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Christian Juhl Named Global CEO At Essence

christian-juhl-essecne-usethisThere's a new guy in charge at Essence, the 9-year-old agency best known as a key partner to Google on its programmatic and other marketing activities.

London-based Essence has promoted Christian Juhl, previously in charge of its North American operations, to run the company as global CEO. With his promotion, founder and previous CEO Matt Isaacs becomes executive chairman.

Essence was founded in 2005, but has scaled up dramatically in the past few years through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions. It acquired social agency Punktilio in May 2011, San Francisco's Black Bag Advertising in September 2012 and Seattle mobile agency Point Reach in January 2013. Today Essence employs about 450 people globally, more than double its headcount at the beginning of last year.

The agency has made a big bet on data science and programmatic buying, investing in talent to fuel these areas.  Earlier this month it hired Oscar Garza, formerly of Electronic Arts, to drive automated buying activities in North America.


Behind Big Blue’s Unassuming Agency Business

PaulPapasThe line between enterprise software and digital agencies is blurring.

As the merger between Publicis and Omnicom came to a screeching halt last week, the growing demand for data and tech prowess within the agency environment was all too apparent.

In the case of computing giant IBM, developing an in-house agency has been a (lesser-known) focal point for the past 17 years. Recently the company shared plans to invest $100 million in global agency services including 10 new client experience labs and 1,000 new employees.

Is the agency model of tomorrow a mix of a systems integrator, tech lab and creative consulting service? Paul Papas, global leader for IBM Interactive Experience, shared his thoughts.

AdExchanger: How long has IBM had a digital agency?

PAUL PAPAS: We have had a digital agency inside of IBM, IBM Interactive, for 17 years. When you go back to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, it was the genesis of that digital agency capability for us. We lived through the dot-com boom and bust and we operate as a separate group within our overall global business services group or consulting organization. Obviously we’re able to integrate into other work we do, but largely we are an independent group.

Why the pivot into “Interactive Experience?” (more…)

Quick Take: Agency Holding Companies Need To Merge With Technology

unmergedWith the collapse of the proposed merger of agency holding companies Omnicom and Publicis, former agency exec and Vertere Group's Tim Hanlon provided his take:

    "Much of of the logic I laid out last year when the deal was announced still holds. If anything, it only exacerbates the questions that brand marketers have about how to best tackle their increasingly complex task of messaging to and communicating with their consumers.

    The collapse of this deal may simply indicate that cold, hard quantitative economies and efficiencies of scale applied to a business function that is fundamentally (and historically) *qualitative* in principle, structure and process - can only extend so far before diluting, or worse, undermining itself.  Marketing services alone - no matter to what level of scale - will not be enough to solve modern marketing challenges that are increasingly digital and sophisticated.

    What agency holding companies need to do is not merge into bigger versions of their current selves, but instead combine with the increasingly important technology prowess of enterprise software, cloud computing and data architecture firms to transform their fundamental value propositions and to ensure their relevance to marketers in the coming years."


Publicis-Omnicom Deal Nixed

pog-no-moreWhat a fiasco.

A "merger of equals" between Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group that was to be the largest acquisition in advertising history is now off as the two companies have proven unable to overcome a range of impediments, including tax concerns, integration pain, and the personalities of the chief executives.

"The challenges that still remained to be overcome, in addition to the slow pace of progress, created a level of uncertainty that was detrimental to the interests of both groups and their employees," the companies said in a joint statement.

The $35 billion deal would have combined dozens of agency brands, including Omnicom's PHD, OMD, and Resolution Media and Publicis's Starcom Mediavest Group, DigitasLBi, MRY, Razorfish, and Performics – to name just a few. With its cancellation, legions of integration committees will drop what they're doing and get back to the work of building client experiences. Or not, in the case of teams servicing clients who have taken business elsewhere out of competitive concerns.


Essence Hires Oscar Garza Of EA To Develop Programmatic Buying Offerings

oscar-garzaDigital agency Essence has hired Oscar Garza, formerly of Electronic Arts (EA), to lead a new effort to bring programmatic buying solutions to clients in North America.

Garza started this week as director of programmatic and audience, tasked with building a new team based out of Essence’s San Francisco office.

As director of acquisition for EA since 2011, Garza brought the company’s programmatic buying capabilities in-house across display, social and video. Garza also led advertising strategy for direct-to-consumer campaigns, including for the popular title "Star Wars: The Old Republic."

“The rapid adoption of programmatic channels is allowing us to provide a new level of transparency, efficiency and measurement to our clients,” said Essence’s CEO for North America, Christian Juhl, in a statement. “We expect to spend over $300 million in programmatic over the next year, working with leading partners in the industry.”


DigitasLBi NewFront: Digital Convergence And The Need For Speed

DigitasThere was no agency more present on the NewFront circuit this week than DigitasLBi.

The Publicis-owned agency, formed when the holding company merged Digitas and LBi last February, was out in full force as a partner on AOL’s original content, Google Preferred and, at its own NewFront Thursday, as a partner to publishers and tech platforms.

One recurring theme of the event, called “Fearless,” was the convergence of digital, video and TV.

“We are already seeing evidence that the premium online video market is in fact at a tipping point,” said Tony Weisman, CEO of DigitasLBi North America. He referenced the Amazon and HBO partnership giving Amazon Prime members access to some HBO programming.

The content licensing deal looks like another nail in the coffin of traditional TV, as consumers continue to bypass standard cable subscriptions (even DISH is reportedly planning to debut an Internet TV service this summer). Weisman called it a “harbinger of the video-TV streaming market and the future of television.”

Weisman told an audience of media planners that “no one’s selling anything anything today," in contrast to the standard NewFront where platform companies preached “scarcity” to ignite a sense of urgency in buyers.

The agency also unveiled a partnership with BuzzFeed on branded content following a relationship that dates back two years – more evidence of blurred lines between publisher and agency-generated content.


Q1 Roundup: Digital Media Strength Propels Agencies

wpp-mediaWith the Omnicom-Publicis merger now in some doubt, WPP Group retains a glimmer of hope that it could remain the world's largest agency holding company past the third quarter.

In its Q1 earnings report Friday, WPP listed media investment – represented by its GroupM network and the Xaxis ad tech unit – as among its strongest performing sectors. Read the earnings release.

Growth in media services – particularly digital and data-driven media – was also evident in upbeat Q1 reports from WPP rivals Interpublic Group (IPG), Omnicom Group and MDC Partners.

Meanwhile Publicis' ZenithOptimedia and IPG's Magna Global have upwardly revised their global media investment forecasts for 2014. This momentum runs contrary to the narrative that media agencies are under threat of disintermediation as ad-buying automation takes hold. Or, if that trend is real, it has yet to inflict real pain.

WPP's media investment businesses grew 10% as measured by gross margin and net sales, and GroupM generated new media billings of $586 million (£366 million) during the quarter across Xaxis, Mindshare, MEC, MediaCom, GroupM Search and other agencies. Much of that was likely in digital media, contributing to the $10 billion GroupM already invests across addressable channels.

WPP does not break out programmatic spend, but the company has given its Xaxis "programmatic platform" plenty of room to run, suggesting it likes the revenue growth and margins it generates. Xaxis has made a string of acquisitions in recent months and absorbed its internal sibling 24/7 Media. The result has been a more robust publisher offering, priming Xaxis to do more exclusive supply deals that Global CEO Brian Lesser believes distinguish it from its trading desk rivals.


How Agency Media Storm Meets The Integration Challenge

CharlieFMedia Storm, the media planning and buying arm of agency network Water Cooler Group, is breaking down siloes to mirror consumer – and client – media requirements.

Media Storm’s sister companies Hip Genius (social media) and Maude (creative/strategy) share the same real estate and come in on cross-team campaign meetings, according to Charlie Fiordalis, who leads a team of 50 as managing director of digital for Media Storm.

Fiordalis was previously executive director of client services for Omnicom agency Organic, and held roles at Digitas, Y&R and NBC Universal. He now oversees roll-out of new technologies for his media-planning team. These have included partnerships with Tremor on "all screen" video advertising and partnership and with Eyeview to customize audience segments for TV clients.

Fiordalis spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Who is on your roster?

CHARLIE FIORDALIS: We do campaigns with FOX, FX, MTV, the Food Network, but we have wins outside of that space. We’re working with Chipotle, Phillips 66 and Memorial Sloan Kettering, and are broadening out from the entertainment space.


Agencies Talk Native Measurement

measuringNativeWhile native advertising is this year’s digital buzzword, it’s not clear how one can measure its effectiveness. AdExchanger ran this question past a number of agencies:

“How do you measure native advertising?” 

Click below or scroll down to read their responses


Merkle Buys Chicago's New Control, Bringing Agency Group Headcount To 450

merkle-new-controlMerkle keeps piling on agency services. The CRM and database marketing company has acquired Chicago-based New Control, a "digital and direct" agency with a focus on financial industry clients including Chase, Fifth Third Bank, PNC Bank and Visa.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Merkle EVP and digital agency lead Craig Dempster told AdExchanger the deal creates a Chicago footprint for the agency, with analysts and messaging experts focused on the credit vertical. "In a lot of our media relationships today we do the creative work," Dempster said. "Here, we've acquired a team with a strong methodology in driving direct response performance with creative."

Merkle and New Control both have strength in financial services, but Merkle is focused on retail banking and New Control does credit card marketing. Dempster said, "this expands our performance-based creative communications. Their expertise in addressable media and creating integrated marketing communications in addressable is attractive to us."