China's contribution to global growth has never been more important, but it's getting harder for agency holding companies to find local agencies to acquire, particularly in digital marketing. In the latest deal, announced this week on "Thoughtful China," an online talk show about building brands in China, Aegis Group is buying OMP, one of China's largest digital agencies to remain independent until now. The agency will keep its name and be referred to as OMP -- Linked by Isobar.
OMP, founded by Jeffery Ding in 2003, works with brands like China Eastern Airlines, Microsoft , L'Oreal's Biotherm and Maybelline brands and Volkswagen 's Skoda. Isobar is an Aegis-owned digital network.
Deals with local shops can be difficult to manage, partly because of cultural and operational differences between local and international networks. The two have traditionally operated in a parallel universe over the past 20 years, with global agency networks handling accounts for multinational advertisers and Chinese agencies working with local companies.
OMP was one of the first Chinese agencies to cross that divide, partly through smart hires like May Tse Wing Yee, OMP's Shanghai-based VP, China. Ms. Tse was named one of Ad Age 's Women to Watch in China this year, when China became the first market outside the U.S. in which Ad Age names and honors an annual group of outstanding women in marketing and advertising.
"OMP is a media-centric, full-service digital marketing company that will help Isobar gain further digital media scale in China, as well as get senior Chinese talents in servicing local and international clients. Jeffery's approach to creating a full-service digital business over the past nine years has been incredibly successful, having grown OMP's offering to over 230 people. We believe the full-service space in China requires a flexible and versatile service angle, with clients who are driven by different needs and structures," said Jean Lin, Isobar's CEO, Asia-Pacific, in a statement to "Thoughtful China."
Aegis, meanwhile, has used its global talent base in China, and executives like Ms. Lin, to find local gems for Aegis Media. The OMP deal is Aegis' fourth major investment in China this year, following the acquisition of digital agency Beijing Catch Stone Advertising, technology and digital marketing company Beijing Adsit Technology and search marketing company PinZhong, known as Pzoom. Aegis is also part owner of the Chinese ad agency Charm Communications. Aegis itself is being acquired by Dentsu, in a deal scheduled to be completed by the end of February 2013.
Finding good local partners as well as strong businesses is a challenge, Nick Waters, Aegis Media's CEO, Asia-Pacific, said on "Thoughtful China." "What we want to do is bring in the entrepreneur who we feel would be comfortable within our organization, to give them the freedom to do what they do well, which is to build business and create value."