GroupM Eyes Acquisition of Innovative Digital Agency Essence

WPP Group media arm seeks boost

Seeking added bandwidth across digital and mobile, WPP Group media arm GroupM is closing in on an acquisition of the independent Essence digital agency.

Reps for both GroupM and Essence declined comment late Monday afternoon after word of the pending union broke in the Wall Street Journal.

Based in London, Essence handles an estimated $700 million annually in digital media. Apart from its size, impressive for a digital media operation, the shop has been lauded in recent years for developing innovative strategies for clients.

Examples include its "Perfect Pinpoint Personalization" push for Google (which invited Web-based users of the search engine to migrate to Google's mobile app) and its high-profile YouTube stars effort (created with PHD). These efforts won Adweek Media Plan of the Year prizes in 2015 and 2014, respectively. Along with Google and its YouTube operation, other key Essence clients include Electronic Arts, Hewlett-Packard, Netflix, Visa and Wallgreens.

Adding Essence would be in keeping with WPP's aggressive acquisition drive that has seen the holding company pick up about 40 companies so far this year. Shoring up its digital operations has been a prime objective. To that end, GroupM added Greenhouse Group, a data-driven digital marketing company, in June. Two weeks ago, WPP and Acquia, a digital experience company, launched a global alliance to develop cloud-based solutions for clients.

GroupM ranks as the world's largest buying firm with more than $100 billion spent each year through holdings such as Maxus, MEC, MediaCom and Mindshare.

@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.