Infectious Media, the indie programmatic media company, has sold to Kepler Group, the US-based digital marketing agency with plans to create an international offering that specialises in digital innovation, transformation and performance media.
Infectious Media will retain its brand name for the time being but will be rebadged as Kepler “in a staged process”, the companies said.
Both companies specialise in digital media marketing services but have a shared focus on large-scale advertisers and will have a combined client roster that includes Hasbro, John Lewis & Partners, The New York Times, PepsiCo, HSBC and Uber.
Infectious, founded by chief executive Martin Kelly and chief operating officer Andy Cocker, launched as an indie digital media platform in 2008 and now has 65 staff mostly based in London. Cocker took an additional role as Asia Pacific president in 2019, three years after Infectious launched an office in Singapore.
Kepler, owned by Japanese holding company Hakuhodo DY, is part of the “Kyu Collective” that also includes the agencies Sid Lee, Ideo and SY Partners.
Together, the group will have nearly 400 staff across offices in London, Singapore, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and Costa Rica. Kelly and Greenberg insisted the merger should not result in job losses and they plan to add people to the business as part of their expansion plans.
Kelly will become UK and Asia-Pacific chief executive of Kepler. Cocker will be chief operating officer of the UK and Asia-Pacific. The companies would not disclose financial details.
Speaking to Campaign, Kelly and Kepler chief executive Rick Greenberg said they had been in discussions about a merger for the past two years.
Despite both companies having grown this year amidst the Covid-19 pandemic’s damaging impact on the advertising industry worldwide, Kelly and Greenberg said they felt the time is now right to create a global business that can help marketers navigate big, tech-driven changes to their business and how to connect with consumers online.
Kelly said: “The opportunity you see with companies like S4 Capital, Jellyfish, Croud and Brainlabs – there is a number of new digital media businesses that are scaling globally. Clearly there is appetite from advertisers for that model.
“They [S4 et al] are the guys we come up against in pitches. A year ago we were pitching against holding company agencies, but the last three, four, five processes we’ve been involved in, they haven’t been around.”
Greenberg, meanwhile, said Kepler has various types of relationships with clients, be it agency of record or an in-housing partner – citing last week’s IPA report that described five client/agency models that would define the next decade.
Kepler is Kyu’s pre-eminent digital media business in the US and has a small office in London but needed to strengthen substantially, Greenberg told Campaign.
“The extended dialogue [between Kepler and Infectious] provided us with a chance to make sure the teams would fit well together,” Greenberg said.
“And that just became more obvious with every conversation, since both companies were built from day one to be among the most forward-thinking firms in the industry. With this acquisition, the amount of innovation talent we’re bringing together is simply awesome.”