Interpublic takes a $20m stake in Icon

LONDON - The Interpublic Group, one of the world’s largest advertising and marketing groups, has taken a $20 million stake in Swedish new-media network Icon MediaLab.

The investment is the single largest made by an advertising group in new media to date. Interpublic owns ad agency networks The Lowe Group,Ammirati Puris Lintas, and McCann-Erickson Worldwide, and the deal gives it a 20 per cent minority stake in Icon, with options to increase its

stake over time to 43.9 per cent.

Under the terms of the deal, Icon will become the preferred new-media supplier of Interpublic’s major agencies and companies. In the UK, the two have already started to work together, with Icon partnering Initiative Media, sister media network to Ammirati.

In the UK, Icon will also work with McCann-Erickson and Draft Worldwide, Interpublic’s direct marketing network. In Norway, Denmark and Spain, McCann’s interactive operation, Thunderhouse, will merge with Icon. In London, Icon will not initially work with either Lowe Howard-Spink or Ammirati Puris Lintas, which has its own new-media network in APL

Digital.

However, it hopes to continue its ongoing relati onship with such non-Interpublic agencies as DMB&B, TBWA and BMP DDB.

David King, managing director UK at Icon Medialab, said: "There are two issues: not to bite off more than we can chew; and overlap - in any situation like this there will be overlap."

Alistair Duncan, head of APL Digital London, welcomed the move and said he did not see it having an adverse impact on what APL Digital was doing in the UK. This is a recognition by Interpublic of the need to invest; look at Omnicom, Agency.com and Razorfish. It doesn’t affect my job at all. The

bottom line is that it’s important there is sound interactive capability in the network."

For Icon, the deal gives it the resources for accelerated growth, through access both to new clients and to services such as media planning and buying. Icon already has eight European offices, plus a presence in both the US and Malaysia.

Interpublic’s investment will also fuel Icon’s ambitions in the US, but according to King, it will continue to pursue its European goals.

"In just 18 months, we have gone from four to 45 people in London," he said. "We will be at a minimum of 75 by the end of the year above and beyond our relationship with Interpublic. If only a small amount of work comes out of that relationship, which I doubt will be the case, then that

will add even more."

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