WPP will buy up to one-fifth of internet audience measurement specialist ComScore, as part of a strategic global alliance between ComScore and Kantar, WPP's own research and data division. The two companies will combine their products, data assets, technology, research and relationships everywhere except the U.S. market.
Eric Salama, CEO of Kantar, said in a statement, "By partnering with ComScore and combining our respective strengths, we will integrate data and expertise to give our clients a new standard in measuring audiences and campaigns across multiple platforms. This continues our strategy of combining survey, panel and census data and putting digital at the heart of all we do."
Under the agreement, WPP will purchase up to 15% of ComScore's shares. And ComScore will issue 4.45% in new shares in exchange for the benefits of the strategic alliance and to acquire some unspecified European audience measurement assets owned by Kantar. WPP will end up owning between 15% and 19.9% of ComScore, WPP said in a statement outlining the deal.
ComScore said it will remain independent. Serge Matta, the company's CEO, said in a statement, "This long-term, strategic alliance will simplify the deployment of global measurement capabilities and accelerate the creation of new services for the industry."
ComScore announced its 2014 results today, showing fourth-quarter revenues of $90.1 million, up 18% from the same period last year.
Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising at the U.K.'s Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, commented on the deal on behalf of advertisers. He said in a statement: "This is a very smart move for both parties, marrying complementary skills at scale. As well as being a leading global research company, ComScore is also a leader in the provision of tools which will enable advertisers to determine the value of their online spends, while Kantar is part of WPP, which has significant interesting in online media trading."
Mr. Wootton cautioned that WPP's equity stake means ComScore needs to give clients "firm reassurance that it will retain its operating integrity and independence… as the large majority of its revenues come from non-WPP companies… We are encouraged by the fact that WPP will not be represented on [Kantar's] board of directors."
The transaction is expected to be completed later this year.