Big Fuel (www.bigfuel.com), the New Yor-based social media agency, has sold a majority stake to Publicis Groupe (Paris: PUB.PA) (www.publicisgroupe.com), the global advertising and communications company. Publicis Groupe immediately acquires 51% of Big Fuel and has the opportunity to increase its participation to 100% by 2014. Big Fuel will be aligned under the VivaKi organization and serve as a strategic social media center for VivaKi agencies Digitas, Razorfish, Starcom MediaVest Group and Zenith Optimedia, complementing their existing teams.
JEGI CLARITY (www.jegiclarity.com) of New York, NY, the leading independent investment bank for the media, information, marketing services, and technology sectors, represented Big Fuel in this transaction and acted as its exclusive financial advisor.
Big Fuel is one of the only pure-play social media agencies in the industry, with all employees dedicated to providing clients with social media services, including strategic, creative, distribution, management and analytics. The company has grown from 30 employees in early 2010 to a current total of more than 170. Its 2011 revenue is expected to reach nearly $30 million, a 500% increase over 2010.
Big Fuel is headed by Jon Bond, CEO, who assumed the role in January 2011. Mr. Bond runs the agency in partnership with Avi Savar, Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer, and Mike McGraw, Managing Partner and COO.
Mr. Bond says the deal will help support Big Fuel’s rapid organic growth. “Big Fuel’s founder Avi Savar had the vision to create one of the first full-service social media agencies,” said Mr. Bond. “Now that social media is revolutionizing global marketing, this partnership gives the agency and its clients scale, impact, and a network around the world. This partnership is a marriage of skill and scale.”
Mr. Savar said, “Social media is the key to the future of advertising and a fertile place for brands to play. Our new partners will help Big Fuel and its clients expand our social media capabilities and reach.” Big Fuel will report into the VivaKi organization through Laura Lang, global CEO of Digitas and member of the VivaKi Board of Directors. “As a result, it will extend the creative and content resourcing of Digitas and Razorfish. Sitting inside VivaKi, with its powerful media and digital agency networks, Big Fuel gives us unprecedented Paid, Owned and Earned capabilities, further enhancing the social media strategies of its sister agencies.”
“Social media is shaping up to be the great equalizer in a world that’s starting to reward authenticity and transparency,” said Mr. McGraw. “It is a great opportunity for brands to build strong, consistent bonds with consumers, and I’m really excited about the “media” part of social media. This is the new frontier in our business where the long tail of social engagement is being qualified and monetized.”
According to research company eMarketer, worldwide spending on social networks will reach almost $6 billion in 2011, amounting to $3.1 billion in the US and $2.9 billion in international markets.
I can’t tell you how impressed we were by JEGI CLARITY’s performance on this deal, in terms of professionalism, business smarts, people skills etc. The team was as accomplished at the strategic as it was with the details and demonstrated a superior grasp of our industry and the market throughout. JEGI CLARITY was very tough when it needed to be and went toe to toe with the heavy hitters to get us the best deal possible. Your team really kept us all on an even keel throughout this roller coaster ride. On behalf of us all, thank you for representing us.
Mike McGraw, Managing Partner & COO, Big Fuel Communications