A David Takes On the Goliaths

AKQA Adds SearchRev in Effort to Become a Full-Service Shop

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In a move to become a more full-service digital shop, AKQA has acquired Silicon Valley-based search-engine marketing firm SearchRev for an undisclosed sum.
In acquiring SearchRev, AKQA is betting on what it calls the combination of search optimization, media optimization and site optimization.
In acquiring SearchRev, AKQA is betting on what it calls the combination of search optimization, media optimization and site optimization.

AKQA CEO Tom Bedecarre has been on the hunt for new acquisitions since the San Francisco-based independent agency was acquired by private-equity firm General Atlantic earlier this year.

'Obvious place to start'
"We're trying to build a next-generation digital-marketing platform," he said. "Search is kind of an obvious place to start. We thought SearchRev had the best technology and biggest upside."

In addition to search, AKQA sees opportunity in media and optimization. It brought on Scott Symonds as executive media director from Agency.com earlier this year and the firm is interested in growing its ability to buy display advertising as well as search, Mr. Bedecarre said. Mobile is another area of potential expansion and acquisition; the agency launched a mobile division 18 months ago.

AKQA's ambitions, funded by $14 billion General Atlantic, are often compared to aQuantive, which built out a business in marketing services, ad serving and ad networking before selling itself for $6 billion to Microsoft earlier this year. ("We should be so lucky to be the next aQuantive -- that's not a bad goal," Mr. Bedacarre said.)

Playing up independence
But AKQA is really betting on what it calls the combination of search optimization, media optimization and site optimization. When noted that it's up against some competition with deep pockets -- most notably Microsoft -- Mr. Bedacarre emphasized AKQA's size and independence.

"Because of all these recent deals, AKQA is biggest company left standing that's independent," he said. "A certain breed of entrepreneurs enjoys independence and a certain visibility to management and not being lost in a huge corporate conglomerate."

It faces competition for acquisitions from smaller players as well as other digital firms looking to expand their arsenals of offerings. Earlier this summer iCrossing, for example, closed a $62 million round of funding and promptly acquired web-development agency Proxicom.
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