Consulting firm R3 Worldwide released its December M&A global league table, showing that holding groups are spending substantial amounts of money in the marketing sector, primarily on martech acquisitions. Adobe made the biggest splash of the year when the company purchased Marketo for $4.75 billion.

Although this was Adobe’s only transation in 2018, the number of acquisitions of this type was up 16 percent YoY. Overall, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the marketing industry hit $33 billion last year—up 144 percent from 2017.

After Adobe, Alibaba had largest acquisition. In July, they announced they would buy a minority stake—around 6.63 percent—in China’s Focus Media becoming their strategic investor. The company also said they would invest $511.1 million “in an entity controlled by Focus Media’s chairman Jason Jiang by subscribing to newly issued shares.”

Greg Paull, principal at R3, told CNBC, “MarTech (marketing technology) is making fringe digital tech more centralized in marketing options.”

Ranking fourth in the global table, AT&T acquired AppNexus—an advertising software platform serving publishers, agencies and marketers for $1.6 million. In a press release, AT&T stated they would continue to “invest in and build” on AppNexus technology. It will merge with AT&T first-party data, video content and distribution.

“This is an important milestone in the young history of our company,” said CEO Brian Lesser in the release. “With the addition of AppNexus, I’m excited about the role AT&T will play in rethinking advertising not just for today, but for the future—advertising that’s better for brands, publishers and consumers.”

The acquisition was seen as AT&T’s OTT advertising chess move against Comcast and Google.

Accenture—ranking fifth globally and seventh overall in North America—bought martech company Adaptly in 2018. The New York-based company helps brands manage data-driven campaigns across major platforms. It was a move to strengthen Accenture Interactive’s (digital marketing division) programmatic services. However, they’ve been blamed for conflict of interest for their move into programmatic because Accenture has an auditing division that inspects its competitors.

Overall, Accenture gained eleven acquisitions for around $1.2 billion.

On R3’s North American list Cision ranked 14 with its acquisition of Prime Research. In a press release, Cision, a public relations and media software company, explains the decision as an effort to “enhance its global leadership position” in the media measurement service arena. They also outlined Cision’s goal to be the go-to provider for brands when choosing the best influencers and strategies for campaigns.

Forrester, a market research company, ranked 15 on the North American list. They acquired SiriusDecisions and Glimpzit for about $248 million.

SiriusDecisions, a B2B research and advisory firm, will aid Forrester in better serving their combined customers by expanding SiriusDecisions’ global reach, getting them into new verticals such as healthcare and extending their products to new roles like CIOs and CX leaders. It’s the biggest acquisition in Forrester’s history.