Publicis Groupe Acquires Lighthouse Digital in South Africa

Meanwhile, Omnicom buys 22feet -- also a digital agency -- in India

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Publicis Groupe is continuing on the acquisition trail, boosting its digital offering in South Africa with the purchase of Lighthouse Digital, which will become part of Publicis division Starcom MediaVest Group, the company said Tuesday.

Iain Jacob
Iain Jacob

Lighthouse was founded in 2009, and has 30 staff across its two offices, one in Cape Town and one in Johannesburg. It now claims to be the largest digital media agency in Africa, with campaigns running in 14 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and clients including Microsoft, SABMiller, MasterCard, General Motors, HTC, Vodacom and South African Tourism.

As part of Starcom MediaVest Group, the agency will be rebranded as SMG Lighthouse. Lighthouse founder and CEO Aaron van Schaik will become CEO of SMG in South Africa, while his co-founder, Steven Waidelich, will become digital operations director of SMG there. Both will report to Iain Jacob, the London-based president of dynamic markets for SMG.

"Africa is a core growth region for us, and this deal doubles the size of SMG in South Africa," Mr. Jacobs said. "Lighthouse is the first agency that really puts digital at the heart of a full-service media agency. It's unique to the market, and to most markets."

SMG South Africa will have more than 80 employees following the Lighthouse deal. Lighthouse joins existing SMG agency brands LiquidThread and Starcom Johannesburg, working on clients including Mondelez, Etisalat and S-Mobile. Publicis Groupe has been busy in South Africa recently. In December it bought Synergize, now part of Saatchi & Saatchi, and in January it bought AML, now part of ZenithOptimedia.

"Aligning with SMG gives us global scale and a more powerful face to the market which we can leverage to constantly improve our offering and give our clients the tools and solutions they won't get anywhere else," Mr. van Shaik said in a statement.

Omnicom, which is set to merge with Publicis Group later this year, also said Tuesday that it had made a digital acquisition, this one in India, bringing Bangalore-based 22feet Communications into DDB's Tribal Worldwide network. 22feet -- which will become 22feet Tribal Worldwide -- is a digital marketing agency focusing on brand and creative strategy as well as web design, search engine marketing and analytics. The agency, which also has an office in Mumbai, has clients including Red Bull, and Unilever's Axe and Lenovo brands.

In 2013, WPP was the most acquisitive agency group, making 54 deals during the year. Publicis came second with 19 deals, and Omnicom fourth -- after Dentsu Aegis -- with nine deals, according to Results International.

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