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Hearst’s ICrossing Brings Kenshoo Into The Fold – But Don’t Say It’s Giving Up On Its Own Tech

kenshoo icrossingICrossing, a digital marketing agency owned by publishing giant Hearst, unveiled Wednesday the beginning phases of a long-term partnership with marketing software provider Kenshoo.

ICrossing will integrate its Connected Marketing Platform (CMP) with Kenshoo’s tools that automate and add intelligence to bids in paid search campaigns. The ability to automate campaign functions is a key reason behind the partnership.

“One of the KPIs will be how much time we can give iCrossing back to invest in other areas of their business on behalf of their clients,” said Aaron Goldman, Kenshoo’s CMO. “The other is performance improvements of the campaigns themselves, through the science and algorithms embedded in the Kenshoo platform. Are we being more efficient? If we can deliver on both those things, we can agree the partnership has been successful.”

The CMP is an overarching term iCrossing uses to describe its tool set, built around managing cookie-level data, merging it with campaign and audience data, and making the entire collection available for marketing or advertising decisions.

Much of that data’s value comes from iCrossing’s affiliation with Hearst. So just as iCrossing hopes to benefit from Kenshoo automating certain campaign processes, Kenshoo hopes to benefit by accessing data pumped through iCrossing.

“Given our access to the premium audience data at Hearst and other data sources we can access at the cookie level, we can bring unique intelligence to the Kenshoo experience,” said iCrossing CTO Peter Randazzo.

Publicis Chooses Adobe To Support A Data Layer Across Its Agencies

AdobePublicisPublicis Groupe will make Adobe Marketing Cloud technology available to clients across its agency portfolio, the companies revealed Wednesday.

Under the deal, the Paris-based holding company's agencies will package Adobe MediaOptimizer and Adobe AudienceManager as part of a solution with the name Publicis Groupe Always-On Platform.

It’s not the first time the companies have worked together on a large technology integration. Publicis-owned Razorfish is one of Adobe's top two agency partners globally (the other is Sapient Nitro), and DigitasLBi also uses elements of its stack.

The latest agreement puts Adobe's digital marketing products in the hands of many others across the network, including Starcom MediaVest Group, VivaKi, ZenithOptimedia, BBH, Leo Burnett, Publicis Worldwide, Rosetta and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Brad Rencher, SVP and GM of Adobe’s Digital Marketing business unit, told AdExchanger that Wednesday's alliance is a broad strategic deal where Publicis will essentially create a common data layer across its agencies.

“There are multiple facets to this, but it is a stepping up and increased usage of Adobe Marketing Cloud,” Rencher said during a sitdown at DMEXCO. “They’ve licensed AudienceManager to be the DMP [data-management platform] across all of their agencies and can extend that to all of their customers.”


Could a Publicis-Criteo Takeover Transpire?

POGshopIt wouldn’t be the first summer weekend French agency holding company Publicis Groupe sent shock waves through the advertising ecosystem.

Close to the anniversary of the infamous ad merger of equals that never quite materialized as Publicis Omnicom Group (POG), French pub Boursier reported on a rumor the holding company could be close to extending a takeover bid for 9-year-old French ad tech company Criteo, which went public last October.

French financial daily Les Échos followed that report with a claim the deal has been in the pipeline for three months and could conclude in the coming days. Criteo’s stock shot up 19% in early trading Friday before the markets closed for the Labor Day weekend.

Will it happen?

Although neither of the companies confirmed anything (“It’s not our policy to comment on rumor or speculation,” said a Criteo spokeswoman), a prospective deal would be expensive, leading some industry insiders to question the rumor’s validity. Criteo has a $2 billion market cap and did $221 million in revenue for the second quarter, meaning it could cost Publicis an estimated $3 billion minimum.


Bridging What's POSSIBLE Between Media And Creative

kunal Muzumdar possibleYou could be forgiven for not thinking of WPP Group-owned agency POSSIBLE as a media agency. It’s not, of course – certainly not compared to the dedicated media advertising shops beneath WPP’s GroupM umbrella.

But POSSIBLE does have an in-house media practice.

“We have many clients for which we provide comprehensive media services, but we also work in close collaboration with WPP partners, like GroupM, by providing differential services beyond standard paid media, such as search marketing, programmatic media, social advertising, data strategy,” said Kunal Muzumdar, the agency’s New York managing director.

POSSIBLE’s role is to figure out how media can bridge different channels, and how that can affect the performance of its clients’ creative and marketing content. POSSIBLE declined to reveal its headcount, but LinkedIn puts the number at just over 1,000, working in 25 offices across five continents.

That being said, media is only a small element of what POSSIBLE actually does.

“We’re definitely a full-service digital agency,” Muzumdar said. “So the work we’re doing expands across strategy, social, creative and site builds.”

Muzumdar spoke with AdExchanger.

Selling Jelly Belly, Programmatically

BeansSan Francisco-based agency Nice Advertising services small-to-midsize CPG brands like Jelly Belly, Sunsweet and Crystal Geyser.

The independent agency is creating a programmatic buying outfit in-house, partnering with TubeMogul as its dedicated video demand-side platform.

The growth in programmatic spend is most striking. Since the agency’s Director of media and analytics Eliot Kent-Uritam joined Nice one year ago, the percent of client media spend appropriated to programmatic buying has gone from barely a blip on the radar to the double digits.

“For a programmatic unit, you can certainly inform what’s working and what’s not from a targeting standpoint,” Kent-Uritam said. “Admittedly, we’re on the smaller side (the agency manages media spend in the $10 to $100 million range). One of our advantages is being nimble and being fluid as far as how the money gets spent. We don’t want to run a separate profit center and call it a trading desk.”

Instead, Nice is deploying what’s termed as a “private” trading desk for client Jelly Belly, where the advertiser, agency and DSP strike a deal directly to pass on cost savings to the client by promising performance and transparency.


Merkle: “Addressability Is The Future of CRM”

DavidWilliamsMerkleMerkle’s been busy.

Since 2011, the privately held CRM and database marketing agency has been on an acquisition roll: Brilig (data exchange); 5th Finger (responsive design); Social Amp (social commerce); IMPAQT (search engine marketing); New Control (digital and direct marketing agency services); and, most recently in July, RKG (search).

It’s all part of what Merkle CEO David Williams called a plan to create “one fully integrated company.”

Merkle’s client roster currently includes big names across a variety of verticals: Geico and Travelers in insurance, Dell and Google in tech, The Office Depot and Urban Outfitters in the retail space and Chase and Visa in financial services.

But it’s not about being everything to everyone, Williams said – it’s about doing certain things well, like creating a nexus between data and digital. For an agency that went from managing about $20 million in media four years ago to a projected $650 million run rate today, the watchword is addressability, what Merkle CMO Craig Dempster described at the time of the RKG acquisition as “the ability to execute digital communications to the individual at a level of scale.”


AOL, Havas Strike Programmatic Platform Deal

AOLartThe strategic deal struck Monday between AOL Platforms and French agency Havas’ programmatic trading desk Affiperf benefits both parties: AOL Platforms gets sell-in with Havas’ clients and Havas can unify media assets for marketers in a central hub – ONE By AOL.

This is AOL’s second major agency deal since March, when it debuted ONE and revealed a charter partnership with IPG Mediabrands.

“Havas via Affiperf has obviously been more and more aggressive with leveraging programmatic at a global scale,” said Toby Gabriner, head of and ONE by AOL. “As they started to think about how they wanted to activate programmatic across multiple channels, the conversation… led to a deepening of our relationship.”

AOL positions its ONE platform as an open ecosystem. Brands and agencies can either implement their own tech or use pieces from AOL’s suite, which includes video through, mobile and display via the AdLearn Open Platform, attribution from Convertro or supply-side hooks to AOL’s Marketplace.


DIY Amazon: Buy-Side Versatility The Basis Of Agency Dealings

venutoAmazon’s enterprise self-serve ads platform, designed for agencies and brands, is intended as a programmatic complement rather than a replacement for direct-sold inventory.

Publicis agency VivaKi is the first and only agency Amazon Media Group is working with at present for the self-serve platform rollout.

Over the last three years, Amazon has spoken with agency holding companies to diversify access to its ecommerce-centric supply, according to a report that ran last week. Like Google and Twitter, Amazon is courting advertisers who don’t necessarily want to commit to a managed service (although there is the option to do a hybrid of both).

“It’s about giving agencies control over their Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP) campaigns, which in turn helps improve performance and better end-customer experience,” said Seth Dallaire, VP of North American sales at Amazon Media Group (AMG). “Adding an enterprise self-service component means agencies can create and manage their AAP campaigns directly, optimizing at their own frequency, without the aid of managed service.”

A couple of factors drive Amazon’s agency dealings. As AdExchanger reported, brands that use Amazon as a media partner want greater insight into data and campaign attribution.

“We want to stand behind the products and services we offer to clients and this will [allow us to give] brand advertisers the reassurance that their message will reach the right consumer with premium content whether in video, mobile or display,” said Domenic Venuto, global president of data and technology at VivaKi.


Horizon Media, Largest US Indie Agency, Hits Reset Button On Programmatic

horizon-donnie-adamHorizon Media, the largest standalone media agency in the US with some $4.5 billion in ad spend across 100 clients, has not been a major participant in the programmatic trend. But that may be changing.

Horizon is rolling out a programmatic division, dubbed HX, to handle its machine-driven ad buys for clients. The initiative, supported through relationships with four demand-side platforms (DSPs), expands on a two-year foray into programmatic that initially supported However that effort failed to produce the desired scale, as clients resisted trafficking ads on unknown sites.

"We were contending with the same challenges that certain pockets of the marketplace have today. There's still network buying and perhaps limited visibility. You don't necessarily understand where impressions are," said Donnie Williams, chief digital officer. "It felt like we were another network, talking about the value all these tools brought to properties that in and of themselves were not valuable. It was a tough hole to climb out of."

But climb Horizon did. Partly because of the challenges Williams describes, transparency is the rule at HX. The unit charges a flat markup on working media and discloses that margin to clients.

"There is no arbitrage or resold media," according to Adam Heimlich, SVP Programmatic at HX.

HX has formal agreements with Turn, The Trade Desk, for video inventory and Adelphic for mobile and cross-device. Heimlich and Williams say the agency will integrate additional technologies as required by clients.

Despite Horizon's scale, its version of the trading desk has more in common with a small agency solution than it does with the large centralized hubs popularized (or not, as the case may be) by holding companies such as Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe. HX employs just eight employees, with plans to increase that number to 20 this year. It has recruited from the likes of Maxus, Accordant and Publicis-operated VivaKi Audience On Demand. That's tiny by comparison to the hundreds working for WPP Group's Xaxis and AOD, for instance – and a drop in the bucket of Horizon's nearly 1,000 employees.


Agency VC Still Going Strong, Says KBS+ Ventures

VC-curiosityLike the rarely seen zedonk (half zebra, half donkey), agency-led VC is an odd little hybrid — a sometimes-awkward marriage of investing and marketing services. But the genre has staying power. Investing arms within WPP Group, Publicis Groupe (VivaKi Ventures), Interpublic Group, and MDC Partners are all notable players that have been researching and making investments in the digital ad ecosystem for years. And some have had major payouts, such as when IPG sold part of a position in Facebook and earned $133 million — a more than 20x return on its original $5 million stake.

One small but influential agency VC entity is kbs+ Ventures, a division of MDC Partners' agency kirshenbaum bond senecal + partners. KBS+ Ventures last week parted ways with its single full-time employee, Taylor Davidson. Davidson, who was assisted in the role by two part-type analysts, is pursuing new unspecified opportunities.

So, what gives? Is kbs+ Ventures pulling back? Far from it, according to Josh Engroff, managing partner of kbs+ Ventures and chief digital media officer at sister agency The Media Kitchen.

"We expect to increase our investment activity this year and next beyond what we did in the previous two years," said Engroff, who stated kbs+ Ventures will replace Davidson's position and grow the VC team in other ways. "Our deal review pipeline is very full and very active."