For the first time since the brand entered the Australian advertising industry, Saatchi & Saatchi has opened the chequebook to acquire a 100% stake in customer experience agency Mercer Bell.
Saatchi announced the deal today in what appears to be an attempt to lock down the Toyota business nationally. It also signals the intent of parent company Publicis to prevent its business from being eroded by the rise of specialist providers in areas such as customer experience and research.
Toyota uses Saatchi as its lead agency and also works closely with Mercer Bell on CX and CRM.
It is understood that the car manufacturer played an important role in bringing the two agencies together.
It also is understood that Dentsu – Toyota’s lead agency in Japan which works with the brand through its local agencies, BWM and Oddfellows Dentsu – has also been circling the Mercer business in a bid to try to strengthen its Toyota relationships locally.
Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Michael Rebelo, told Mumbrella that while consumer experience and Mercer’s other offers were not considered a “gap” in the agency’s credentials, Both Saatchi and Mercer Bell could see opportunities in coming together.
“It’s not necessarily a gap,” said Rebelo. “My job as a CEO is to look at where the market is going, and you are seeing a lot of consolidation in the marketplace with blue chip clients.”
While Mercer will remain as a stand-alone brand, it will move its 65 staff into Saatchi’s Sydney offices giving the businesses the opportunity to work closer together.
Nick Mercer, CEO of Mercer Bell, highlighted the importance of the Toyota relationship to both agencies.
“We have a history of working with Saatchi & Saatchi on Toyota Australia and know the businesses are a strong cultural fit,” Mercer said.
“Through our partnership we will also be able to give our respective teams further opportunity to widen their knowledge and experience, building the strength of our combined offer.”
Mercer Bell is the first ever acquisition made by Saatchi & Saatchi in Australia and comes after just over a year after the agency re-established a presence in Melbourne more than a decade after abandoning the city, winning the Bank of Melbourne business.
Rebelo has also not ruled out Saatchi continuing to scour the industry for further acquisition opportunities, although there are no talks currently underway.
“At Saatchi Australia we have not done a huge amount of acquisition but if it makes sense for our company and clients then we would do it,” he said.