Publicis acquires majority stake in Big Fuel

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Publicis Groupe has acquired a majority stake in social media agency Big Fuel, in its second major acquisition in three months. The Paris-based holding company will align the shop under the VivaKi network, which operates digital agencies Digitas, Razorfish, Starcom MediaVest Group and Zenith Optimedia.

Publicis bought 51% of Big Fuel, with the possibility of increasing that investment to 100% by 2014. Publicis also acquired digital agency Rosetta for $575 million in cash on May 17.

Laura Lang, CEO of VivaKi, said that Big Fuel's leadership team is “absolutely staying,” adding that agency CEO Jon Bond will report to her.

No layoffs will take place as a result of the deal, she said. Big Fuel will retain its brand, which Lang called “very important in the marketplace.”

Digital marketing accounted for 28.2%, or $535 million, of Publicis' first quarter revenue, which increased 10.7% to $1.9 billion compared with the same period of last year.

Big Fuel has more than 170 employees, and it expects to earn nearly $30 million in revenue this year, the shop said in a statement.

Big Fuel's client list includes General Motors Corp., T-Mobile USA, Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Microsoft Corp. The New York-based agency opened a Detroit office in December to handle social media campaigns for GM.

“Our observation is that social media is becoming a global medium. Clients will use it as a global communications tool. We want to be a global social agency,” said Bond. “Publicis made a commitment to put resources behind global expansion. They've put their money where their mouth is and put money behind digital. They get it.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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