British digital agency AKQA enlarges with three mergers

The UK's largest independent digital agency, AKQA, has merged with three companies and struck a deal with Accenture, the former Anderson Consulting, that will let it attack its global client base.

Ajaz Ahmed remains chairman but steps down as chief executive to make way for Rick Hadala. Ahmed will combine his role as chairman and chief marketing officer. Hadala was formerly chief executive of ad agency Ammirati Puris Lintas and was last at Saatch & Saatchi-owned interactive media company Darwin Digital.

The enlarged company retains the AKQA name.

"AKQA has the strongest brand and a set of initials that translate globally," said Ahmed. "There isn't a single company on the planet that enables blue-chip companies to communicate through all the different media. We want to be that firm."

The beefed-up company pools the operations of AKQA with San Francisco-based agency Citron Haligman Bedecarre, US web development firm Magnet Interactive, and The AdInc, claimed to be Asia's fast growing digital agency. The alliance with Accenture will marry AKQA's marketing, brand building and technical development capabilities with Accenture's systems integration expertise.

To fuel the launch of the new AKQA, the company has clinched $71 million (£48m) from Accenture Technology Ventures and Francisco Partners LP, a partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, in return for minority stakes in the company.

The first major fruits of the tie-up with Accenture, according to Ahmed, will be the redevelopment of Sainsbury's e-commerce offering. The supermarket giant outsourced its entire IT function to Accenture late last year.

Ahmed revealed a "strategic vision" was kicked off on July 14 between AKQA and Accenture (then Andersen Consulting), in which Francisco Partners also expressed an interest. "This is a company created because of marketplace need," Ahmed said.


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