Publicis Takes A Majority Stake in Big Fuel

Publicis has acquired 51 percent of social media agency Big Fuel

A week after Publicis Groupe was reported to be in talks with social media shop Big Fuel, the French group announced that it had taken a majority stake in the New York-based agency for an undisclosed sum.

Publicis has invested enough to be majority owner – it has a 51% equity stake – and has the option to fully own the shop by 2014.

With more than 170 employees, Big Fuel is a “pure-play” social media agency with 2011 revenue expected to reach nearly $30 million. The agency delivers strategic advice and creative, distribution, management and analytics services to companies like GM, T-Mobile, Microsoft and Philips.

Big Fuel will be part of Publicis’ VivaKi unit, which specializes in digital media, and will serve as a strategic “social media center” for some of Publicis’ digital agency properties, including Digitas, Razorfish, Starcom MediaVest Group, and Zenith Optimedia.

Three of Top 10

Publicis Groupe, world’s third largest communications group, has been extremely aggressive on the acquisition front in recent years. A couple months ago, Publicis announced that it had acquired digital agency Rosetta for $575 million. That deal means the French advertising giant now has acquired three of the top 10 digital agencies by U.S. revenue, according to Advertising Age Data Center. The other two agencies are Digitas – its first major digital agency acquisition – and Razorfish.

Given that the Big Fuel is relatively young, the agency is likely far from the hundreds of millions in revenue Publicis’ triumvirate of digital agencies each bring in. However, the acquisition of Big Fuel gets Publicis one step closer to achieving its goal of deriving 35% of total revenue from digital business.

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