Merkle Buys London's DBG, Growing U.K. Footprint

Company Is Ahead of Schedule to Reach Its Goal of Spending $1 Billion in Five Years

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Data and performance marketing consultancy Merkle is ahead of schedule. It has said it expected to spend $1 billion on acquistions over five years, by April 2015. The firm will announce Tuesday its most recent acquisition of London performance marketing firm DBG. The acquisition gives Merkle core competencies in the U.K. that mirror its offerings here in the U.S., including the ability to apply analytics applications to a variety of databases.

"It looks like the original core business of Merkle," said Merkle CEO David Williams of DBG. With the buy, terms of which were not disclosed, the company will increase its U.K. presence to around 325 employees, adding 140 people. The company has more than 3,000 on staff globally.

Last May, Merkle bought another U.K.-based performance marketing firm, Periscopix. The company has been on the hunt for acquisitions in Europe and the U.K. that are the right fit. "I've probably met 20 businesses over there doing this kind of work," said Mr. Williams. Merkle sought to acquire DBG, he said, noting, "It's not like these guys were on the market."

While the newly purchased firms have services that mimic Merkle's services here in the U.S., the U.K. presence will help support its large multinational clients, suggested Mr. Williams.

The deal also gives the company a stronger footprint in automotive, something it lacks currently. DBG works with Volvo, Volkswagen and Renault, according to Mr. Williams. "It's part of the icing on the cake for us so to speak," he said.

Other DBG clients overseas include Sony and luxury clothing retailer Ted Baker.

Along with the acquisition announcement, Merkle is promoting Tim Berry, currently president of CRM solutions, to president of the company's EMEA business. Mr. Berry will move to London to head up that operation.

It's a happy coincidence that the recently acquired firms provide Merkle with data storage across the pond. The EU and U.S. are still working out details of the recently-re-established safe harbor agreement which streamlines the flow of data for more than 4,000 companies, including data brokers, ad technology firms and ecommerce companies. Firms with data storage in Europe should have fewer headaches when dealing with European privacy rules than those transferring data back-and-forth between the U.S. and EU.

"There's now a lack of clarity," Mr. Williams said, noting that having data centers in the U.K. "is an unintended positive consequence."

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