Publicis Buys Shanghai I-Shop

BOSTON Publicis Groupe said it has further strengthened its online marketing capabilities in the Far East by acquiring Shanghai-based i-shop EmporioAsia.

The 35-person agency has been rebranded EmporioAsia Leo Burnett. Current CEO Vincent Kobler remains in charge of the renamed operation. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

EmporioAsia specializes in online strategy as well as Web site design and construction, rich-media executions, search marketing and analytics. Some key clients include China Eastern Airlines, Hilton Hotels and ING.

The buy is important for the Paris-based holding company’s long-term strategy in the region because the potential for growth in the Chinese online marketplace makes it “one of the most promising advertising markets in the world,” said Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of Publicis.

According to Publicis, interactive ads make up just 2 percent of the total measured media market in China with perhaps 15 percent of the population online. (By way of comparison, in the U.S., Web ads are about 5 percent of the market and half of all Americans are online.)

In the past two years, Publicis has made numerous moves to bolster its offerings in many areas, with digital services and Asian operations receiving frequent attention.

In March, the company moved Solutions, with offices in India and Singapore, under the Digitas banner, effectively introducing the Digitas brand in those markets. (Since its $1.3 billion acquisition by Publicis as 2007 began, Digitas has also expanded into the United Kingdom, China, Japan and France.)

According to Publicis, the focus on digital services has already begun to pay off. Buoyed by a 20 percent gain in the online sector, the company last month reported first-quarter organic growth of 5.4 percent to approximately $1.65 billion compared to the same period a year ago. The number beat analysts’ predictions and reaction in the investment community was generally positive.

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.