It was announced yesterday that Hearst Corporation will be acquiring digital marketing agency iCrossing in a deal reported to be worth $325m. 

I’ve been asking iCrossing UK CEO Paul Doleman about the deal…

Why is a publishing group buying a digital agency?

Quite simply, Hearst is a business that is always keen to diversify and grow its business through strategic investments and acquisitions. Digital expertise is a natural area in which to invest, both as a growing area in itself and as a complement to its existing business as a media owner.

Did Hearst buy iCrossing to diversify revenues, or perhaps as an in-house optimisation agency?

Firstly, Hearst is increasingly asked to provide its advertiser clients with integrated marketing solutions across both traditional and digital media to help them connect with their customers. With iCrossing’s heritage in search, social media, web development and mobile, along with extensive global coverage, means we are uniquely positioned to help it do that.

But, we will also have a large role to play in helping the business understand how to monetise its digital assets now and in the future, both through strategic digital expertise and specific help in search, social media, web build, mobile or analytics.

Smart publishers recognise that more and more content is being consumed in patterns that are not set by the broadcaster and through means that are defined by the consumer e.g. an iPhone App. We can help Hearst understand what that world looks like, what it means and what to do about it.

What does the deal do for Hearst?

Many things, and these include immediate scale and global reach as a full-service digital marketing agency and ownership of and access to our customer-centric, connected brands approach, as well as our great talent and technology. Most clearly, it further positions Hearst for future growth in an increasingly digital media landscape.

Does the marketing expertise that iCrossing brings to the table allow Hearst to broaden its offering for advertisers?

Yes it does. It provides an excellent foundation to build Hearst’s marketing services offerings to its clients and positions it to provide clients with fully integrated, multi-element, and multi-platform media and marketing programmes.

How could it benefit iCrossing?

Firstly, for our clients, being acquired by Hearst is beneficial because, with the companies’ complementary capabilities, expertise, and reach, we will be better able to create large-scale, end-to-end marketing programmes in both the U.S. and international markets.

Clients will see the benefits of Hearst’s investments in iCrossing’s services and technology, and will have access to more sophisticated consumer insights and content. The agency they know will continue to operate as they know it, just backed by one of the largest media companies in the world, a company committed to fueling an even better iCrossing.

For our people, being acquired by Hearst will allow the business to continue to operate and grow independently, while providing continued investment in them, our services, and our technology.

How much is the deal worth?

Both are private businesses and both have decided not to reveal the final sale price. 

What will happen to the iCrossing team after the deal? Will iCrossing operate as a separate unit? 

iCrossing will sit under a brand new marketing services division being formed at Hearst and continue to operate as an independent operation. Senior management will continue in place, for example global CEO Don Scales and myself, but earlier investors are now stepping aside.

Were other firms interested in acquiring iCrossing before Hearst came in?

A number of parties have been in conversation with us since Hearst’s initial approach earlier this year, which is why we appointed BofA to help handle enquiries.

What developments can we expect to see over the next 12 months? 

Continued investment and development of our core search, social and creative services, and watch this space in mobile.