Holding Companies’ Appetites for Digital Shops Remain

This past year saw some of the last major independent digital agencies snapped up by holding companies. AKQA finally sold to WPP, Publicis snapped up LBi, Aegis bought Roundarch, and the thirst for digital-specific shops among the big holding companies shows no signs of slowing. Last month, New York-based Rokkan announced it, too, is joining the Publicis network for an undisclosed fee.

A spokesperson for the agency said it hopes the sale will help it scale globally and open it up to clients that might not previously have considered it because of its size. It currently employs a staff of just 70 but said the network should help it scale and add capabilities more easily than it could as an indie.

It also said it hopes to remain as independent and autonomous as possible, post-acquisition, but the extent to which it’ll be able to retain its culture and philosophy remains to be seen. Its current management team and structure will remain intact.

Despite the continued consolidation of digital agencies, many argue this is the perfect time to be setting up shop outside the framework of a major holding company. Many clients, for example, claim they’re beginning to lean away from hiring a few major agencies, to hedging their bets on a wider range of smaller ones in search of true innovation.

The Media Kitchen’s Darren Herman, for example, argues that we are in “the early days of the rise of the independent agency” and that the next couple of years will be the perfect time to start a new one.

He might be right, but as we begin 2013, it’s getting harder to think of any significant digital shops that are still going it alone.


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