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French ad giant Publicis announced Sunday it will acquire Epsilon, the data marketing arm of Alliance Data Systems Corporation, for a net price of $3.95 billion, and at a total cash consideration of $4.4 billion after a tax step-up.

Why it matters: It's one of the biggest agency acquisitions in years. It gives Publicis access to the information of 250 million people (per Epsilon's estimates) that it can use to build better ad-targeting strategies in-house.

The big picture: Agencies are grappling over whether they should out-source data science operations or build or buy them to bring them in-house.

  • IPG bought Acxiom last year for $2.3 billion.
  • Dentsu bought a majority stake in Merkle in 2016 for the same reason.

Be smart: Agencies have another reason to invest in bringing their own data solutions in-house: fending off competition. Consultancies like Accenture are bringing more data solutions in-house to execute on ad campaigns.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines.
  2. Health: Lessons for trapping the next pandemic.
  3. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  4. Politics: Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  5. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses — In AstraZeneca spat, EU fights hard for a vaccine its hardly using.
Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

In AstraZeneca spat, EU fights hard for a vaccine it's hardly using

Macron, Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel (R) at a summit in October. Photo: Yves Herman/Pool/AFP via Getty

Italy on Thursday blocked the export of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses to Australia, becoming the first EU country to exercise an export ban due to a vaccine shortfall in the bloc.

Why it matters: The controversial step exposes multiple major challenges to distributing vaccines — even among the world’s richest countries.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Global freedom continues steady decline: report

The global erosion of democracy has continued for a 15th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House.

Zoom in: The report calls particular attention to India, which slipped from “free” to “partly free” due to the government's “scapegoating of Muslims” and “crackdown on critics.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi is, according to the report, “driving India itself toward authoritarianism.”