WPP Buys Into South Africa's Jupiter Drawing Room

Johannesburg Shop Will Remain Independent Within Holding Company, Could Go International

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Deals for agencies are rare these days, but the global economic gloom didn't stop Martin Sorrell's WPP Group from snapping up 49% of Johannesburg's The Jupiter Drawing Room & Partners. Jupiter is a top four agency in the South Africa market with revenue of $23.6 million and a stellar creative reputation that's made it the only shop from its market to land in Ad Age sibling Creativity's top five. The other thing worth noting is that Jupiter won't be folded into one of WPP's many larger agency networks following the deal.

This all comes from a WPP-issued press release that is unusually expansive and almost giddy. That stand-alone status, Chairman-CEO Graham Warsop is quoted as saying, "is of supreme significance [because it] leaves the door open for the possibility of building the Jupiter Drawing Room brand, as a micro-network, beyond Africa, in the future."

Interestingly, the deal is leading Jupiter shareholders to get rid of their equity in the South Africa office of DDB, which is owned by Omnicom Group, a rival to WPP. It's also interesting because it doesn't seem to be a straight plug-and-play deal by a global giant for a relatively small international outpost that handles some big WPP client like, say, Ford. Instead, the deal, at first blush, seems to be motivated by the desire to acquire more creative firepower. Jupiter currently has two offices, in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Its client list is a mix of local brands and international ones, including Coca-Cola's Minute Maid and Bushmills Irish Whisky.

The name of the two-decade-old agency, by the way, comes from an obscure short story by Guy de Maupassant.

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