The media industry has experienced significant change in recent years. Despite the ongoing presence of the printed medium, online content continues to gain prevalence and has now become the medium of choice. In line with this, digital media and marketing companies are becoming more attractive than ever as acquisition targets.
But what is digital marketing and why is it generating so much M&A interest? Analytics and intelligence software provider SAS describes digital marketing as ‘The promotion of products or brands via one or more forms of electronic media.’ SAS concludes that what sets digital apart from traditional marketing is data. Digital marketing uses channels and methods which allows a firm to analyze marketing campaigns and understand what is working and what isn’t in real time.
Digital marketing is comprised of three main categories: earned media, paid media and owned media, according to Titan SEO. However, each category does not stand alone, and using all three techniques in unison can be the most effective marketing method. The venn diagram below, from Titan SEO, outlines how each media segment exists in the digital marketing ecosystem.
Since 2010 digital marketing deals have doubled, outstripping the growth in overall media deals. This means deals in digital marketing are outpacing the market.
The heat in this market is coming from the fact that this is a fast moving industry seeing huge amounts of change. Acquisition interest is thus driven by the need to quickly obtain these skills, rather than growing them in-house, which tends to require more time. The shift to digital means media and IT firms need to quickly acquire new media skills, technology and intellectual property (IP). There is also the opportunity for new customer channels to be acquired through various methods including mobile and social. Digital marketing is playing a pivotal role in this.
Nicola Kemp, Head of Features at Marketing magazine, agrees that the digital marketing ecosystem is in the midst of fundamental change and the industry’s true growth potential is only just beginning to be realized.
She says: “From the rise of the smartphone to the social media revolution, businesses are being challenged to meaningfully collect and analyze an ever-increasing pool of data. The importance of acquiring and embedding new skill sets into existing business models in order to better meet this demand cannot be over-estimated.”
Media and advertising companies are overwhelmingly the most prolific buyers in this area, having been responsible for 106 acquisitions since 2012, with the likes of WPP and Publicis Groupe involved. The next biggest acquirers are technology/IT services firms, such as IBM and Google, with 44 acquisitions. In a hot, fast moving sector, private equity firms will always be represented and firms such as The Carlyle Group and Berkshire Partners have made 23 acquisitions in this space since 2012. Finally, management consultancies such as Deloitte and McKinsey have also invested in this space, albeit in lower numbers, with 10 acquisitions made during the same period.
The areas within digital marketing that gain the most attention include customer analytics, mobile marketing and social media marketing, along with digital agencies and CRM/database marketing.
It goes without saying that digital technology organisations have had a dramatic impact on M&A in the world of marketing. Activity in this area is likely to continue apace in the coming years. As increasingly more services are digitized, it is only natural that digital marketing will grow alongside them.
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