NetBooster's Asia franchise, including its 8matic programmatic trading desk, has been acquired by France's Artefact, which had earlier acquired Netbooster's Paris operations in January.
The move plays into Artefact's announced objective of creating a full-service, end-to-end agency offering combining marketing, consulting and technology nested in data and artificial intelligence, to rival the likes of Accenture Interactive, Fjord, Publicis.Sapient and Digitas. The company also seeks to reduce the pressures placed on advertising by tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.
Franchised in 2010 by Pascal Duriez and Joe Chan Kue, two years after Netbooster was founded, the Asia operation now has a squad of 100 serving clients such as Pernod Ricard, DFS, Dior, Hugo Boss, Finnair, Bic, English First, RedBull, Merck, Club Med, Cebu Pacific Air and Huawei. It delivered a gross margin of US$3.7 million in 2017, implying organic growth of 30% relative to 2016.
NetBooster Asia will add to Artefact's teams already present in Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. After the controlling acquisition, Artefact can boast of a total of 1,000 staff (out of which 100 in Asia) in 25 offices spread across 17 countries around the world.
The buy-out will take place incrementally, from an initial 19% stake, over the next four years, after which Artefact will have full ownership of Netbooster.
"For both Artefact and ourselves, this is the right moment," said Duriez. "Our clients have been asking us for more regional work, and Artefact wanted to have a stronger footprint in Asia."
Duriez will be CEO of Artefact APAC post-acquisition, while other members of the management team consist of Wei Phung (managing director of APAC performance marketing), Jocelyn Kue (managing director for North East Asia). In France, Guillaume de Roquemaurel will hold the co-founder and group CEO position.
"Being the agency of tomorrow is something I have been hearing for quite some time here. (I have been in Asia for more than 15 years). What we are doing today is create the agency we need tomorrow: an agency where data is at the centre of our thinking processes," said Duriez.
In Europe, Artefact was already positioning itself between the brand clients and creative/media agencies, upselling its data and consulting services. The sell is quite an emotional one: "we are a digital agency built on the perfect and long overdue marriage between marketers and engineers. We will work as engineers work: with the passion of invention, optimization and automation."
By 2021, the fattened-up Artefact has a target to double its turnover globally. "In Asia, we need to multiply our revenue by four, revealed Duriez.
“Clients are super curious about us. We are having meetings with the head of data, the head of media and the head of marketing; their CEOs are pushing us to meet with all these people,” he emphasised. "When you talk to partners working in the big four consulting firms, they would tell you that the main issues they are facing are pace and agility. Artefact has those."