WPP has acquired influencer marketing agency Goat for an undisclosed sum and will embed the agency into its Group M Nexus operations.
Goat was founded in 2015 by Arron Shepherd, Nick Cooke and Harry Hugo – aged 35, 33 and 28 respectively – and has three offices across the globe, in London, New York and Singapore. The trio have grown Goat into a multi-million-pound business. Its latest full-year accounts filed at Companies House reported an operating profit of £6.54 million ($8.02 million) for the year ending December 2021 and billings of around £43 million ($53 million). The agency has worked with brands including Dell, Beiersdorf, Meta, Tesco, Uber and Electronic Arts.
Goat joins WPP's media investment operation Group M and will be merged into the latter's Inca influencer marketing offering, which already employs some 150 staff. Following the deal, Inca's headcount totals around 300 people in more than 30 international markets. The Goat founders and employees join the new entity. Further personnel announcements will follow once the merger has progressed.
The combined Inca operations will adopt the Goat moniker and fall under the aegis of Group M's media performance organisation Group M Nexus. WPP said the reason Goat would sit within Group M Nexus was to play on its strong data-led and performance marketing and paid media credentials, complementing the work that Inca already does in this space.
The creative elements of Goat's agency will likewise be merged into Inca and the operation will collaborate with agencies across the network.
The deal is yet further evidence of the growing emphasis advertisers are placing on social media and influencer marketing, which has become less an adjunct of above-the-line advertising and is experiencing a surge in popularity as businesses seek to engage social users.
WPP said that since its formation, Goat has "tracked the performance of over 50,000 influencer channels and over 250,000 pieces of content". The new combined entity will allow Group M Nexus to "help clients drive growth through performance with the scale and expertise to help global brands activate campaigns anywhere in the world".
It added: "Enhanced by Group M's partnerships with the world's largest social and commerce platforms, proprietary technology, and deep global expertise, Goat will provide Group M and WPP clients with industry-leading global, cross-channel and data-driven influencer marketing capabilities."
Christian Juhl, global chief executive of Group M, said: "Influencer marketing is an exciting growth area for our business and one in which our clients are looking for globally scaled and outcomes-driven capabilities. The addition of Goat to Group M as part of Group M Nexus gives us the ability to deliver accountable, cross-channel and data-driven influencer solutions for clients anywhere in the world."
Shepherd, Goat's CEO, added: "We couldn't be happier to be joining WPP and Group M to bring our leading global influencer marketing and digital solutions to some of the best brands in the world. We are delighted to combine forces with the amazing talent at Inca to deliver even better value for our clients all over the world."
Mark Read, WPP CEO, described influencer marketing as "key growth priority for the industry and for WPP".
He continued: "Our clients are increasingly planning budgets at a global scale and require partners that have the global reach to help deliver, whilst driving engagement and impact at a local level. Goat's proven track record in the influencer marketing space paired with Group M's record of excellence will continue to build on our unparalleled expertise in this area."
Inflexion, which invested a minority stake in Goat in 2021, has agreed to sell its investment to WPP as part of the deal, commenting that the "first exit for Enterprise Fund V is a milestone for the team and we are delighted to have kicked off with such a successful exit".
Goat has been lauded by various media titles, earning accolades such as Europe's fastest-growing agency, while LinkedIn has listed it as one of its top companies to work for.
Its acquisition marks the latest in a series of M&A deals by WPP, which has snapped up companies including 3K Communications, Fēnom Digital, Diff, Passport, JeffreyGroup and Newcraft in the last six months and Village Marketing in February 2022.
Goat recently pitched against Wunderman Thompson, Red and The Corner for a Toyota GB influencer account, with The Corner emerging triumphant.