RSS FeedArchive for the ‘Agencies’ Category

Huge Executives On Where Technology and Creativity Collide

hugeAs more advertising happens programmatically, it’s increasingly difficult to blend automation and creative design.

And though Brooklyn-based digital agency Huge doesn’t buy media, it feels the influence of automation in advertising and doesn’t necessarily feel it’s for the better, at least from a creative standpoint.

With roughly 1,000 employees, Huge operates offices in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., Rio de Janeiro, London and Singapore. Huge works with heavyweight companies and brands like Google, Nike, Comcast, Lowes, American Express and FX, to name a few. The agency has an in-house data department, and does nearly all its analytics in-house.

AdExchanger spoke to Ken Allard, managing director of business strategy, and Matthew Waghorn, director of communication planning, about the agency’s history, philosophy and how a digital agency can start to think about integrating new technologies into the creative process.

ADEXCHANGER: What’s distinctive about Huge’s client strategy?

KEN ALLARD: The way that we approach campaigns is to pinpoint a central idea. We think of campaigns as more than one-off initiatives. We want them to be connected to an insight that we have in the marketplace about the target market and the needs of those users. We want there to be an overarching strategy that helps the brand to connect to its users’ needs.

Can you give an example of a successful campaign?

KA: A great example of our process would be the work we did for TD Ameritrade around the Olympics. They wanted to show that they could help a broader marketplace and that making small, incremental investments would lead to something big over time. Working the Olympics is always tricky because the Olympic Committee has anything related to the athletes very tightly controlled though global sponsorships.

We had this idea called the It Adds Up campaign. We identified up-and-coming athletes that would be in the next Olympics but not in this one, so they weren’t locked up with the Olympic committee’s restrictions. We partnered them with a mentor that was an athlete in the most recent Olympic Games, the idea being that all of the people surrounding an athlete gives them a bit of help and guidance along the way, and that builds up to something great.

The campaign was #itaddsup, and it was both a social campaign and an offline campaign. We got a lot of earned media, and the “Today” show even covered it. We always think about the real market challenge for a brand, the user need and what’s authentic to a particular brand that gives it license to pursue a certain campaign.


Mindshare's Digital Chief On Mixing Media With Creative

norm johnston mindshareAs Mindshare Chief Digital Officer Norm Johnston recalls, the impetus for Content+ occurred during the Cannes Lions advertising festival over several glasses of rosé. (What else?)

Content+ is a partnership between media agency Mindshare and its WPP sister, digital agency POSSIBLE, that launched last week in London, Singapore, Shanghai and North America.

“What came from the POSSIBLE guys was their frustration that they didn’t have all the tech or data that we did,” Johnston said. “We were frustrated that a lot of creative agencies just wanted to win awards at Cannes. They’re more interested in winning the annual award for creative than the daily battle their clients face with the competition.”

From that session, the two decided to work together. Content+ is used by Nestlé-owned pet food company Purina – an existing Mindshare-POSSIBLE joint client – and the two entities are talking to about 10 different clients worldwide.

“Our sense is that [merging creativity and technology] is an area where a lot of clients are unhappy,” Johnston said. “[Content+] can empower the creative process. It can provide insight into the brief, because we know behaviorally what people are interested in and what their tastes and interests in film and music. Or we can use data points to change the creative experience they put in front of people.”

Mindshare isn’t alone in trying to figure this out. Its sister GroupM agency Maxus is trying to build collaboration between the historically separate disciplines of creativity and media. And Omnicom agency RAPP hired a head of media in the US to oversee such efforts.

Johnston spoke with AdExchanger about Mindshare’s efforts to conquer this front.

MDC Partners Assembles 'Real-Time' Tech For Dynamic Creative

MartinCassTech and media agency Assembly, which originated last March when MDC Partners combined multiple agency assets into a single unit, has added digital video into its Dynamic Creative Versioning tool mix.

“We’ve developed a technology that allows us, in real time, to test, learn and reapply content,” said Martin Cass, CEO of Assembly and former president of Carat USA. The technology’s first iteration has already been used for this purpose by clients including and Expedia, he added.

Although the concept of altering ad content in real time isn’t new – vendors like Spongecell, Flite and Adacado are augmenting pricing and location data directly in the ad serve – Cass said Assembly’s tool is different because it does not run on third-party technology, which gives clients more reign over their own data, he claimed.

Cass said he does not believe one single agency can be all things to all people, but as more marketers move programmatic buying in-house, “we’ll say, ‘Great – we’ve got a fantastic piece of technology for you to license and it’s been built on us, which means that data is yours."


RAPP’s US Media Chief Builds Bridges Between Creative And Media

Piluso RAPPMedia and creative are merging, and agencies are rushing to become experts in areas where traditionally they were not.

Full-service agencies like Hill Holliday and MARC USA, for instance, are fast-tracking their media planning and buying abilities. On the flip side, media agencies like GroupM’s Maxus are working to build stronger ties with creatives.

Count Omnicom’s RAPP as another bridge builder. In mid-August, the creative/CRM/digital agency hired Steve Piluso as its US head of activation and media. His prerogative is to establish a stateside media-planning discipline, connecting creatives with media planners and vice versa.

Interestingly, the link between media and creative tends to be stronger in the UK. As RAPP North America Chief Strategy Officer Jessie Kernan told AdExchanger in a prior interview, “The UK has quite a robust media-planning practice, and we’re beginning to integrate a lot of what they do into what we do.”

The disconnect in the US between media and creative reflects the tight bond clients have with their creative agencies, Maxus Global CEO Lindsay Pattison told AdExchanger, also in a previous interview.

“Whereas in the UK, media agencies are definitely top table because media agencies work with creative agencies, digital agencies and technology partners,” she said. “They’re seen as bringing everything together and are probably the most strategic partner for clients.”

For Piluso, whose media background includes tenures at PHD Media and MindShare, the confluence of media and creative is an evolution – at least for RAPP.

“It’s a growth in a certain direction that hasn’t existed before in order to capture a greater footprint with our client’s business by providing solutions across a greater portfolio of disciplines,” he said. “As we see those disciplines blending a bit, it made sense to bring in some media thinking.”

Piluso spoke with AdExchanger.

Indie Agency MARC USA Tools Up For Programmatic Buys

JasonRussoIndependent full-service agency MARC USA is beefing up its digital planning and buying prowess following its acquisition of Boston-based media agency Results:Digital in September.

The Pittsburgh agency has 270 employees and $370 million in annual billings, according to Jason Russo, who founded Results:Digital in 2011 and now serves as president of MARC’s Boston office. MARC’s digital outfit encompasses full-service planning, buying and analytics, as well as a programmatic buying operation the agency is putting together.

Although Russo declined to name what percentage of $220 million in media spend is executed programmatically because it varies by client, “it is something we see growing and something we expect to be a larger part of our buys moving forward,” he said. In select client instances, such as CPG and retail, programmatic executions are fairly typical.

MARC USA is just the latest independent agency to double down on programmatic buying. Earlier this year, Horizon Media rebooted its trading desk capability. The new HX division buys through four demand-side platforms (DSPs), including Turn, The Trade Desk and


Publicis Health Media Chief On Why Health Is The Next Big Thing

Healthcare and advertising is a complex pairing because of a variety of regulations around consumer targeting.

While the sector has been slow to adopt programmatic, Publicis’ health arm, Publicis Health Media (PHM), is diving into automation with its programmatic platform AOD Health, released in October though a partnership with VivaKi, though the company declined to name its early clients.

PHM has north of 200 employees, and represents roughly the same number of health and wellness brands, which includes everything from lifestyle brands to over the counter medications and pharmaceuticals.

PHM identifies as a full service agency and does media planning and strategy, search engine marketing and organic search, and attribution modeling for digital, broadcast, TV and more. With most of its clients in the US, PHM has offices in Chicago, London, New York and Philadelphia, and the company also operates a satellite office in Paris that services clients abroad.

PHM’s president, Matt McNally, spoke to AdExchanger about navigating advertising restrictions, leveraging health data and where health advertising and programmatic opportunities intersect.

ADEXCHANGER: What data sources matter most in the health and pharmaceutical industries?

MATT MCNALLY: [There] are the two big buckets. Front-end data sources help us identify and target audiences and back-end sources help us prove performance and business impact.

A lot of the data that we’re looking for in the upfront is around identifying the appropriate audience to target. From a consumer perspective, a good share of our business is focused on healthcare professionals. Data sources can enable us to engage the right folks. More and more, pharmaceuticals that are being approved are for smaller and more niche audiences. Five or six years ago we found that allergies, heartburn or cholesterol applies to most Americans, and used that knowledge for better customer insights and targeting.


Publicis To Acquire Sapient In $3.7B Cash Deal

publicis-sapientPublicis Groupe will snap up Sapient, a digital-centric agency and communications company known for experience design and digital-retail integrations, for $3.7 billion. The all-cash transaction comes directly on the heels of Publicis's acquisition of programmatic platform RUN, and may bring some closure to the holding company's disastrous courtship of Omnicom Group.

Sapient CEO Alan Herrick (AdExchanger Q&A) will become CEO of Publicis.Sapient, a new organization that will house all of Publicis' digital and technology-focused assets -- including Razorfish, Rosetta and DigitasLBI -- and be"focused exclusively on digital transformation and the dynamics of an always-on world across marketing, omni-channel commerce, consulting and technology."

That's a significant structural reorg of Publicis's digital assets, and the first time all of its pure -play digital agencies have been aligned within a dedicated unit.

The companies say they see an opportunity to build capabilities around consulting, and to help Publicis respond to rising competition from the likes of Accenture and Deloitte.

Speaking with journalists about the deal, Publicis CEO Maurice Levy said the holding company already encounters consulting firms in its competitive business pitches "on a regular basis." For instance, DigitasLBI won the Renault digital account after a shootout that included both those business consulting firms, along with AKQA. "We have to accept that the competition is no longer in these siloes where everything is well organized," Levy said. "The new world is much more complicated than the former world. I believe the addition of Sapient will help us move forward at a much higher speed than we do today."

Sapient has an existing consulting practice through its Global Markets division, which serves industries such as banking, energy and finance. The goal is to extend that practice to other categories and provide advisory services around marketing technology and strategy.


Programmatic Goes On Holliday

hill holliday cindy stockwell katie thompsonInterpublic Group’s (IPG) integrated agency Hill Holliday has launched its own programmatic unit, headed up by EVP and Chief Media Officer Cindy Stockwell. Faithful followers of the agency will recall this isn’t the first time Hill Holliday has offered programmatic-type services.

But changing client demands spurred the agency’s decision two months ago to move away from a managed service model, Stockwell told AdExchanger.

The issue with managed services? Lack of transparency. While Stockwell insists Hill Holliday has “always been transparent,” she claimed it’s a problem that afflicts the industry in general. When her team began poking around, it was initially difficult to figure out what exactly clients paid for in a managed services model.

“We had to lift that veil,” she recalled. “When we did and saw the pricing going on, we felt the services the DSPs [demand-side platforms] were providing was something we could provide as well, if not better, by having staff on site.”

Hill Holliday has twelve employees in its programmatic unit and will hire more as its clients shift dollars into the space, said Katie Thompson, the agency’s VP and associate media director. Funds clients save by not having to pay managed services fees can then go back into buying more media, Stockwell added.

Currently, Hill Holliday has moved four of its biggest clients into the programmatic unit, where clients allocate anywhere between 5% and 15% of their advertising budgets. The agency will bring in more brands in January 2015 and by Q2 2015, it hopes to manage programmatic buying for all of its 39 clients.

As part of this initiative, Hill Holliday is working closely with three strategic DSPs, with Turn as its biggest partner to date. The agency is not, however, using Turn’s data-management platform (DMP) because many of its clients, especially the larger companies with lots of first-party data, already have a preferred solution.

Hill Holliday preferred to partner instead of acquire or build its own technology. “We don’t want to be hamstrung by building the technology in-house and constantly having to update it,” Thompson said. “We can work with whoever is being most innovative in this space. It’s very likely a new DSP might come into this space next year and change the game.”

Starcom On How RUN Is Helping Publicis Bust A Move Into Ad Tech

LisaWeinsteinStarcomMediaVestGroupHe who has the gold makes the rules. But the in-house trend doesn’t just apply to brands – agencies are starting to buy up ad-tech vendors, as evidenced by Publicis Groupe’s acquisition Tuesday of mobile programmatic vendor RUN.

Publicis has been dipping into the ad tech waters for a while. The holding company bought up 20% of Israeli performance media player Matomy Media Group earlier this month, and its tech and media unit VivaKi has been doing a bit of investing through its VC arm, VivaKi Ventures. But the RUN purchase represents Publicis Groupe’s first real ad-tech present to itself.

Considering what the competition is up to, it’s a necessary move. WPP just poured $25 million into a data-management platform (DMP) for its trading desk, Xaxis. And Omnicom’s tech arm Annalect is trying to turn itself into a platform.

RUN, at least for the moment, will retain its name, management and operational structure. The technology will operate as a standalone unit within Publicis as part of its media planning and buying arm, Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG), rather than as part of VivaKi.

“RUN is an owned asset of our group, but we want them to have a robust business, not just with us, but within the general marketplace,” said Lisa Weinstein, SMG’s president of global digital, data and analytics. “While we expect to see their business to continue to grow, their technology also aligns to where we are and will help us get to where we want to be – people-based targeting.”

However, that doesn’t mean current Publicis Groupe clients need to be wary about being obligated to use RUN’s technology, said RUN CEO Seth Hittman.

“We’re going to continue to build our business and our product suite so that the brands that work with Publicis feel more confident about the future,” Hittman told AdExchanger. “But there is no mandate. That’s not the spirit here.”

Weinstein spoke with AdExchanger following the RUN acquisition announcement.


Publicis Groupe Acquires Programmatic Platform RUN

publicisbuysrunThe programmatic ad tech consolidation continues. Publicis Groupe has bought mobile-focused ad platform RUN, previously known as RUN DSP, the holding company said Tuesday. Read more on RUN's blog or read Publicis' release. Details of the deal – including price – were not disclosed.

It’s a significant move for the holding company, whose recent financials have been less than stellar. Publicis Groupe’s revenue grew a scant 4% year over year, reaching $2.21 billion in the third quarter of 2014.

CEO Maurice Lévy blamed the meager growth on key account losses – many from its digital agency Razorfish – and what he referred to as the lingering “distraction” of the spectacularly anticlimactic failed merger with Omnicom.

Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) will leverage RUN's DMP and DSP in support of existing solutions, teams and agencies across Publicis Groupe, including ZenithOptimedia and Publicis trading desk VivaKi.

The RUN acquisition could mean that Publicis has finally decided to follow in the footsteps of WPP, the only other big-boy agency holding company that has pursued an ad tech "ownership" strategy via its Xaxis unit. WPP has previously invested in AppNexus and Rentrak. Omnicom, in the meantime, has Annalect – though the holding company's CEO John Wren indicated during his last earnings call it trailed Xaxis.

As part of VivaKi’s Audience on Demand platform (AOD), RUN will also be integral to Starcom MediaVest, Publicis Groupe’s media planning and buying hub. VivaKi will reportedly leverage RUN’s data-management platform and its demand-side platform (DSP) technology to enhance AOD. According to a VivaKi source, one of the desk’s first initiatives will be configuring RUN’s tech to power AOD for cross-channel advertising.

The question then becomes: Will there be an internal mandate for Publicis clients to tap into RUN? If a client has a pre-existing DSP relationship, that could cause some friction.