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Publicis buys Epsilon in biggest agency acquisition in years

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.