Private equity firms accounted for a considerably smaller share of M&A buyers in the PR and marketing communications sector in the first half of 2024 than they did in 2023, according to the new Public Relations Industry M&A Activity Tracker from legal firm Davis+Gilbert.

From January to June of this year, 33 percent of 52 completed deals (17) had private equity buyers, with 46 percent (24) going to independent buyers.

In the first half of 2023, private equity buyers were close to half of the total 55 completed deals (47 percent, or 26). Independent buyers matched their number from 2024, (24), but the slightly bigger overall deal number resulted in their representing only 44 percent of the total.

Public buyers, on the other hand, saw healthy growth from 2023 to 2024, going from 5 in 2023 (9 percent) to 11 this year (21 percent).

Public Relations Industry M&A Activity Tracker from legal firm Davis+Gilbert

Bigger deal prices were also a trend at the top of the field, with 12 percent of deals (6) in the first half of this year clocking in at more than $25 million (12 percent), compared with just two deals (4 percent) snagging that prices in the H1 2023.

North America was the busiest playing field for M&A dealmaking, going from a second-place 24 (43 percent) in H1 2023 to 30 (57 percent) in H1 2024. Europe dipped from first to second, going from 27 (49 percent) last year to 16 (31 percent) this year.

Integrated/full-service firms remained the top seller specialty, rising to 17 completed deals (32 percent) from 2023’s 12 (21 percent). Healthcare/life sciences firms also saw a jump from H1 2023’s eight (15 percent) to H1 2024’s 11 (21 percent). So far this year, there have only been two completed deals each involving digital/social media firms and public affairs firms (both representing sharp drops), and just one involving a travel & tourism firm.

This year’s tracker also introduces a tracker identifying the “Most in Demand Service Offerings” that sellers have available to clients. Despite its low completed-deal number, digital & social media tops that list at 21, with branding following at 20 and content strategy & development and media relations just behind at 17.