Dentsu Buys Innovation Interactive, Parent to SearchIgnite and 360i

Japanese agency holding company Dentsu has acquired Innovation Interactive, a major U.S. interactive firm known for performance-based marketing services and tools.

New York-based Innovation Interactive consists of SearchIgnite, a search bid management platform; 360i, a search and social agency whose clients have included Marvel and Red Roof Inn; and Netmining, a provider of site optimization and ad network services.

The move gives Dentsu a much larger stake in the digital ad market in the U.S., where it has lately attempted to close the gap with European rivals Publicis Groupe and WPP. Last year, the company reportedly joined the bidding war for global digital agency Razorfish, but lost out to Publicis, which bought the company from Microsoft in October. Dentsu’s U.S. holdings include digital creative shop Attik, best known for its work on Toyota Scion, along with mcgarrybowen and Dentsu America.

While not as dramatic a move as buying Razorfish would have been, Dentsu’s purchase of Innovation Interactive does come with modest global reach. Outside the U.S., the company’s divisions maintain offices in Belgium, London, and Tokyo.

And SearchIgnite has long been active in Dentsu’s home country. In February 2008 the company agreed to provide search technology to two Japan-based agencies, CyberAgent and Cepteni.

Innovation Interactive will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Dentsu, the companies said. Its approximately 300 employees will continue to report to its co-CEOs — Will Margiloff and Bryan Wiener — who in turn will answer to Tim Andree, president and CEO of Dentsu Holdings USA.

With its sale to Dentsu, Innovation Interactive has come full circle to some extent. The company was previously acquired by a different Japanese company, Livedoor, in 2005; but it later staged a management buyback after a securities fraud scandal hit the parent company.

The deal’s price tag was not disclosed.

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