Aegis Acquires iProspect for $50M

UK-based Aegis Group announced today that it has acquired privately held search engine marketing firm iProspect for $50 million.

The deal will give Aegis 100 percent of the SEM firm’s equity, which was previously held by its founders. Aegis will pay $32 million in cash and $18 million in deferred cash over two years, subject to iProspect’s performance.

iProspect will continue on as a standalone brand, keeping all 85 employees, including founder and CEO Fredrick Marckini and president Robert Murray. The company also plans to aggressively hire to meet its expanded needs, Marckini said.

Watertown, Mass.-based iProspect will become part of Isobar, Aegis’ umbrella brand created in July 2004 to house its worldwide digital and one-to-one assets, which include Boston’s Carat Interactive, Korea’s Agency W, Australia’s One Digital, and China’s WWWINS. This is Isobar’s first acquisition in the U.S. market, and the seventh for Isobar globally in the past six months. Aegis’ media operations are held under the Bizeum brand, and its research is under the Synovate brand.

“We believe that iProspect and search engine marketing fit hand-in-glove with Isobar’s vision of the future of digital marketing,” Marckini said. “Most importantly, our new place within the Isobar family will give us global reach and a direct affiliation with some of the world’s most talented and innovative digital agencies.”

According to Sarah Fay, president of Carat Interactive and Isobar U.S., Isobar’s worldwide network sets it apart from other agencies, and iProspect’s expertise, training practices, and technology will help those worldwide agencies develop their own search practices. iProspect’s iSEBA search marketing tool provides PPC bid management, campaign tracking and reporting.

iProspect has been running campaigns in other countries and languages since 1998, but the demand has only heated up in the past year, Marckini said. The company’s technology and processes for optimizing campaigns can be universally applied, since search engine algorithms don’t change from country to country. The challenge has been in working with keywords in multiple languages. That’s where Isobar’s local agencies will be able to take the lead, he said.

iProspect topped a list of organic optimization leaders in a recent JupiterResearch report, and was named a challenger in paid listings.

Fay said this move signals a growing movement toward the mainstream for SEM. “We believe that search engine marketing will become a fundamental part of mainstream marketing. It already represents more than 30 percent of online advertising spend in the U.S., and is a key driver in our industry’s growth,” Fay said.

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