Dentsu’s Merkle Acquires Digital Experience Design Firm Filter

Clients include Nike, Amazon and Google

The news marks Merkle's 11th acquisition since joining Dentsu. Merkle
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Data-based performance marketing agency Merkle announced today that it has acquired Filter, a digital marketing and experience design firm based in Seattle with additional offices in Portland, Wash.

Moving forward, the firm will be known as Filter, a Merkle Company and serve as the newest member of Dentsu Aegis Network, which bought a majority stake in Merkle in 2016 for an estimated $1.5 billion. Financial terms of the deal, which was announced to all staff this afternoon, were not disclosed. Past estimates have placed Filter’s annual revenues above $30 million.

Filter, which was founded in 1991, specializes in serving Fortune 100 CPG and enterprise technology clients. Its roster includes such prominent names as Nike, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, and its model is somewhat unique in that it provides clients with “fully outsourced solutions” in addition to on-site agencies and embedded units that work within those companies’ own offices.

Recent projects, according to the company’s own case studies, have involved helping Microsoft redesign the Commerce platform and creating a steady steam of branded content for outdoor brand REI while its own team overhauled its website.

Dave Braun, evp of customer experience at Merkle, described the acquisition as “strategically important” for his company. “In addition to adding depth to our digital marketing, visual design, and customer experience capabilities, Filter brings expertise in virtual reality and 3-D design,” he said, also citing the latter firm’s embedded model as one favored by “innovation companies, such as Google, Facebook, T-Mobile, Microsoft, and Amazon.”

Merkle will inherit Filter’s 287 employees in two offices, and the companies will immediately get to work integrating their businesses and overlapping clients such as T-Mobile, Facebook and Amazon.

“We’re excited to be joining Merkle, for the instant scale it brings to Filter and our clients, and the growth opportunities it provides for our employees,” said Filter CEO Joe Melanson in a statement. “We have a pioneering approach to embedding our deep expertise, integrating teams and on-site agencies to collaborate closely with leading brands on their most vital marketing and customer experience initiatives. We believe this aligns perfectly with Merkle’s leadership in digital transformation.”

The news also confirms Merkle’s place at the center of the Dentsu orbit. The firm has made 11 acquisitions since the holding group bought up its majority stake, including five in the last 12 months alone. Examples include B-to-B agency DWA, which specializes in ad tech, search and social, and Amicus Digital, an Australian firm that helps clients work within the Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Merkle Americas president Craig Dempster tied this latest acquisition to that of UX-focused axis41 in 2016, stating that “it was always our intention to expand these capabilities.”

“Filter has a long and vibrant history, so a key priority was ensuring a strong cultural and professional fit for our employees and our clients,” said chairwoman Kristin Knight. “As an innovative, growth-focused agency, Merkle shares our vision and recognized our strengths.”

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.