Epsilon (US)

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Epsilon is one of the world's biggest direct and database marketing specialists. Although comparatively little-known in the wider marketing industry compared to the likes of Wunderman or Rapp, it is now the single biggest marketing agency by far in the US by revenues, and getting bigger all the time as a result of acquisition and expansion. Primarily Epsilon helps clients manage and maximise the value of their customer contacts through data analysis and direct mail or email-based customer acquisition and loyalty marketing programmes. Services include list analysis and rental; development of automated database management software; and creative production of direct marketing material. It was ranked as the overall leader in Forrester Research's Jan 2011 Forrester Wave qualitative survey of top database marketing agencies, and among the leaders in a 2012 Forrester Wave survey of loyalty programme operators. In 2011, the group acquired marketing services provider Aspen, which continues to operate as a separately branded subsidiary. That was followed a year later by roll-up Hyper Marketing and then in 2014 by digital targeting specialist Conversant, formerly ValueClick. The business was put up for sale in early 2019 by owner Alliance Data Systems. A deal was agreed with Publicis Groupe for $3.95bn.

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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

 Adbrands Daily Update 15th Apr 2019: Publicis Groupe announced its biggest ever acquisition: US-based data and CRM giant Epsilon. The French group has agreed to pay a whopping $3.95bn for the business, almost twice Epsilon's annual revenues last year, and almost half Publicis's own income. It's not just the biggest-ever acquisition by Publicis but also the second biggest in the advertising industry (after Dentsu-Aegis). Epsilon controls a huge database of demographic and contact information, behavioural, transactional, online and offline data. This is an exceptionally bold move by Publicis and further cements that group's shift away from traditional creativity towards data-driven marketing. The group also agreed a strategic alliance with Epsilon's vendor Alliance Data, which continues to operate credit card processing and loyalty card services for third-party clients. Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun called it "a one-time opportunity" to make the group a "leader in this data-led, digital-first world". Epsilon will operate as a separate group-wide entity, parallel with Publicis.Sapient. It will continue to be led by current CEO Bryan Kennedy. The deal coincided with another set of weak financials for 1Q. Publicis reported an organic decline of 1.8% to reported revenues of €2.1bn. The Americas fared worst, with North America down by a shock 4.6% and Latin America by 6.3%. That offset decent though hardly exceptional growth in Europe (0.8%) and Asia (1.2%). Individual markets that did well included India (9.3%), the UK (5.1%) and France (4.2%), but Germany plunged by over 10%. The big challenge facing Publicis in the year ahead will be to process its huge new acquisition without distracting management and existing agencies from turning around new business performance.

Adbrands Daily Update 1st Apr 2019: One of the biggest agency deals for several years could be announced this month. Data giant Alliance Data Systems has put its mammoth Epsilon data and CRM business up for sale after a disappointing year. Like other data firms - not least the smaller Acxiom, acquired last year by Interpublic - Epsilon has been impacted by the introduction of new data privacy regulations. Yet it is still one of the top five marketing services businesses in the US, with revenues last year of almost $2.2bn. It has been formed from the acquisition and merger of a string of agencies over the years including Aspen Marketing, Hyper Marketing and the adserving and technology specialist Conversant (perhaps better known by its previous name of ValueClick). Publicis Groupe has registered its interest, but the price tag of around $5bn is likely to be more than the French group could (or should) pay in these more challenging times. It would be the Groupe's biggest ever acquisition. Another possibility could be a joint bid by private equity firm Advent International and Goldman Sachs. If a deal is agreed, Alliance Data will focus instead on its two other divisions which provide credit card management and billing services and loyalty programs.

Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Jul 2016: Del Monte Foods, which owns the famed canned fruit n' veg brand in the US as well as College Inn soups and Contadina tomato paste, consolidated all its marketing duties with Epsilon, the "sleeping giant" of the US marketing business. Epsilon is far and away the biggest marketing agency by revenues in the US, but rarely crosses most observers' radar. Best-known for database marketing and general CRM duties, it's often overlooked, working in the backroom for customer acquisition and retention and less showy digital projects. Yet it has an exceptional client roster which includes 15 of the top 20 global brands, and at least eight of the top ten companies in sectors as diverse as financial services, packaged goods, automobiles and healthcare. This appointment - the first we can recall where Epsilon has been selected as agency of record by a significant marketer - suggests that the sleeping giant has woken. Something else for traditional agencies to worry about.

Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Sep 2014: Data marketing giant Alliance Data Systems, owner of Epsilon, Aspen Marketing and the former Hyper Marketing, added another big business to its collection. It acquired adserving and technology specialist Conversant - perhaps better known by its previous name of ValueClick - for $2.3bn in cash and stock.

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