WPP is acquiring San Francisco-based AKQA, a top digital advertising shop that serves blue-chip clients such as Nike, Microsoft Xbox, Target, Diageo, Google, Delta Airlines, Unilever and Gap.

The 12-year-old firm employs 1,160 people in S.F., New York, Washington, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Shanghai. Financially backed by private equity firm General Atlantic, AKQA projects 2012 revenues of $230M, up from $189M in 2011.

AKQA is to operate as a stand-alone brand of WPP led by CEO Ajaz Ahmed and chairman Tom Bedecarre, who also becomes president of newly formed WPP Ventures to scout for digital investments in Silicon Valley.

Japanís Dentsu mulled the acquisition of AKQA two years, but talks fell apart over a purchase price.