. Korea-based Chiel bought The Barbarian Group last December. 360i competitor iCrossing fielded an offer from Hearst, according to sources. It has hired Bank of America to explore potential mergers.
Bryan Wiener, CEO at 360i, said Dentsu is a good fit for 360i because, unlike at holding companies such as Interpublic Group or WPP, there’s little overlap in services. Mcgarrybowen and the Dentsu agency have limited digital capability, and Attik concentrates on creative.
“What they love about us is we’re so innovative and entrepreneurial,” he said.
The deal is an opportunity for 360i to move up the marketing food chain, Innovation Interactive co-CEO Will Margiloff added, pairing with fellow Dentsu shops for clients when it makes sense.
“When we thought about the next evolution of the company, we really needed to find a partner who could complement what we had,” he said.
Innovation Interactive will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Dentsu Holdings USA. Its management team will remain intact. It is the second time around a Japanese company has owned 360i. Livedoor acquired it in November 2005, only to run into an accounting scandal later. Margiloff and Wiener led a management buyout of the agency and SearchIgnite in June 2007. Private equity firm ABS Capital Partners backed the deal.
Andree said Dentsu would look for additional opportunities to grow its footprint outside of Japan, with a particular eye on Latin America and Europe.
“We’re going to continue to grow,” he said. “We’re not running around trying to get bigger, for the right opportunities and right areas M&A may play a future role.”