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How Agency-Vendor Ventures Add Real-Time To Media Buys

TVmileageAgencies and vendors are teaming up to tackle the tech and organizational challenges associated with aligning real-time media with trending topics.

Publicis-owned agency DigitasLBI, for example, during its digital NewFront rolled out a series of publisher and vendor relationships to improve its real-time offerings.

The agency developed a Brand Content Index in conjunction with the content measurement and distribution vendor SimpleReach to measure client campaign performance against SimpleReach’s anonymized publisher metrics.

Although the tool is exclusive to Digitas and its clients at present, the content index will be opened up for wider release later this year following the in-house beta.

Likewise, independent media agency Horizon Media along with Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners invested some $3.5 million in predictive social intelligence tool BlabPredicts to get more predictive about media-buying based on trending social and broadcast content.

“We know we’re not a technology company at our core, but what we do have is over 100 brands in our portfolio, relationships with thousands of publishers online and offline and independent clout in the marketplace, so we do move quickly in different ways,” said Taylor Valentine, SVP of social media strategy at Horizon Media.

What's happening at Horizon is growing across the agency space. Havas Media Labs, for instance, was created to foster such data, tech and content partnerships.


Primacy In Mapping The Customer Journey

primacyFull-service digital agency Primacy began in 1994 as Acsys Interactive. In 2012, it rebranded to emphasize its presence in digital. Also, prospects weren't always clear how to pronounce Acsys. (It was "Access", for the record.)

The agency, still independently owned by President Stan Valencis, has traditionally gotten traction via word of mouth.

“We get a small project with a client, we’d do a good job and they’d ask us to do a little more work and a little more,” said Craig Kallin, the agency’s SVP of business development and marketing.

Kallin described Primacy as a full-service agency (“Which I’m sure you hear a lot”), meaning it develops marketing strategies, insight through research, creative development and technical implementations for everything from websites to building applications that tie into back-end systems.

Primacy focuses on five key verticals, each with a practice lead: financial services, health care, consumer packaged goods, higher education and manufacturing. Its clients include EmblemHealth, The Hartford and Tufts Medical Center.

Kallin spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What is the biggest misconception brands have around activating data?

CRAIG KALLIN: A lot of our customers purchase a digital marketing system (DMS) and think it’s just going to happen. [Ed: A DMS combines a content management system with the ability to syndicate content across multiple channels.] But there’s a lot of prework that’s needed in order for the system to do its job. You need to have that profile data and understand the attributes and map that content and special messaging to consumer profiles. You need to define the taxonomies and tag the content appropriately. That’s a lot of up-front work.


The Fading Divide Between Data Services And Digital Agencies

worlds collideJust a few years ago, brands needed to be educated around the messaging and measurement technologies available in the digital age. That imperative has since shifted as marketing departments try to figure out how they take that technology and maximize results.

As a side effect, the line between data and marketing services providers like Experian Marketing Services and Epsilon and digital agencies has begun to blur. Consultancies also are pushing into the marketing services arena.

“Clearly there are many companies that have a lot of expertise in data, customer engagement and outsourced professional services tied to their proprietary platforms,” said Shannon Denton, agency Razorfish’s CEO for North America. “As the digital spend continues to grow, I am not surprised they are pushing more into the digital agency world – I have been expecting it.”

Traditionally, marketing services providers like Experian and Epsilon help companies construct strategies and set goals – building out systems that determine, for instance, how media is purchased, how data is managed and how all of that information is siphoned to and activated through communication channels.


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.